POSTED: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 - 9:55pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - 8:34pm
(AP) - If the Dallas Cowboys are to be the first Super Bowl host to play in the big game, they'll have to overcome what looks to be a tough final six weeks of the regular season.
The stretch begins with the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints coming to Cowboys Stadium on Thanksgiving, followed by a trip to Indianapolis to face the other Super Bowl team from last
Dallas returns home the next two weeks to play division foes Philadelphia and Washington, then closes with two road games - at Arizona on Christmas night and at Philadelphia on Jan. 2. The Cowboys already knew they were playing seven games against six teams that made the playoffs last season, including the two
Super Bowl participants. On Tuesday, they learned the order of those games.
"We knew before today that this was a very challenging schedule," owner Jerry Jones said. "Seeing it on paper doesn't make it any easier, but our team will be ready. We're looking
forward to it."
The Super Bowl is at Cowboys Stadium on Feb. 6, 2011. Dallas is considered a strong preseason favorite.
The Cowboys went 11-5 last season and won the NFC East, then won a playoff game for the first time since 1996.
Dallas also enjoyed its first winning record after Dec. 1 since 1996, a skid players might be even more relieved to have ended considering five of the last six games are against teams that made the playoffs last year.
There's also a wild card to how tough this December will be. It depends on how good Philadelphia and Washington are following the trade of Donovan McNabb from the Eagles to the Redskins. The Cowboys should get an idea right away as they'll be the first team to face McNabb, opening the season in Washington the
night of Sunday, Sept. 12. That is among three games already selected for NBC's prime-time,
Sunday night broadcast. The others are Tony Romo going home to Wisconsin to face the Packers on Nov. 7, and the Dec. 12 home game against Philadelphia.
Dallas has two more prime-time, national broadcasts: at home against the Giants on Monday night, Oct. 25, on ESPN; and the Christmas night game, which is on a Saturday, on the NFL Network. Also noteworthy about the schedule is what didn't happen: the Cowboys aren't going to be the first visitors to the Giants' new stadium
The Giants had the honors last year at Cowboys Stadium and spoiled the debut of the $1.2 billion palace. Dallas was hoping for the chance to pay back its division rival, but will have to waituntil Nov. 14 to see the new place.
The Cowboys have only one home game in September, when they face Chicago in the second week. They go to Houston the following week, then have a bye on Oct. 3. On Oct. 17, Dallas plays at Minnesota, a return to the spot
where its 2009 playoff run ended. It is no coincidence that three of the final four games are against division rivals.
The NFL loaded up on late-season division games in hopes of raising their stakes and keeping teams from
resting key players before the playoffs.
"That's the most logical way to do it, that I know of," Jones said. "I think that's great for the fans."