IRVING -- If the Dallas Cowboys are going to rebound from last season's 8-8 record and make the playoffs in 2012, they will have to endure an arduous schedule that begins away from home.
The NFL officially released the 2012 schedule Tuesday, and the Cowboys begin with two games on the road -- opening with the Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Sept. 5, then traveling to Seattle on Sept. 16. Their opponents had a .504 winning percentage last season, and the Cowboys will have seven games against six teams that made the playoffs last year.
Wed., Sept. 5 @ NY Giants
(NBC) 7:30 p.m.
The Cowboys would love to open the season with a victory against Giants, but no reigning Super Bowl champion has lost a season kickoff game. It's not going to happen this time, either.
Sun., Sept. 16 @ Seattle
(FOX) 3:05 p.m.
This will be Tony Romo's first trip back to Seattle since his dropped snap on the extra-point attempt in the 2006 playoffs in Bill Parcells' final game as Cowboys coach. It will be on everyone's mind the entire week, but it won't matter.
Sun., Sept. 23 vs. Tampa Bay
The Bucs spent a lot of money in the off-season to upgrade that expansion-like outfit the Cowboys blasted last season. They are still not ready to win in Cowboys Stadium.
Mon., Oct. 1 vs. Chicago
(ESPN) 7:30 p.m.
The Cowboys get Jay Cutler back in Arlington two years after he carved them up at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys have an improved secondary with cornerback Brandon Carr, helping Dallas to a 3-1 start.
Sun., Oct. 7 BYE
Sun., Oct. 14 @ Baltimore
Baltimore is one of the few teams that hold a series-record advantage against the Cowboys, who have never beaten the Ravens. The Ravens are 3-0 against the Cowboys, and this will make it 4-0.
Sun., Oct. 21 @ Carolina
This is Dallas' first matchup against the dynamic Cam Newton. Look for the former Heisman Trophy winner to suffer a bit of a sophomore slump. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan certainly will have tricks ready.
Sun., Oct. 28 vs. NY Giants
(FOX) 3:15 p.m.
The Cowboys don't have to worry about late-season drama against the Giants because they finish their season series before Halloween. The scary thing is that the G-men are undefeated at Cowboys Stadium.
Sun., Nov. 4 @ Atlanta
(NBC) 7:20 p.m.
Tony Romo is the first name to come to mind when talk turns to NFC quarterbacks who are good in the regular season but poor in the playoffs. The Falcons' Matt Ryan is right there, too. The Georgia Dome is the difference.
Sun., Nov. 11 @ Philadelphia
(FOX) 3:15 p.m.
If you want to know how far the Cowboys have come on defense, look no further than this game against an Eagles offense that has owned them since Michael Vick took over at quarterback.
Sun., Nov. 18 vs. Cleveland
This will be Colt McCoy's first trip back to Cowboys Stadium since the 2009 Big 12 title game. McCoy will be running for his life from DeMarcus Ware and Co.
Thu., Nov. 22 vs. Washington
(FOX) 3:15 p.m.
The highlight of this Thanksgiving Day showdown will be the likely return of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III to the Lone Star State. He certainly will have his time to shine in this rivalry, but not this day.
Sun., Dec. 2 vs. Philadelphia
(NBC) 7:20 p.m.*
Again, this is about Michael Vick and his ability to make plays against the Cowboys' defense. Dallas has yet to stop him and the Eagles' explosive offense.
Sun., Dec. 9 @ Cincinnati
Find former Dallas cornerback Terence Newman in the Bengals' secondary and throw at him the entire game, except when you mix in a few runs that way. The Cowboys also should work on their hurdle moves.
Sun., Dec. 16 vs. Pittsburgh
(CBS) 3:15 p.m.*
The Steelers are one of the best traveling teams in the NFL. The Cowboys need to make sure they are still in the playoff chase to keep Cowboys Stadium from being overrun with Steelers fans.
Sun., Dec. 23 vs. New Orleans
The NFL took the big suspense out of this game when it banned suspended Saints coach Sean Payton from attending any NFL games. He lives in Dallas and could have watched from the stands. The Cowboys should win.
Sun., Dec. 30 @ Washington
The Redskins most certainly will have a bright future, provided Robert Griffin III becomes their quarterback after this month's NFL Draft. But the Cowboys are finally primed to make the playoffs. This game will likely be a must-win.
* Game times and television broadcasts are subject to change