The Cowboys open the regular season in Los Angeles on a Sunday night in September.
Unless they don’t.
A league determined to introduce a sense of certainty into an uncertain world released its schedule Thursday evening. The Cowboys calendar is set.
What owner Jerry Jones and the NFL can’t guarantee is that every game will be played as scheduled or that fans will be allowed into AT&T and other stadiums when it’s time to kick off.
Welcome to sports in the time of the novel coronavirus. The insidious virus dampens the anticipation and excitement the schedule release normally generates. It’s the reason Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement acknowledging that the league will continue to make decisions going forward based on the “latest medical and public health advice.
“We will be prepared to make adjustments as necessary.”
One of those potential adjustments is evident in the structure of the first four weeks of the regular season.
The Cowboys are slated to help the Rams christen the first regular-season game played in SoFi Stadium on Sept. 13. This should come as no surprise, given the prominent role Jones played in the NFL returning to Los Angeles and his friendship with Rams owner Stan Kroenke.
Now, keep this in mind. Every team opens the regular season with some combination of two home and two road games. This is designed to accommodate a 12-game regular season with an equal number of home and road games for every team if the start of the season is delayed and those games are canceled.
If those games are postponed rather than canceled, they can be tacked onto the end of the season.
Jones likes to say he has a high tolerance for ambiguity. He’s not the only one who will need that approach in 2020.
With that in mind, here are five takeaways for a season that will unfold like no other.
A soft touch
The schedule isn’t onerous.
The combined record of the Cowboys opponents — the record of division teams is only counted once — is 101-106-1. That’s a winning percentage of .485.
The team faces three division winners and five playoff teams from last season. Only four games are against teams that posted double-digit wins in ’19.
Six games are against teams coming off seasons in which they won five or fewer games.
A fast start
A Cowboys team that didn’t have back-to-back home games last season opens October with three consecutive home games. The final game that month is at Washington.
The combined record of the four teams the team faces in October — Cleveland, the NY Giants, Arizona and Washington — is an abysmal 18-45-1. If the Cowboys and new head coach Mike McCarthy don’t build a cushion here …
All told, the Cowboys play only two games — at the Rams (Sept. 13) and at Seattle (Sept. 27) — against teams with a winning record from last season in the first seven weeks of the season.
The pendulum swings to the opposite end in December.
Sure, a trip to Cincinnati to face No. 1 pick Joe Burrow and the Bengals on Dec. 13 is more entertaining than it’s threatening. But Baltimore, San Francisco and Philadelphia are the other three games that month.
Put the records of those teams together and you come up with 36-12, a winning percentage of .750.
The Cowboys are again scheduled for six national TV appearances. The breakdown:
Sunday night: at the LA Rams on Sept. 13, at Philadelphia on Nov. 1 in their first meeting against the Eagles and at home against San Francisco on Dec. 20.
Monday night: host the Arizona Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray, who led Allen to three state championships at AT&T Stadium, on Oct. 19.
Thanksgiving Day: host Washington for the third time in the last five years.
Thursday night: in Baltimore for a game against the Ravens on Dec. 3.
This and that
• The Cowboys bye week comes in mid-November at Week 10. That’s the latest the bye week has hit in six years, when the club had a bye in Week 11 after playing Jacksonville in London.
• The club doesn’t have a division game until it faces the New York Giants in Week 5.
• The team has back-to-back road games only twice all season. The first has a divisional flavor, at Washington and at Philadelphia on Oct. 25 and Nov. 1. The Cowboys open December on the road against Baltimore (Dec. 3) and Cincinnati (Dec. 13).
• The team ends the regular season on the road against the NY Giants for only the third time since ’05.