You know that it is a strange offseason when the Cowboys are the most stable team in the NFC East.
The Eagles put together their "Dream Team," a talent infusion that is as impressive on paper as it is difficult to fit together into a cohesive unit on the field. The Giants enraged their fans by cutting players or letting them leave as free agents and they now have to deal with losing three of their top five cornerbacks to injury two weeks into the preseason. The Redskins turned over a good chunk of their roster, including the all-important quarterback position.
The Cowboys have a new defensive coordinator and a revamped offensive line, but the key names and faces are pretty much the same as the ones that were on the team last season. That would normally be a good thing, but the lockout has made continuity less of an advantage than it has been in past seasons.
It has left the Cowboys with scant time to pick up Rob Ryan's defense, figure out who their kicker is going to be or what the best configuration is on the offensive line. Those issues could now drag on into the start of the regular season, something that the Cowboys can ill afford if they hope to find themselves in the mix for a playoff spot this year.
The schedule does them no favors with a pair of road games to open the year. The Jets game on September 11th should be very tough and the 49ers won't be a pushover despite their losing record in 2010. It gets a little easier with home games against the Redskins and Lions before a bye, but things ratchet right back up with roadies in New England and Philly sandwiched around a home date with the Rams. There's an easy patch after that before a killer four game ending swing with games against the Giants, Bucs, Eagles and Giants again.
No one knows exactly how this season is going to play out, but it is safe to say that the Cowboys don't want to find themselves in a position where they have to win all of those games to advance to the postseason. That puts even more pressure on the early games, especially since the Eagles and Giants figure to have issues breaking from the gate at full steam.
That brings us back to where we started. The stability of the Cowboys may only exist relative to the chaotic state of affairs in the rest of the division, but it does exist and the team needs to capitalize on it to make the most of this season. Winning early can build a cushion and it can ratchet up the pressure on situations in Philly and New York that are already nearing maximum level in that department.
Saving the best for last is a good way to wind up Super Bowl champs, but it isn't a good strategy for the Cowboys to employ if they want to make it anywhere close to the big game.
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