Dallas Cowboys' schedule is chance for good start, fast finish

Dak Prescott and the Cowboys hope to return to the postseason in 2018 after missing the playoffs last season. AP Photo/Eric Risberg

The NFL has released its 2018 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the Dallas Cowboys.

Breakdown: For the first time since 2012, the Cowboys will open up away from AT&T Stadium and they will close the season on the road for the fourth time in five years. Thankfully, the NFL opted not to have the Cowboys open against the New York Giants for the sixth time in seven years. Instead, they will meet in Week 2 at AT&T Stadium, a game that would draw even more attention should Dez Bryant get his wish and join the NFC rivals to be paired with Odell Beckham Jr. The Cowboys have seven games against 2017 playoff teams but will play just two in the first seven games of the season (Carolina and Jacksonville), with the bye week coming in Week 8. Of course, the Cowboys know better than anyone that success does not necessarily carry over from year to year, having made the playoffs in 2014 and ’16 and missing in 2015 and ’17. And could there be an end-of-season respite? The Cowboys close against Indianapolis (new coach, questions about quarterback Andrew Luck), Tampa Bay (coach on the hot seat) and the Giants. At least at the moment, those three shouldn’t be considered daunting.

Tough stretch: After the bye week, the Cowboys face three consecutive 2017 playoff teams to start November, beginning with the Tennessee Titans on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. That’s followed by visits to the past two NFC teams to reach the Super Bowl, the reigning champion Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons. In 2017, the Cowboys saw their season unravel in back-to-back games against the Falcons and Eagles, playing without Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith. The loss to Atlanta was especially harsh, with Dak Prescott sacked eight times in Smith’s absence, and it sent the offense into a funk for almost the entire second half of the season.

Still a presence: What, you didn’t think the Cowboys would max out on the number of prime-time games? The Cowboys will have five games on ESPN, NBC and Fox/NFL Network, and there's always the chance to add a sixth when the flex scheduling comes into play. In a five-week stretch, the Cowboys play three night game on either Monday Night Football, Sunday night or Thursday night -- against Tennessee, Philadelphia and New Orleans -- as the NFL looks to get its ratings up heading toward the postseason. Whether the Cowboys are a Super Bowl contender or scuffling to make the playoffs, they will always be a network draw.

Strength of schedule: T-15th, .500

Cowboys' regular-season schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, at Carolina, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, NY Giants, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 4: Sunday, Sep. 30, Detroit, 1 p.m.

  • Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, at Houston, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, Jacksonville, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, at Washington, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 8: BYE

  • Week 9: Monday, Nov. 5, Tennessee, 8:15 p.m.

  • Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 11, at Philadelphia, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 11: Sunday, Nov. 18, at Atlanta, 1 p.m.

  • Week 12: Thursday, Nov. 22, Washington, 4:30 p.m.

  • Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 29, New Orleans, 8:20 p.m.

  • Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, Philadelphia, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.

  • Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at NY Giants, 1 p.m.