The Dallas Cowboys’ 2022 schedule is a gift from the NFL gods

The Cowboys’ opponents for the 2022 season have been known for a few months, but as the saying goes, it’s not so much who you play as when you play them. Now that the actual schedule has been released, we have a better idea of ​​when the Cowboys will face off against each opponent, and things couldn’t have gone much better for America’s team.

Shortly after the schedule was released, many began posting their rankings of each team’s schedule strength, and many had the Cowboys with one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. The problem is that many of these rankings rely heavily on last year’s win-loss totals, which can often be misleading when it comes to how good a team actually is.

To get a better idea of ​​how the Cowboys’ schedule actually stacks up, let’s take a look at each opponent’s overall DVOA from a year ago. Because this measures a team’s overall effectiveness, it offers a better picture of how good a team actually is, while win-loss records can often be obscured when a team has a particularly easy or tough schedule.

The caveat here, of course, is that DVOA doesn’t always translate directly from one year to another, but that fact does impact any sort of pre-season forecast. Historically, however, DVOA trends are more consistent than win-loss records or other numbers. Of course, a team like the Broncos, who added star quarterback Russell Wilson, is expected to obviously hit a much higher DVOA mark than they did last season. More often than not, however, these efficiency metrics give a good indication of the caliber of opponents each team will face.

Below is a chart listing each team’s weekly matchups by overall DVOA grade as of 2021. Each team is color-coded based on their DVOA score: green represents a good team, yellow represents an average team, and red represents a poor team. The average DVOA of each team’s entire schedule is in the rightmost column.

2022 schedule strength by DVOA, scores courtesy of Football Outsiders

This (admittedly imperfect) method of assessing schedule strength sees the Cowboys walk away with the second-lightest schedule in the NFL, with an average DVOA of -5.6%. Only the Eagles have an easier schedule, and theirs is by far easier; Philadelphia only plays two games against teams rated good last year and it’s the two games they play against Dallas.

Also, if you just look at the Cowboys’ schedule, they only face two teams that are rated as good, and those teams are the Buccaneers in Week 1 and the Rams in Week 5. Dallas has nine games against teams that last year Four different routes were classified as bad by back-to-back bad teams. These nine teams are the Giants, Commanders, Lions, Bears, Vikings, Texans and Jaguars. Of those teams, the Vikings currently hold the odds for the best overall winner tally in 2022, according to DraftKings Sportsbook, with their overall winner tally set at nine wins. In other words, none of these bad teams from 2021 are expected to make a big leap in 2022.

Aside from the actual teams they play against, however, the Cowboys benefit greatly from the timing of each game. Dallas has no road trips longer than two consecutive games; They have three different two-game road trips, and only one of those stretches features two teams that were either average or better at the Rams and Eagles last year.

Of the eight teams the Cowboys face this year that averaged or better last year, half come before bye week and half come after bye week. Having these tougher opponents spread out a bit helps to avoid any sort of gauntlet run during the season. Only twice will Dallas play either of these teams in consecutive weeks, and both stretches feature the Eagles, a known opponent.

Another important factor to consider when looking at schedules is how much rest time each team gets. For Dallas, the most obvious factor is the well-timed midseason bye week, but they can also get benefits at rest from a number of other factors. When it comes to the so-called mini bye weeks or when it comes to playing against a team that has a big travel schedule behind them, Dallas gets a big gift from the schedulers:

All of this should greatly benefit the Cowboys. They finished the 2021 season with the highest overall DVOA score in the NFL but are replacing key starters like Amari Cooper, Randy Gregory, La’el Collins and Connor Williams with rookies or bargain free-agent signings. They also begin the year with the most pressure on head coach Mike McCarthy since he took the job, with the honeymoon period now finally over.

Of course, all of this could (and likely will) change once the season gets underway, and we’re actually seeing how teams fare after an off-season of changes, but the Cowboys have a schedule that should make it entirely possible — even likely that they stack up wins and earn a first round bye in the postseason. The planners gave Dallas a gift, and it’s up to them not to turn down the opportunity.

Leave a Comment