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Dallas Cowboys' 2021 schedule: Road mettle to be tested in final games

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Why Dak's return is bigger storyline in Week 1 than Brady's quest to repeat (1:24)

Chris Canty explains why he's more interested in seeing how Dak Prescott and the Cowboys will bounce back for the upcoming season. (1:24)

The Dallas Cowboys' 2021 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate on Wednesday.

The 2021 NFL season will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 9 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the Dallas Cowboys (8:20 p.m. ET). ESPN’s Monday Night Football opener on Sept. 13 will feature the Las Vegas Raiders hosting the Baltimore Ravens (8:15 p.m. ET).

The NFL will change its schedule for the first time in 44 years, expanding to 17 regular-season games. The final regular-season games will be played Jan. 9, 2022. The playoffs begin Jan. 15, 2022 and continue through Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022 at Los Angeles' SoFi Stadium.

Here's what is in store for the Cowboys:

Schedule

Sept. 9: at Tampa Bay (TNF)

Sept. 19: at Los Angeles Chargers

Sept. 27: vs. Philadelphia (MNF)

Oct. 3: vs. Carolina

Oct. 10: vs. New York Giants

Oct. 17: at New England

Oct. 24: Bye

Oct. 31: at Minnesota (SNF)

Nov. 7: vs. Denver

Nov. 14: vs. Atlanta

Nov. 21: at Kansas City

Nov. 25: vs. Las Vegas

Dec. 2: at New Orleans (TNF)

Dec. 12: at Washington

Dec. 18/19 (TBD): at New York Giants

Dec. 26: vs. Washington (SNF)

Jan. 2: vs. Arizona

Jan. 9: at Philadelphia

Strength of schedule: 31st, .452

Biggest takeaway

Can the Cowboys close the season with a flourish with four of their final six games away from AT&T Stadium? We know it was an issue during portions of the coach Jason Garrett era. Coach Mike McCarthy had strong December finishes in Green Bay, and the Cowboys were playing better later on last season, but just managed a 6-10 finish. The NFC East might not be what it was, but it should be better than it was a year ago, and it will not be decided until the season's final weeks. With four of their last five games against NFC East opponents and three of those five on the road, the Cowboys will be challenged, especially if there is cold weather in Washington, New Jersey and Philadelphia.

One storyline to watch

Handling crowd noise is always a challenge, especially at Kansas City, one of the loudest outdoor stadiums in the NFL, and at New Orleans, one of the loudest indoor stadiums in the world. That the Cowboys play at the Chiefs and Saints in a three-week span in late November and early December will go a long way in determining their season's success. The Cowboys have an experienced offense with quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott, offensive linemen Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and La'el Collins and wide receiver Amari Cooper, so they should be well-versed in dealing with crowd noise, but it is always something to keep an eye on, especially in such season-defining games.

What Vegas thinks

With a 17-game schedule, Vegas has the Cowboys at 9.5 wins, which is barely above .500 but that is also the best over/under in the NFC East. Vegas is predicting the division will be down again this season. If the Cowboys get the over, they will have to be almost perfect at home because they have a difficult road schedule (Tampa Bay, Kansas City, New Orleans and New England). Take the over -- barely -- because the home schedule is favorable, provided the Cowboys' stars are healthy.

Bold prediction

The Cowboys will score a touchdown at Gillette Stadium in Week 6. Oh, you don't think that's bold enough? In their three trips to that stadium since 2003, Dallas has scored one touchdown in 35 possessions, including a 13-9 loss there in 2019. In their last game at Foxboro Stadium in 1999, the Cowboys failed to score a touchdown as well, losing, 13-6. So they're due.