IRVING (CBSDFW.COM) -- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones boasts that while his team is mediocre on the field, it's boffo at the box office. The team's just-released 2014 schedule reflects Dallas' continued popularity.
Now, will its difficulty result in Dallas' continued mediocrity?
The Cowboys haven't made the playoffs since 2009, yet they are scheduled for five prime-time games. That's a feather in the marketing department's cap. But the make-or-break games are the ones in the division, including what is now an NFC East tradition: An in-division closer to the regular season.
Dallas has lost three straight such games in situations in which a win would've meant a playoff berth. The 2014 schedule is set up similarly...except the Cowboys have the misfortune of playing their Week 17 game on the road, at Washington.
In fact, the month of December is a challenge in travel and in weather. Three of Dallas' four games are on the road – at Philadelphia, at Chicago at and Washington.
Another scheduling oddity that is not favorable: Dallas plays a road game (at New York) on the Sunday night before Thanksgiving, then has the shortest possible week before the Turkey Day home game hosting the Eagles, and then doesn't get the traditional 10-day rest up before a follow-up Thursday at Chicago.
That's three games in 11-and-a-half days, two of them on the road.
Does Dallas catch any breaks? Three of the Cowboys' first five games come against theoretical have-nots in the Titans, Rams and Texans (though projecting who will be "have-nots'' in April seems almost foolish in this parity-driven league). Two of the three meetings against NFC powerhouses are at home (the 49ers in the opener and the Saints to end September), with a daunting trip to defending-champ Seattle in Week 6.
The Nov. 9 trip to London to play the Jaguars adds yet another challenge – the trip if not the opponent. But the measurement of success for 2014 won't be in London, but rather in Arlington. Figuring a way to transform AT&T Stadium into a home-field advantage for Dallas (rather than a place where the Cowboys are a modest 22-18) is the quickest fix.
Cowboys Regular-Season Schedule
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, San Francisco, 3:25 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, at Tennessee, 12 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 21, at St. Louis, 12 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, New Orleans, 7:30 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, Houston, 12 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, at Seattle, 3:25 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 19, NY Giants, 3:25 p.m.
Week 8: Monday, Oct. 27, Washington, 7:30 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2, Arizona, 12 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, at Jacksonville, 12 p.m. (in London)
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, at NY Giants, 7:30 p.m.
Week 13: Thursday, Nov. 27, Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m.
Week 14: Thursday, Dec. 4, at Chicago, 7:25 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, Indianapolis, 3:25 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Washington, 12 p.m.
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