Marching orders: Can Cowboys break through or is mediocrity in their future?

The Dallas Cowboys finally have their marching orders in what has already been described as a “playoffs or bust” campaign for coach Jason Garrett.

The 2013 schedule, released Thursday, doesn’t appear as daunting as past years. The Cowboys open and close at home. They only play four playoff teams from a year ago and have back-to-back road games just once. But after three seasons out of the playoffs and back-to-back 8-8 records, nothing is a given in Dallas.

Can the ’Boys finally break though the mediocrity and make a Super Bowl run for the first time since 1995? Just make the playoffs is not acceptable.

vs. Giants, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8, KXAS/5

The Giants have never lost at Cowboys Stadium. Of course, the last time the Cowboys opened the season at home was in 2007, when they beat the Giants at Texas Stadium. New trend. Prediction: Win

@ Chiefs, Noon Sept. 15, KDFW/4

The Cowboys get to visit old friend and old foe Andy Reid, the former Eagles coach. He better enjoy the barbecue, because wins won’t be easy in Kansas City with Alex Smith at quarterback. Prediction: Win

vs. Rams, Noon Sept. 22, KDFW/4

As Pacman Jones once famously said, “It’s the Rams, dude.” These Rams are nothing but a bunch of wondering sheep. Former OU star Sam Bradford remains an enigma at quarterback. Prediction: Win

@ Chargers, 3:25 p.m. Sept. 29, KDFW/4

After their first 3-0 start since 2008, the Cowboys lose in sunny San Diego, where Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates outduel Tony Romo and Jason Witten in QB-TE shootout. Prediction: Loss

vs. Broncos, 3:25 p.m. Oct. 6, KTVT/11

Peyton Manning brings the Broncos to Cowboys Stadium for the first time. Denver is considered the AFC favorite for the Super Bowl and shows the Cowboys what a real contender looks like. Prediction: Loss

vs. Redskins,7:30 p.m. Oct. 13, KXAS/5

The Cowboys finally get a chance for revenge against the Redskins and Robert Griffin III for humiliating them last season. Tony Romo will have the last laugh this time. Prediction: Win

@ Eagles, Noon Oct. 20, KDFW/4

Chip Kelly is new to the NFL, but he’s not new to dominating Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Philadelphia prevails in what should be a high scoring affair. Prediction: Loss

@ Lions, Noon Oct 27, KDFW/4

The Cowboys have back-to-back road games just once all year. To bad they follow a loss against the Eagles with a game at Detroit. Which unproven safety will cover Megatron? Prediction: Loss

vs. Vikings, Noon Nov. 3, KDFW/4

Adrian Peterson comes to Dallas for the first time since his rookie season, but it will be his quarterback, Christian Ponder of Colleyville Heritage, who doesn’t measure up at home. Prediction: Win

@ Saints, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10, KXAS/5

There was a time last season when Sean Peyton was rumored to be coming to Dallas. He’s back working voodoo in New Orleans with vengeful defensive coordinator Rob Ryan by his side. Prediction: Loss

@ Giants, 3:25 p.m. Nov. 24, KDFW/4

The Cowboys got the season-opening victory against the Giants, but there will be no sweep. Eli Manning and Victor Cruz break out the salsa against the Cowboys unproven safeties. Prediction: Loss

vs. Raiders, 3:30 p.m. Nov. 28, KTVT/11

The Cowboys get a reprieve from back-to-back losses with a bye week of sorts against the hapless Raiders, whose roster rivals that of the Houston Astros in baseball. Prediction: Win

@ Bears, 7:40 p.m. Dec. 9, ESPN

The NFL didn’t do the Cowboys any favors with a December game in Chicago. Good thing these Bears are not as tough with a new coach and no Brian Urlacher on defense. Prediction: Win

vs. Packers, 3:25 p.m. Dec. 15, KDFW/4*

Aaron Rodgers and the Packers return to Cowboys Stadium for the first time since their Super Bowl victory against the Steelers. It will seem like old times as they surge toward the playoffs. Prediction: Loss

@ Redskins, Noon Dec. 22, KDFW/4*

Instead of the season finale, the Cowboy face a must-win game for the playoffs in the second-to-last game against the Redskins. The outcome will remain the same as a healthy RGIII runs wild. Prediction: Loss

vs. Eagles, Noon Dec. 29, KDFW/4*

The good news is the Cowboys finally finish the season with a victory. The bad news is they finish 8-8 for the third consecutive year. How do you define insanity? Going .500 again. Prediction: Win.

*Subject to change

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