The Dallas Cowboys schedule has been out for about a month now and there are many things to like about it. For starters, Dallas will be one of ten teams that has five primetime games in the 2021 season including an opening night matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After Dallas’ week 1 game against Tampa Bay, their schedule does lighten up over the season. They have the 31st easiest strength of schedule for the season, only the Philadelphia Eagles have an easier strength of schedule. The Cowboys’ opponents in 2021 combined for a record of 122-148-2 (0.452 win percentage) last season.
There is reason to believe that the Cowboys can have a better record this season. America’s Team has one of the easiest schedules in the league. Additionally, Dallas will be getting back their star quarterback Dak Prescott as well as guard Zack Martin, tackle Tyron Smith and tackle La’el Collins. Even running back Ezekiel Elliott is ready to bounce back after a poor year.
The Dallas Cowboys should be in a better position to fight for a playoff spot in 2021. However, over the season, there are plenty of must-win games that they must capitalize on.
Let’s take a look at three must-win games on Dallas’ schedule.
1. Week 2 @ Los Angeles Chargers
The Dallas Cowboys will start the season with back-to-back road games. However, their second road game against the Los Angeles Chargers can be considered a must-win.
Opening the season against the defending Super Bowl champions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is not easy. Whatever happens in that first game, will make the second game of the season as important as the first.
If the Cowboys win their first game, they will try to use that momentum to start the season 2-0. However, if they happen to lose, Dallas can’t afford to start 0-2. As a result, their matchup against the Chargers is likely one of the most important games of the season.
They need to start the season with a bang and not fall into a hole as they did in 2020. Last season, the Cowboys got off to a slow start as they were just 1-3 in their first four games. America’s Team will have their hands full trying to stop young phenom quarterback, Justin Herbert.
The Cowboys last played the Chargers in 2017 where they struggled mightily. Dallas lost by a score of 28-6 where Prescott threw for only 179 yards and two interceptions.
2. Week 6 @ New England Patriots
Another must-win game for the Cowboys comes in week 6 against the New England Patriots. Last season, the Patriots had one of their worst seasons in recent years finishing just 7-9. However, New England’s team looks much different than it did a year ago.
As a result, this Patriots team can be scary in 2021 led by their vicious defense. Last season, they ranked eighth in points allowed per game (22.1) and that was without their starting linebacker, Donta Hightower and safety Patrick Chung, who opted out of the season.
Traveling to Foxborough and playing in front of New England fans is likely tough. This is Dallas’ last game before their bye, so this game is possibly one of their most important of the season. They have the opportunity to go into their bye, with an impressive victory over the Patriots.
Dallas last played New England in 2017 where Prescott struggled once again. He only threw for 212 yards and one interception in a 13-9 loss. This can be a prove-it game for the former Mississippi State star, showing everyone that he can play well against top defenses.
3. Week 16 vs. Washington Football Team
This is the second of two matchups with the reigning NFC East champion. This might be a must-win game for the Cowboys in the sense that this week 16 matchup could hold major playoff implications.
These two teams will face off on Sunday Night Football. This will be another game for Prescott to prove that he can beat solid defenses. Last season, Washington ranked sixth in points allowed per game (21.2), third in passing yards allowed per game (201.9) and fifth in sacks per game (2.9). If the Dallas Cowboys want a chance at the division title, they will probably have to beat Washington once if not twice.
Prescott has been successful against Washington in his career posting a 7-1 record and only throwing one interception against them. However, he has yet to face this new and improved defense led by defensive end Chase Young. This matchup will be an exciting one, but one that Dallas probably has to win if they want the NFC East title once again.