Road Tests Dominate Early-Season Schedule

IRVING, Texas -The Cowboys knew they would open the 2012 season at New York, marking the eighth time in nine years they've begun the year on the road.

But little did the team know the NFL would essentially have them barnstorm the country for the first half of the year. Released Tuesday evening, the NFL's 2012 schedule has the Cowboys playing only three games at home in the first 10 weeks of the season.

They'll travel to Seattle in Week 2 before the home opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3.

Week 5 will be the Cowboys' bye.

The club was tapped to appear in five nationally televised games, include four in primetime as well as the annual Thanksgiving Day home game, this time against the Washington Redskins, who haven't been to Texas for the holiday since 2002.

In addition to the season-opening Wednesday night game in New York, they will play twice more in the league's marquee game, on NBC Sunday Night Football, first at Atlanta in Week 9, then against Philadelphia in Week 13, a third consecutive home game.

The league's flex scheduling format placed the Cowboys into a fourth NBC game last year, against the Giants in Week 17, and a schedule change is again possible between Week 11 and the end of the season. The team will play once on ESPN's Monday Night Football, at home against Chicago in Week 4.

For the first time since the league-owned cable channel began airing games in 2006, the NFL Network will not feature a Cowboys game this season.

As third-place finishers in the NFC East last year, the Cowboys set themselves up for matchups against fellow NFC third-place finishers Seattle and Chicago. The league's scheduling structure ensures every team will visit each NFL city at least once every eight years. The Cowboys will host AFC North opponents Pittsburgh and Cleveland for the first time since 2004, and visit Baltimore and Cincinnati.

The Cowboys' 2012 opponents combined for a .504 winning percentage last season. The slate includes seven games against teams with winning records in 2011.

Here's a game-by-game look at the Cowboys' 2012 regular-season schedule:

at NY Giants (Sept. 5) The NFL season begins with a rare Wednesday night game, when the Cowboys will be in attendance as the Giants unveil their Super Bowl XLVI banner. 2011 Record: 9-7

at Seattle (Sept. 16) For the second straight year the Cowboys will play their first two games of the season on the road. 2011 Record: 7-9

vs. Tampa Bay (Sept. 23) The home opener pits the Cowboys against one of the teams they dominated most in 2011. 2011 Record: 4-12

vs. Chicago (Oct. 1) The Cowboys will be making their 74th appearance on Monday Night Football, sporting a record of 43-29 in those games. They've played the Bears only once, however, in 1996. 2011 Record: 8-8

Bye (Oct. 7)

at Baltimore (Oct. 14) The Ravens embarrassed the Cowboys in the last matchups between the two teams, closing down Texas Stadium with a 33-24 win over Dallas in 2008. 2011 Record: 12-4

at Carolina (Oct. 21) How will Rob Ryan game plan to stop Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the 2011 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year? 2011 Record: 6-10

vs. NY Giants (Oct. 28) The Giants' 2011 season was on the brink in Week 14, but they shocked the Cowboys Stadium crowd with two late TDs and a blocked field goal that wrestled control of the NFC East away from Dallas. 2011 Record: 9-7

at Atlanta (Nov. 4) This Sunday Night Football matchup will feature two of the league's all-time greats at tight end, Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten. 2011 Record: 10-6

at Philadelphia (Nov. 11) The Cowboys are 0-3 against Philadelphia with Michael Vick as the Eagles' starting quarterback. 2011 Record: 8-8

vs. Cleveland (Nov. 18) Will Texas native Colt McCoy still be the Browns' quarterback? 2011 Record: 4-12

vs. Washington (Nov. 29) The Cowboys should get their first look at Heisman-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Redskins' likely pick at No. 2 overall. 2011 Record: 5-11

vs. Philadelphia (Dec. 2) Not since 2002 have the Cowboys played three home games in a row. 2011 Record: 8-8

at Cincinnati (Dec. 9) Terence Newman won't be the only former Cowboys cornerback in the building, as the Bengals defense also includes Adam "Pacman" Jones and is run by Mike Zimmer, the former Dallas defensive coordinator. 2011 Record: 9-7

vs. Pittsburgh (Dec. 16) In 2004, when the Steelers visited Dallas last, Texas Stadium was filled with gold terrible towels. 2011 Record: 12-4

vs. New Orleans (Dec. 23) The Saints will be without head coach Sean Payton, the Cowboys' former offensive coordinator, who is suspended for the entire year. Could New Orleans players be suspended, too? 2011 Record: 13-3

at Washington (Dec. 30) The NFL's schedule-makers reserve Week 17 for matchups between division rivals. The Cowboys will face the Redskins in the regular season finale for the first time since 2007. 2011 Record: 5-11

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