Mike McCarthy is well-versed and well-informed about whom his Dallas Cowboys would face off against come the 2022 NFL season.
With the questions of "when" answered through the release and confirmation of the coming slate, the head coach addressed his thoughts on the Cowboys' 17-game ledger, which opens on Sept. 11 in Arlington against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (See "Revenge!'')
Any lingering drama of schedule release day is somewhat offset by the fact that the Cowboys remain an obvious draw for national games, including their annual contest on the Thanksgiving holiday. But McCarthy is particularly intrigued by some of the features that arose in this year's edition.
For example, McCarthy is pleased that the Cowboys have not been dealt a Thursday night game immediately following their traditional Thanksgiving affair. This marks the first time since 2015 that no such game resides on the schedule.
"Not playing Thanksgiving to Thursday, I thought I liked that part of it," McCarthy said at the Cowboys' rookie minicamp proceedings at The Star in Frisco this week. "It’s a real challenge trying to play those three games in such a tight period of time."
One post-Thanksgiving quirk's remove, however, has given way to another: Dallas is set to play three games in a 12-day span, a phenomenon partly brought about by the NFL scheduling a majority of its Week 16 slate on Dec. 24, the Saturday of Christmas Eve.
That NFC East divisional game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Arlington is sandwiched by inter-conference visits to Jacksonville (Dec. 18) and Tennessee (Dec. 29), the latter being part of the "Thursday Night Football" package now owned by Amazon Prime Video.
McCarthy is a fan of the holiday-induced change.
"I thought having the Saturday to Thursday (rest) was a little different wrinkle, but you’d much rather go from Saturday to Thursday there in Week 16," he said. "It kind of gives you that bye week, that mini-bye week before your last game. So, I liked the structure of it."
Furthermore, the Cowboys are set to open the season with consecutive home games for the first time since 1990, as the defending AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals will arrive after Tampa Bay. Two divisional games follow, with the Cowboys facing the New York Giants in East Rutherford, NJ (Dallas' lone appearance on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" this year) before returning to battle the newly minted Washington Commanders.
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"I like the fact that the first two are at home," McCarthy said. "Then you have your first division game at home, too. So, I really like the start of it."
McCarthy's five-star review of the schedule, however, came to a halt for two reasons. A return to his former place of employment in Green Bay is posted in the late afternoon slot of Week 10 action on Nov. 23, defying McCarthy's hope of getting his homecoming out of the way early.
McCarthy later referenced the Cowboys' excess travel, a trend partly blamed on the long distances required to face divisional competition in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Dallas is set to rack up 19,566 miles this season, the 12th-most in the NFL.
But, as McCarthy put it, the travel is a trend that both he and his players are well accustomed to by now.
"We know we’re always going to have the national games and our travel is going to be a challenge," he said. "So, the travel part of it, it's always a challenge. But this is year three, so, I feel I got a handle on that."
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