The NFL “off-season” is about to come to an end. Soon, July 25th to be exact, the Dallas Cowboys will break camp in Oxnard, California. When they do, the unofficial “Quest for 6” will begin. While teams who appear to be contenders/pretenders can change, here’s what look to be the three standout opponents for the team in 2018:
Note: While the defending AFC South champion Jacksonville Jaguars match up as a premier challenge for the Cowboys, their week six matchup won’t play a huge role in NFC Conference seeding, so they narrowly miss the cut.
**All Games listed in CDT**
Week 10 @ Philadelphia Eagles (7:20pm; SNF on NBC)
The first team on the list is a familiar foe. They are also the defending Super Bowl Champions. The Dallas Cowboys will get their first crack at the Super Bowl LII winners as they travel to Philly for a prime time match up. The team will be traveling on a short week, as they host the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football the week prior. This will be Dallas’ ninth game of the season and will represent the unofficial start of the second half of the regular season. This will allow the Cowboys to see where they stack up against an NFC contender. This could also be a crucial matchup for playoff and division title seeding and will be must-watch football.
Week 11 @ Atlanta Falcons (12:00pm; FOX)
As if the Dallas Cowboys weren’t facing a tough challenge in week 10, their week 11 matchup could be a trap game. The Dallas Cowboys will travel back to Atlanta to face the dirty birds. Dallas will hope for better results in the A-T-L, as they were demolished in their meeting last season, as the supporting cast around Dak Prescott fell apart. Prescott was sacked 8 times, Zeke Elliott missed his first game of a six-game suspension, Tyron Smith missed the game to injury, and Sean Lee left during the contest. This year, this matchup will be the first of 6 in a row in a dome stadium. While the opponent will be tough, the weather should play no factor in the second half of the season, allowing the Cowboys to play in optimal conditions.
Week 13 vs. New Orleans Saints (7:20pm; TNF on FOX)
Another NFC contender from 2017 makes the list of standout games in 2018. The New Orleans Saints rode their dynamic duo at running back (Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram) and an improved defense to the doorsteps of the NFC Title game. A Stefon Diggs miracle in Minnesota kept the Saints from the NFC Championship. Surely, the team will be looking to improve their finish in 2017. The Dallas Cowboys know the Saints’ story, because they did the same thing in 2016. A revamped offensive focus towards the run game and improved defensive play led the Cowboys to the doorstep of the NFC Title game in 2016, before an Aaron Rodgers miracle ripped the hearts out of AT&T Stadium. Now, the Dallas Cowboys will be looking to rebound in 2018.
The Dallas Cowboys’ match up against New Orleans will be another litmus test to see how they stack up against an NFC contender. In a loaded conference, every win for Dallas will be substantial. If the Cowboys can secure at least two of these games in the victory column, they stand a good chance of returning to the postseason in 2018.
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