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2013 NFC North Schedule Outlook

2013 NFC North Schedule Outlook

NFC North Schedule Outlook
By Joe Nelson

The NFL draft gets all the attention in the spring, but the recent release of the 2013 schedule can be a more telling factor in how a team will fare next season. Take a look at the four teams in the NFC East this season. This group of teams will be featured heavily in primetime games as usual and another tight division race could be in store. This division has seen all four teams win a division title in the last four years and another change at the top is likely this year.

Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have not had a winning season since winning the NFC East in 2009 and after back-to-back 8-8 seasons in the first two years under Jason Garrett, the stakes will be high this season. Dallas will face long travel as usual this season, playing in a division with no nearby geographical rivals, but overall the Cowboys have to like how the slate has lined up this season. The East teams will have to play a strong group of NFC North squads, but drawing the AFC West should be an advantage compared with the rest of the conference. Based on win percentage from last season, Dallas will actually draw the weakest schedule in the NFC East, but none of the four teams will play a slate that collectively features a winning record from 2012. Dallas only plays three teams outside of the division that made the playoffs last season and all three of those games will be at home.

Only once will the Cowboys have to play back-to-back road games and Dallas gets a late-season bye week which could help with some of the tougher games in the final weeks. Dallas has a bye week prior to a huge game with the Giants, while New York will play Sunday night with the Packers to set up a favorable situation for the Cowboys for that game and most of the divisional match-ups will line up somewhat favorably. There are certainly some tough games ahead, but there are many winnable road games although there is a bit of an advantage to the third-place slate with St. Louis and New Orleans on the schedule. Dallas has the slate it needs to break through with a winning season, but like last year, this division could be tightly contested and it will be difficult for a Wild Card to emerge from this group. Dallas was just 4-4 at home last season and that is a mark that needs to improve for the 2013 season to go better than the past two years.

Dallas Cowboys 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .480
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (four home, one away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 9,060
Back-to-Back road game sets: 1
Primetime Games: 5 (one Thanksgiving, Three Sunday Night, one Monday)

New York Giants: The Giants went from Super Bowl champions to missing out on the playoffs with a very inconsistent 2012 season. At times, New York looked like one of the elite teams in the NFL, but the Giants lost to several marginal opponents as well. New York finished +85 in point differential last season for by far the best mark in this division and New York will be a candidate for a rebound season. Finishing second in this division instead of first leaves Atlanta and San Francisco off the schedule and the games with Seattle, Green Bay, Denver, and Minnesota will all be at home. The Giants play six games against 2012 playoff teams, but only the division game at Washington is away from home as all of the toughest games will be at the Meadowlands. Given the recent track record with the Giants often performing better away from home, that may not be a great thing, but New York was 6-2 in home games last season and just 3-5 on the road.

New York opens the season with three of the first four games on the road and this team will feature some late night travel with three Sunday night games lined up. The Giants will log some miles with a notable game out in San Diego late in the season that might be taxing as it will be a second straight road game, but New York also catches some breaks, getting Minnesota on a Monday night after playing the previous Thursday, essentially getting almost a second bye week in that situation. This is a Giants team that scored at least 35 points six times last season and the scoring potential of this squad is near the top of the league. New York was 8-4 against NFC teams last season as the Giants struggled playing the AFC North last season and getting games with the AFC West is a break this year, especially with the Denver meeting coming at home. While New York took a lot of heat for its defense last season, the Giants allowed the fewest points in this division last season and this is a team that was not far away from the playoffs and will be a threat to rise back to an elite level this year.

New York Giants 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .480
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 6 (five home, one away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 7,999
Back-to-Back road game sets: 2
Primetime Games: 5 (one Thursday, three Sunday night, one Monday)

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles are coming off a 4-12 season, but with Chip Kelly moving to the NFL, Philadelphia will be an intriguing team to watch this season. This has been among the most disappointing teams in the NFL the past two seasons, but there is talent on this squad and there will be opportunities to improve on an ugly 2-10 record in NFC games and a 1-5 mark in division games. Despite being the fourth place team in this division, the Eagles will be saddled with one of the tougher slates based on getting most of the toughest games on the road. Philadelphia opens with four of the first six games of the season away from home and they will have to play a dreaded set of three straight road games early in the year. Travel to Denver and Tampa Bay is involved in that set with a short trip to New York in the middle. The benefit of having a tough road schedule is that the Eagles will only play one home game all season against a team that made the playoffs the previous year and with the fourth place slate drawing Arizona and Tampa Bay is certainly better than the alternatives.

The Eagles do have to play in Oakland and Green Bay in back-to-back weeks for more long travel, but four of the final six games of the season will be at home. The bye week is in Week 12 comes in the last possible week and a late bye week may not be favorable for a team in transition. The Eagles also will play all three divisional home games in the span of five weeks in the middle of the season, which could be a challenging emotional stretch of games. Philadelphia also has a very tough early season schedule and for a team with a new offensive scheme and a lot of new players in key spots that could lead to another rough start to the season. The Eagles certainly are capable of improving on the 4-12 mark from last season, but a big jump to playoff contention is probably a reach with a schedule that is challenging. There are no easy road games on this slate and this is an Eagles team that went just 2-6 at home last season.

Philadelphia Eagles 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .496
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (one home, four away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 9,564
Back-to-Back road game sets: 3 (including one back-to-back-to-back set)
Primetime Games: 2 (one Thursday, one Monday)

Washington Redskins: The Redskins were a great story last season led by Robert Griffin III, who as a rookie took this team to playoffs with a division title. Washington paid a price for the success, however, with Griffin needing major surgery and his health is certainly a question mark entering the season. Washington was only +48 in point differential last season despite being 10-6 and the Redskins have to play a first place schedule which means games with Atlanta and San Francisco in addition to the tough draw with the NFC North. Washington has to play the two NFC North playoff teams from last season on the road as well as traveling to Atlanta. Washington has two western trips going to Oakland and Denver this season and overall there is a lot of travel involved on this slate. Washington does get to play the Eagles in Week 1, which might be in advantage with Philadelphia in a transitional year, but a tough early game at Green Bay waits in Week 2. Washington will have an early Week 5 bye, which may not be ideal for a team that was feeling the wear and tear of the season by the time the playoffs came around last year. Washington is drawing five primetime games this season and two Monday night games will create short weeks before critical home games with Chicago and New York.

The Redskins also close the season with two very tough road games with games at Atlanta and at New York in the final three weeks. Washington has some opportunities on the schedule early in the year with five of the first six games of the season against teams that did not make the playoffs last year, but Washington draws a road game at Denver in the AFC West draw and overall this looks like the toughest slate in this division. While Washington made great strides last season, this is a team that could be in line for a fall back to the pack after winning several close games last year and benefiting from a fourth place schedule to make that jump. If Griffin has trouble staying on the field it could even turn into a severe fall for the Redskins.

Washington Redskins 2013 Schedule Numbers:
2013 Opponents Win Percentage in 2012: .498
Games vs. 2012 Playoff Teams: 5 (one home, four away)
Miles Traveled for 8 road/neutral games: 8,888
Back-to-Back road game sets: 1
Primetime Games: 5 (one Thursday, two Sunday night, two Monday)

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