On the day that the next season's schedule gets released, there aren't many football fans who don't take a look and mentally write "W" and "L" next to each game.
When Cowboys fans took a look, they probably didn't love what they saw in the first seven weeks of this season. Road dates with the Jets and Patriots, a resurgent Lions team coming to town and a Rams team that appeared to be on the rise all made it hard to expect anything more than a .500 record after six games.
It turned out to be the 49ers, and not the Rams, that were the good team from the NFC West, but the schedule wound up being difficult all the same. And the record wound up being just about what you would have hoped it would be even if the games made you feel like the record should have been better.
Now comes the part of the schedule where you expected the Cowboys to make their run toward a playoff spot. They have a tough one in Philly on Sunday night, but even with that game they only have one game against a team with a winning record in the next six weeks. There doesn't figure to be much life left in the Redskins, Dolphins or Cardinals when the Cowboys reach the end of that run, and getting the Seahawks and Bills at home makes things look even easier.
And that's not all the good news from the schedule makers. The Giants have a walk in the park against the Dolphins on Sunday, but they then have a run that can only be described as hellish. Road games against the Pats, 49ers and Saints and home dates with the Eagles and Packers. They could play great over that six-week span and still wind up with just a couple of wins to show for their efforts.
Based on those schedules, there's little reason to believe that the Cowboys won't find a way to close the gap between them and the Giants by the time they host Big Blue in Week 14. That means they'll be able to afford a split with the Giants in their two games without costing themselves a shot at a spot in the postseason.
This is the part where we issue disclaimers about Any Given Sunday, but the Cowboys couldn't ask for the plate to be set any better for themselves.