Five biggest Cowboys games of 2010

Oct. 17 at Minnesota Vikings

This game obviously loses a lot of its luster if Brett Favre decides to stay home in the bayou. But does anybody really expect Favre to retire after he came so close to getting the Vikings to the Super Bowl? Didn't think so. There should be plenty of hype about Keith Brooking and the Dallas defense trying to shut down a group that ran up the score on them in the playoffs. However, the Cowboys have no chance to win in the deafening Metrodome if the offensive line performs like it did in the playoffs against the modern version of the Purple People Eaters. Did the Cowboys make the right decision to hand the left tackle job to Doug Free? All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen will try to prove otherwise.

Oct. 25 vs. New York Giants

This game becomes even more important if the Cowboys don't win in Minnesota. The Cowboys felt like they gave away two games to the Giants last season -- once with turnovers and the other time by allowing big plays. The Giants didn't get many other breaks, going from preseason NFC East favorites to playoff spectators. It'd be surprising if the Giants, much like the Cowboys last season, don't bounce back to contend for the division title. The odds of that happening would increase significantly if the Giants remain undefeated in JerryWorld.

Nov. 25 vs. New Orleans Saints

After serving up turkeys to the Cowboys in recent Thanksgivings, the NFL is sending the Super Bowl champions for supper. The Saints will have a score to settle after the Cowboys proclaimed "We Dat" following their victory in the Superdome last season, smashing New Orleans' hopes for an undefeated season. Drew Brees didn't have all his weapons in that game, with Jeremy Shockey sitting out and Reggie Bush injuring his hamstring in the first half. But it won't matter what kind of talent Brees has in the huddle if the Saints don't do a much better job blocking the Cowboys' pair of premier edge rushers, DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.

Dec. 5 at Indianapolis Colts

If a team has to face the NFL's two best quarterbacks in back-to-back weeks, it's only fair to have a few extra days to prepare for the second game. It'll be fun to watch Wade Phillips match wits with Peyton Manning, the closest thing the NFL has to a player-coach these days. In his first season as a starter, Tony Romo managed to beat Manning's previously undefeated Colts by playing it close to the vest. The Cowboys will need Romo and Co. to make some big plays against a so-so secondary to pull out the win on the road.

Jan. 2 at Philadelphia Eagles

Is the NFL going to schedule a Dallas-Philly finale every season? Might not be a bad idea, considering the drama, at least during the week. The Cowboys got revenge and then some for the 2008 Philly Flop by sweeping the Eagles last season, claiming the division title in the last week of the regular season and ending the Eagles' season with another stinging loss in the first round of the playoffs. It remains to be seen whether quarterback Kevin Kolb is good enough to prevent the Eagles from being spoilers in this game. If the Cowboys handle their business, they could be playing for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.