What a difference a year makes for Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. He was among the betting favorites this time one year ago to be the first NFL coach fired in 2014. And I'll be honest in that I thought he would be as I didn't have much faith that the Cowboys would have a good season. But they did, going 12-4 -- the only team without a road loss -- and winning the NFC East title. Team owner/general manager Jerry Jones rewarded Garrett with a five-year, $30 million contract extension. Garrett, who took over midway through the 2010 season, will become the longest-tenured coach after this season under Jones, and with four more wins will pass Jimmy Johnson for the second most (44) in the organization's history. The Cowboys report to training camp on July 28 in Oxnard, Calif. Will star receiver Dez Bryant be there? He has threatened to hold out after being slapped with the franchise tag. I think the sides will get a deal done.
As noted, the Cowboys were 8-0 on the road last season, 7-1 against the spread and 7-1 "over/under." Their 2015 road schedule ranks as the ninth-easiest in the NFL with an opponents' 2014 combined winning percentage of .453. It's the easiest road slate in the NFC East.
Here's the schedule with very early (opponent) odds.
Sept. 20 -- at Eagles (-2): This follows a Week 1 home game against the Giants for Dallas, while Philadelphia is on a short week as it plays in Atlanta in the first Monday night game of the year. The Cowboys won 38-27 in Philadelphia in Week 15 last season to take control of the division race. The Cowboys blew a 21-0 early second-quarter lead and trailed 24-21 late in the third before re-establishing themselves. Tony Romo had a great game, completing 22-for-31 for 265 yards with three touchdowns -- Bryant caught all three, totaling six catches for 114 yards. Of course, former Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is now with the Eagles. I think Philly wins this. Key trend: Cowboys 5-5 ATS in past 10 as dog in Philly.
Oct. 4 -- at Saints (pick'em): Dallas is off a Week 3 home game against Atlanta, while New Orleans is in Carolina the previous Sunday. This is a Sunday night matchup. The Cowboys beat the visiting Saints 38-17 in Week 4 last season. Romo threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns, two of them two Terrance Williams. Murray rushed 24 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns. The Cowboys had 445 yards against former Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Saints win here. Key trend: Cowboys 2-6 ATS in eight regular-season trips to New Orleans.
Oct. 25 -- at Giants (pick'em): This follows the Cowboys' bye week. New York is on a short week, hosting Philadelphia on Monday night in Week 6. Dallas won 31-28 at the Giants in Week 12 off its bye week last year. Romo threw two touchdown passes to Bryant, the winner from 13 yards with 1:01 remaining. The Cowboys drove 80 yards for that score. Dallas wins here. Key trend: Cowboys 8-2 ATS in past 10 after a bye (any location).
Nov. 15 -- at Buccaneers (+4.5): Dallas is off a Sunday night home game vs. Philadelphia, while Tampa is home to the Giants in Week 9. The Cowboys have won five straight against the Buccaneers, last in 2012. Dallas wins this. Key trend: Cowboys 4-6 ATS in past 10 as a road favorite of at least 4 points.
Nov. 22 -- at Dolphins (-1): Miami is in Philadelphia in Week 10. This is ahead of Dallas' quick turnaround Thanksgiving Day game. If the 10-game suspension stands for new Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy, this would be the last game. Cowboys have won two straight over Miami, last in 2011 on Thanksgiving. Dallas loses. Key trend: Cowboys 5-5 ATS in past 10 at AFC East teams.
Dec. 7 -- at Redskins (+3): This is Dallas' lone Monday night game of the season, which is rather surprising. The Cowboys also will have a bit of extra time to prepare off that Turkey Day matchup with the Panthers. Washington is off a Week 12 home game vs. the Giants. The Cowboys won 44-17 in Week 17 at Washington last season to finish 8-0 on the road for the first time in franchise history. The Cowboys scored on their first five possessions to take a 27-7 lead. Romo was 22-for-34 for 299 yards and two scores. Murray rushed for 100 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries, setting a team single-season record with 1,845 rushing yards. Bryant caught two TD passes to set a team single-season record with 16. Dallas wins this one. Key trend: Cowboys 5-5 ATS in past 10 as favorite at Washington.
Dec. 13 -- at Packers (-4.5): Obviously a short week for Dallas, while Green Bay will have extra time to prepare as it is in Detroit on Thursday in Week 13. Of course, the Cowboys lost a thrilling 26-21 divisional round game at Lambeau to end their 2014 season. I still say that was a catch by Bryant with about four minutes left, but I guess by the letter of the law it wasn't. Bryant made what appeared to be a leaping, bobbling 31-yard catch at the Packers 1 on a fourth-and-2 play. It was ruled a catch on the field but was challenged by Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy and overturned. It was Dallas' first postseason trip to Green Bay since the 1967 Ice Bowl. Dallas loses here. Key trend: Cowboys 6-4 ATS in past 10 as road dog of at least 4 points.
Dec. 27 -- at Bills (-1): This smells like a potential trap game to Dallas as it closes against Washington -- plus I'm guessing it will be just a bit chilly in Buffalo this late in the year. The Cowboys are off a Saturday home game vs. the Jets. The Bills enter off a game at Washington in Week 15. Dallas has won three straight vs. the Bills but hasn't visited Buffalo since 2007. Key trend: Dallas loses this one. Cowboys 8-2 ATS in past 10 at AFC teams.
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