The 2012 NFL schedule was finally released today. While the opponents and the home/away games were already determined months ago we did get a lot of new information in terms of the actual dates and times of the games.
It is definitely too early to try to make predictions for the season considering that the Cowboys aren't even done in free agency yet and the draft is a week and a half away. But it isn't too early to draw a few obvious conclusions about the schedule.
The season opener is a tall order for the Cowboys. We've known for quite a while that the Cowboys will play at the New York Giants to open the season on September 5. The defending Super Bowl champion is 8-0 since the NFL started scheduling the champion in the season opening game. I'm not saying the Cowboys can't win but the odds are stacked against them.
The good news is that the Cowboys get Seattle and then Tampa Bay after that. Those aren't automatic victories, but they are two of the easiest games on the schedule. Hopefully the Cowboys can get off to a better start this season.
The bye week comes early again this season. The Cowboys have their bye in week 5. Unfortunately that means the Cowboys have to go the last 11 games without a break. I'm not going to use that as any type of excuse if things don't go well for the Cowboys but it would be nice if they could get the bye midseason at some point.
The Cowboys get 4 of their last 6 games at home. That is good news considering the struggles the Cowboys have had in December in recent years. But they also have the Redskins twice, the Eagles, the Steelers and the Saints in that same stretch of games. As usual the NFL did the Cowboys no favors in December.
As I just mentioned the Cowboys get the Saints late in the season. The game is week 16 to be exact. That means that any player suspensions from the bounty fiasco are likely to be over by the time the Cowboys face the Saints. I expect that this game will end up being moved to the Sunday night game if both teams are reasonably competitive this year.
The Cowboys play most of their division games by the time December rolls around this year. Last year the end of the season was loaded with NFC East games. But this year the Cowboys are done with the Giants in week 8 and they play the Eagles for the second time on December 2. The Cowboys do finish the season with an NFC East matchup at the Redskins.
One of the things I like the most about the schedule is that the Cowboys don't have many holiday games this season. Those games are always challenging for me since my family has to schedule around the games. But the Cowboys only play on Thanksgiving this season. And they don't have the usual NFL Network this game in December which is also usually a big problem since Time Warner Cable still won't get on board with the NFL Network.
Overall the schedule looks tough. It isn't a surprise, but it always seems more real when the dates and times are set. I know the schedule is tough based on strength of schedule rankings, but we won't really know how tough it is until about a month into the season when we find out which teams will be good in 2012.