Despite a 4-12 record a year ago, the Dallas Cowboys remain a ratings machine and will be on the national stage six times this upcoming season.
The NFL released its 2016 schedule Thursday evening, and the Cowboys got plenty of love with six nationally televised games.
The Cowboys’ season-opener is an afternoon game at home against the New York Giants. The teams opened last season against each other on national TV, and this is the fourth time in the past five years the league has pitted the division rivals against each other in the opener.
Has that matchup become a tradition yet?
“You add opening the stadium [in 2009] with the Giants and you couple it with the number of times we have been here and opened up and then all of a sudden that starts speaking to that — the tradition,” owner Jerry Jones said. “We, of course, love that game for our fans. It’s a great way to really set the tone for the year.”
Jones said that he really looks at how the Cowboys’ season ends, and what cold-weather cities they might have to visit down the stretch. In that regard, he was fairly happy with the scheduling.
Three of the Cowboys’ last five games are at indoor stadiums with the exception of at New York Giants (Dec. 11) and at Philadelphia (Jan. 1).
“The first thing we look for is cold,” Jones said. “But the goal was to give everybody division games in those last games, and they accomplished that with us. But I really like the rest of our schedule in the latter part of the year relative to weather.”
Here’s a look at the schedule:
Sept. 11: vs. Giants, 3:25 p.m., KDFW/ 4
A ratings bonanza to open the season makes the league happy. And this game has plenty of intrigue with the Cowboys trotting out the fourth overall pick with what they believe is a Super Bowl team, and the Giants showcasing their revamped defense. Loss.
Sept. 18: at Redskins, noon, KDFW/ 4
A second consecutive division opponent to open the season? Washington is trying to figure out if Kirk Cousins is a franchise quarterback, and the early thought is that he flashes potential against the Cowboys’ secondary. Loss.
Sept. 25: vs. Bears, 7:30 p.m., KXAS/ 5
The Bears haven’t had a winning season since 2012. Blame Jay Cutler. Win.
Oct. 2: at 49ers, 3:25 p.m., KDFW/ 4
Chip Kelly tries to work his magic in the Bay Area, but doesn’t have the quarterback of his choice this season. Win.
Oct. 9: vs. Bengals, 3:25 p.m., KTVT/ 11
TCU great Andy Dalton struggles in the postseason. Not in the regular season as he makes his regular-season debut at AT&T Stadium. Loss.
Oct. 16: at Packers, 3:25 p.m., KDFW/ 4
A third consecutive season with a trip to Lambeau. Can they finally win? Alas, Aaron Rodgers is still Green Bay’s quarterback. Loss.
Oct. 23: Bye
Oct. 30: vs. Eagles, 7:30 p.m., KXAS/ 5
The Eagles should be acclimated to coach Doug Pederson by this point in the season, but the Cowboys are going to be fresh. Win.
Nov. 6: at Browns, noon, KDFW/ 4
Cleveland is expected to roll out RGIII or a rookie quarterback. This is the game for the Cowboys to show some semblance of a pass rush. Win.
Nov. 13: at Steelers, 3:25 p.m., KDFW/ 4
The Cowboys make their first trip to Pittsburgh since 2008 when the game ended on a pick-six by Tony Romo late in the fourth quarter. Never an easy place to play with Terrible Towels filling the stadium. Loss.
Nov. 20: vs. Ravens, noon, KTVT 11
Much like the Cowboys, the Ravens were plagued by injuries a year ago and missed the playoffs for the second time in three years. But there are more issues than just injuries with the Ravens. Win.
Nov. 24: vs. Redskins, 3:30 p.m., KDFW/ 4
A return to a traditional Thanksgiving matchup that hasn’t been played since 2012. The Cowboys are 6-2 all-time against the Redskins on this holiday. Win.
Dec. 1: at Vikings, 7:25 p.m., KXAS/ 5 (NFL Network and Twitter)
There had been some talk of the Cowboys being the opening opponent for U.S. Bank Stadium. That distinction went to the Packers, leaving the Cowboys for a December trip up north. At least it’s inside. Loss.
Dec. 11: at Giants, 7:30 p.m., KXAS/ 5
An extended break is welcomed at this point in the season, as well as a familiar foe. Win.
Dec. 18: vs. Buccaneers, noon, KDFW/ 4
One of Jameis Winston’s six wins as a rookie came against the Cowboys, although the Cowboys were without their starting QB. Win.
Dec. 26: vs. Lions, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
America’s Team makes one appearance on MNF, and nobody is happier to see Calvin Johnson enter retirement than Brandon Carr and the Cowboys secondary. Win.
Jan. 1: at Eagles, noon, KDFW/ 4
This has all the makings of a playoff-or-bust game for the Cowboys, and the Eagles would love nothing more than to spoil their season. Loss.