The Cowboys will be trying to win their third NFC East title in five years when they navigate their 2020 schedule. After finishing 8-8 last season and letting the Eagles take back the division title, the Cowboys also missed out in the playoffs last season.
Dallas per usual will have six tricky games against Philadelphia, Washington and New York in the East. But it also must face every team from the NFC West and AFC North once this season as part of the interdivisional rotation.
The Cowboys, after being stuck mostly around .500 with a few spikes, finally made a coaching change from Jason Garrett to Mike McCarthy. Garrett finished 85-67 in his 10 years with the Cowboys, making the playoffs three times in his tenure. Before his year away from the NFL, McCarthy went 125-77-2 in 13 years with the Packers, earning a more impressive nine playoff trips and leading his team to a Super Bowl 45 victory after the 2010 season.
Jerry Jones stuck with Garrett as long as he could, but with a talented team the owner believes can get him that elusive fourth ring before the championship drought extends to 25 years, Jones went for big-name pedigree in looking for better results.
Here is a complete breakdown of the Cowboys’ 2020 schedule, including dates, start times and analysis for all 16 games.
Dallas Cowboys schedule 2020
- Home: New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers
- Away: New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks
(The Cowboys’ schedule will be released Thursday at 8 p.m. ET along with the entire 2020 NFL schedule.)
The Cowboys were doomed last season by their peaking early with an opening three-game winning streak only to be burned by two losing streaks of the same length both before and after the halfway point. There’s a chance for a little more stability in 2020.
Dallas must overcome its biggest bugaboo, which was going only 4-4 at home last season while losing critical games to the Saints, Packers, Vikings and Bills — all playoff teams. Having an overall easier home schedule helps.
This year, the Eagles, 49ers, Ravens, Seahawks and Vikings represent the five playoff returnees on the slate. For the Cowboys to break through and prove they belong with the NFC’s elite, they need to dig deeper with McCarthy to go better than .500 in those games.
Cowboys strength of schedule
The Cowboys, based on their 2020 opponents’ winning percentage in 2019, have the NFL’s third easiest schedule. Their 13 foes combined for a 117-138-1 record (.459) last season.
The Bengals, Redskins, Giants, Cardinals and Browns contribute much to the overall weakness of the schedule. Those teams did things in the offseason to change and improve, however. The top end of the schedule features the Ravens, 49ers and Seahawks, who went a combined 38-10 as Super Bowl contenders a year ago.
Considering all that, Dallas is more facing a slate that’s more middle of the pack than near the bottom.
Toughest tests: The Cowboys will be seeing purple reign twice on the road against the Ravens and the Vikings. They also have two challenging West Coast trips with the Rams and the Seahawks hosting them.
It’s also well-documented that the Cowboys don’t have the best home-field advantage, especially when inviting strong fan bases. That applies to three games at AT&T Stadium this season, with the Steelers, 49ers and, yes, the Browns bringing their own noise to Arlington.
Biggest breaks: Dallas is aware that every game in the NFC East comes with some baseline of toughness. The Giants (Joe Judge) and Redskins (Ron Rivera) also carry renewed optimism and drive that come with new coaches. With that said, New York and Washington both might need another year before challenging for the division title.
Outside of the division, the Cardinals and Falcons at home are the Cowboys’ most manageable games because of matchups that favor of the Cowboys’ explosive offense. On the road, the Bengals represent their best chance at a “free space” game.
Bottom line: The Cowboys could go in either direction from .500. But with Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and Ezekiel Elliott still together as highly compensated offensive triplets, and with Mike Nolan scheming up a new-look defense that can help mitigate its veteran personnel losses, Jones isn’t wrong to have grand expectations for the beginning of the McCarthy era.
Things ended roughly for McCarthy in Green Bay, but his track record suggests he can get the best out of Prescott and all of his Dallas teammates with an aggressive approach. Beating out Philadelphia to take back the division will be tough, especially in a loaded NFC, but it might require improving only two games to double-digit wins. At worst, the Cowboys should be considered dangerous wild-card contenders.
Record prediction: 10-6