A hypothetical Cowboys schedule

IRVING, Texas – We’ve had nothing but mock drafts around here for the last month, so in honor of the NFL releasing its schedule tonight, let’s take a mock look at the Cowboys’ 2012 calendar.

We know the Cowboys will open the season on Sept. 5 against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. We know they will play an NFC team on Thanksgiving this year.

Let’s fill in the gaps.

You have to plan for five nationally televised games. Done. You have to plan for most of the divisional games later in the year. Done. You have to plan for a difficult December schedule. Done. And the December schedule is particularly brutal.

So after putting those criteria in play, here’s what I came up with (and remember there is nothing official about this, so don’t take it as gospel):

Sept. 5 at New York Giants (NBC) – The NFL knows how big these ratings will be.

Sept. 16 vs. Cleveland (CBS) – Colt McCoy comes home for the first time.

Sept. 23 vs. Tampa Bay (Fox) – A must-win for the Cowboys when you see Dec. schedule.

Oct. 1 at Seattle (ESPN) – Seahawks’ secondary will pose a challenge.

Oct. 7 vs. Pittsburgh (CBS) – How many Terrible Towels will there be in Arlington?

Oct. 14 BYE

Oct. 21 at Cincinnati (Fox) – Hello, Newman. Cowboys see former teammate.

Oct. 28 vs. Washington (NBC) – Cowboys get their first look at Robert Griffin III.

Nov. 4 at Baltimore (Fox) – Always a tough place to play against a tough team.

Nov. 11 at Philadelphia (Fox) – Will this be dream season for Eagles?

Nov. 18 at Carolina (Fox) – Cowboys get their first look at Cam Newton.

Nov. 22 vs. Chicago (Fox) – A rematch of the 2004 Thanksgiving game.

Nov. 29 vs. New Orleans (NFLN) – No Sean Payton or Bill Parcells but plenty of intrigue.

Dec. 9 at Atlanta (Fox) – Falcons are tough to beat at the Georgia Dome.

Dec. 16 vs. NY Giants (Fox) – Eli Manning is unbeaten at Cowboys Stadium.

Dec. 23 at Washington (Fox) – It’s never easy at FedEx Field.

Dec. 30 vs. Philadelphia (NBC) – Could a playoff spot be on the line again?