The Dallas Cowboys were just 4-4 at home last season but won the NFC East thanks to the league's only perfect road record. Today we examine the chances of Dallas running the table in its home schedule -- that could depend partly on "Deflategate."
Breaking Down Cowboys' Home Slate
It's certainly never easy to win all your home games in a season but there are usually a couple of teams that do so every season. Last year it was Denver, which then would lose a home playoff game to Indianapolis, and Green Bay. Both the Broncos and Packers won their divisions and were top-two seeds in their conference. In 2013, three teams were 8-0 at home: Cincinnati, New England and New Orleans. The Bengals and Patriots won their divisions but the Saints were a wild-card team. In 2012, Seattle was the only home unbeaten and was a wild-card team with San Francisco taking the division. So basically if you run the table in your own stadium, you are just about assured of making the postseason.
Here are the Cowboys' opponents this season.
Week 1 vs. New York Giants: This is the Sunday night game -- shocker, I know, that Dallas is on national TV -- and the Cowboys opened as 5.5-point favorites on the NFL odds. Who will be the team's starting running back come Week 1? Is Dallas really counting on the brittle Darren McFadden? Good luck with that. Last season, Dallas beat the Giants 31-21 in Big D. Tony Romo threw for 279 yard and three touchdowns while DeMarco Murray rushed for 128 yards and a score. Murray became the first player in league history with seven straight 100-yard games to begin a season. Eli Manning threw for 248 yards and three scores for the Giants and it was the first career start for rookie Odell Beckham Jr., and the future Offensive Rookie of the Year had four catches for 34 yards and two scores.
Week 3 vs. Atlanta Falcons: The Cowboys will certainly be favored here as the Falcons were a below-.500 team last season and are breaking in a new coaching staff. Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is the head coach. The Cowboys lead the all-time series 16-9 and the Falcons haven't played in Dallas since 2009.
Week 5 vs. New England Patriots: This is perhaps the key game. As of right now, New England quarterback Tom Brady is suspended for his team's first four games and this would be game No. 4, with the Patriots having the bye week before traveling to Texas. Thus if Brady's appeal fails we would see an all Eastern Illinois matchup of quarterbacks in Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo and the Cowboys' Romo. Pretty sure that would be a first in the NFL. Many people think Brady might get at least a game reduction, however. Barring a Super Bowl meeting, this could be the final chance Brady would get to face Romo.
Week 8 vs. Seattle Seahawks: Dallas won't be favored here unless Seattle gets off to a tough start and/or has an injury to Russell Wilson entering this game. These teams played last season in Seattle and the Cowboys pulled out a stunning 30-23 upset in Week 6. Romo threw for 250 yards and two scores and Murray had 115 yards and a touchdown.
Week 9 vs. Philadelphia Eagles: It's Murray's return to Dallas and I don't expect a warm reception. The Eagles routed the Cowboys in Big D on Thanksgiving last season, 33-10. Romo had maybe his worst game of the season, completing 18 of 29 for 199 yards and two picks. Murray was held to 73 yards. The Dallas defense couldn't stop LeSean McCoy but at least won't have to worry about him now.
Week 12 vs. Carolina Panthers: This is the Thanksgiving game and presumably will be the first home game for Cowboys defense end Greg Hardy, the former Panther. He has been suspended the first 10 games of the season for his off-field troubles. Hardy played in just one game for Carolina last season because of that. He is also appealing.
Week 15 vs. NY Jets: The Jets, under new coach Todd Bowles, should have a fantastic defense with the addition of No. 6 overall pick Leonard Williams out of USC to what was already arguably the NFL's best group up front. Plus Darrelle Revis is back in the secondary. That Jets offense likely will leave plenty to be desired, however. The Jets haven't visited Dallas since 2007.
Week 17 vs. Washington Redskins: Might this be Robert Griffin III's final game as a Redskin? Washington won 20-17 in overtime at Dallas last season behind third-string quarterback Colt McCoy on a Monday night. Romo had to leave that game for a while in the second half with a back injury. The loss snapped the Cowboys' six-game winning streak at the time and killed many people in their Survivor Pools no doubt.
NFL Pick: I see no way the Cowboys beat the Patriots (if Brady is back), Seahawks and Eagles all at home. They should be favored the rest, however, so keep that in mind when placing your NFL picks. Let's say a 6-2 mark.