As Seen Here: http://cowboysblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2010/09/cowboys-should-be-nervous-abou.html
When considering where a team will end up at the end of a given season, we can look at personnel, injuries, luck, and many other topics that are worthy for debate. However, in this day and age of the NFL, we are fools if we do not also consider the simple fact that some teams have easier roads than others.
There is no question the Dallas Cowboys have one of the most difficult schedules in all of football. Perhaps this pays them back for playing one of the more manageable schedules in football in 2009. Last year, the Buccaneers, Chiefs, Raiders, Seahawks, and Panthers allowed the Cowboys to stack up wins against teams that were not very good. The cupcakes are not nearly as plentiful this season.
The NFL Schedule is based on a divisional rotation where every year, each NFC division will play one NFC division (on a 3 year rotation) and one AFC Division (on a 4 year rotation).
They will also play home and home against each team in their division. This rotation, which has only existed in this fashion for a short amount of time now insures that 14 of your 16 games are identical to each team in your division. Sort of.
In the NFC East this year, each team will play the NFC North (widely considered the toughest NFC division of the 3 possibilities) and the AFC South (at worst, the 2nd toughest division in the AFC, and possibly the toughest).
So, the entire division must play the Vikings, Packers, Bears, and Lions; and the Colts, Texans, Titans, and Jaguars. However, the one element that is not uniform is WHERE you play them. Of those NFC North teams, which would you rather play at home or away? Surely, you would want to avoid the Metrodome and Lambeau Field, right? Well, the Redskins and Eagles do avoid those places and get to instead travel to Chicago and Detroit. Meanwhile, they play the Vikings and Packers at their place. But, the Giants and Cowboys get the Lions and Bears at home, and must travel to those very difficult environments in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Meanwhile, for the AFC games, the Redskins and Eagles both get the Colts and Texans at home, instead traveling to Jacksonville and Nashville. The Cowboys and Giants will go to two extremely difficult places in Indy and Houston.
To make matters worse, do you recall that i said 14 of the 16 opponents are the same? Well, what about the other 2 opponents for each of the NFC East teams?
Washington: @ St Louis, vs Tampa Bay
Philadelphia: vs Atlanta, @ San Francisco
New York: Vs Carolina, @ Seattle
Dallas: vs New Orleans, @ Arizona
Amazing. No matter how you slice it, the Cowboys have a bear of a schedule.
Look at their 8 road games this year and find the easy wins: At Washington, Houston, Minnesota, Green Bay, NY Giants, Indianapolis, Arizona, and Philadelphia. They could be road underdogs 5 times and easily go 2-6 on the road.
I can only recall the last trip to Houston (loss), Minnesota (blow out loss), Green Bay (loss), Giants (loss), Indianapolis (loss a long time ago), and Arizona (loss).
In my opinion, I would rank the 8 NFL Divisions from toughest to easiest like this:
1. NFC East (all 4 teams could be above .500)
2. AFC East (I think 3 worthy playoff teams)
3. AFC South (solid depth)
4. NFC North (Detroit should be much better - other 3 could win division)
5. AFC North (Strong but Cle pulls them down)
6. NFC South (Atlanta and New Orleans look class)
7. AFC West (Nothing besides San Diego)
8. NFC West (San Fran by default?)
If I am right, there is no question how difficult the Cowboys road is. Look at the other divisions in the NFC:
North: Plays NFC East, AFC East
South: Plays AFC North, NFC West
West: Plays NFC South, AFC West
This tells us that the NFC West and NFC South teams may have inflated win totals with a relatively simple schedule. But, the NFC North has a tough road as well - except they still are a division with a predicted bottom feeder in Detroit (albeit much improved).
What does all this mean?
The Cowboys should be nervous about how difficult it will be to approach 11 or 12 wins again. If they get there, nobody will be able to question their schedule.