2018 Dallas Cowboys game-by-game predictions

The Dallas Cowboys will hope to keep their even-year playoff streak alive in 2018. They made the playoffs in 2014 and 2016, when expectations were not very high, and will not be considered one of the top contenders as they begin 2018. Is it in the cards to get back to the postseason?

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

Thankfully the Cowboys do not have to see the New York Giants in the season opener, but they will have to be ready for Cam Newton and a Panthers offense led by former Cowboys coordinator Norv Turner. Perhaps that's a good thing for the Cowboys defense to have Newton and Turner still feeling each other out. Record: 1-0

Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, vs. New York Giants, 8:20 p.m. ET

Will Dez Bryant be on the other sideline? That would certainly add to the drama, but the Cowboys have found a way to bottle up Eli Manning even if they are just 2-2 against him the past two seasons. The Cowboys' young secondary makes some plays and the Cowboys get the big NFC East win, Dez or no Dez. Record: 2-0

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

The Seahawks are going through a transition. No Richard Sherman. No Michael Bennett. Kam Chancellor is a question. The Cowboys have Seattle's old coordinator, Kris Richard, and maybe they pull off a trade for Earl Thomas in the draft. Still, the last time they went to Seattle in September, they were hammered. Record: 2-1

Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, vs. Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. ET

The Lions have a new coach in Matt Patricia with his trusty No. 2 pencil tucked behind his ear. More importantly, they will have Highland Park native Matthew Stafford chucking the ball all over the yard. This feels like a game in which Ezekiel Elliott breaks out. Record: 3-1

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

Is this where Bryant signs? Deshaun Watson was setting the league on fire last season before he was injured. J.J. Watt will be back from injury. Bryant would be a good addition to this offense with his big-play ability. Stopping Watson will be more of the issue. Record: 3-2

Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 14, vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 4:25 p.m. ET

The last time the Jaguars visited AT&T Stadium in 2010, David Garrard had a near-perfect passer rating of 157.8 as the Jaguars blew out the Cowboys. That was Wade Phillips' final home game as head coach. The Jaguars will be a chic pick to be an AFC champion based off what they did last season, but the Cowboys will answer the bell to stay above .500. Record 4-2

Week 7: Oct. 21 at Washington Redskins. 4:25 p.m. ET

The Cowboys have won five straight games at FedEx Field. Kirk Cousins is gone, replaced by Alex Smith. He doesn't have the weapons he had with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Cowboys make it six in a row at FedEx Field. Record: 5-2

Week 8: Bye.

Week 9: Nov. 5, vs. Tennessee Titans, 8:15 p.m. ET

The Titans made the playoffs last season but fired their coach anyway and hired Mike Vrabel. They have some quality pieces on both sides of the ball, including mobile quarterback Marcus Mariota. They will rely on running back Derrick Henry now that they have moved on from former Cowboy DeMarco Murray, but that won't slow down the Cowboys. Record 6-2

Week 10: Nov. 11, at Philadelphia Eagles, 8:20 p.m. ET

The Cowboys have found Lincoln Financial Field to their liking in recent years, including that thrilling 6-0 defeat of the Eagles to close last season that guaranteed the Cowboys back-to-back winning records for the first time since 2007-09. Of course, that meant nothing and cost the Cowboys draft positioning. Oh, Carson Wentz will be healthy and the Eagles will be able to slow down the Cowboys. Record: 6-3

Week 11: Nov. 18, at Atlanta Falcons, 1 p.m. ET

The low point of last season was the debacle at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when Dak Prescott was sacked eight times. Adrian Clayborn had six sacks and should have sent part of his signing bonus as a free agent to the Cowboys as an appreciation. This time Tyron Smith is healthy. This time the Cowboys leave with a win. Record: 7-3

Week 12: Nov. 22, vs. Washington Redskins, 4:30 p.m. ET

Is Dez Bryant on this team? The Cowboys have lost four of their past six games on Thanksgiving. So much for the home-field advantage. Let's give the Redskins the W here as Daniel Snyder's team spoils Jerry Jones' holiday. Record: 7-4

Week 13: Nov. 29, vs. New Orleans Saints, 8:20 p.m. ET

This is the third straight year the Cowboys will have played back-to-back Thursday games, so the NFL likes the idea. Saints coach Sean Payton will like it too. So will Drew Brees. Is Bryant on this team? The Saints have enough firepower to make it work without Bryant. Record: 7-5

Week 14: Dec. 9, vs. Philadelphia Eagles, 4:25 p.m. ET

The Cowboys will have 10 days to get ready for Philadelphia, and that is a good thing. They'll need it. Prescott gets his revenge on Wentz as the Cowboys get a must-win for their playoff hopes. Record: 8-5

Week 15: Dec. 16, at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m. ET

Will Andrew Luck still be Andrew Luck? If so, then this game will be a little more difficult. The last time the Cowboys played at Lucas Oil Stadium, Sean Lee intercepted a Peyton Manning pass and returned it for a touchdown in 2010. He'll do the same against Luck. Record: 9-5

Week 16: Dec. 23, vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 p.m. ET

The Buccaneers seem to have talent but can't seem to put it all together. Will Dirk Koetter still be the coach? If not, then that means the Bucs' season is in a tailspin. They will put up a fight, but the Cowboys will get to 10 wins in a pivotal season for coach Jason Garrett. Record: 10-5

Week 17: Dec. 30, at New York Giants, 1 p.m. ET

The Cowboys will need a win to make the playoffs for the third time in five seasons. They have faced this winner-take-all scenario three other times in the Garrett era and come up short. They will come up short here, too. Dez Bryant throws up the X for the game-winning touchdown. Record: 10-6