Draft Entices Cowboys Schedule Nick Eatman DallasCowboys.com Staff Writer April 27, 2004, 6:15 p.m. (CST) IRVING, Texas - The Cowboys have known their opponents for the upcoming 2004 season since the end of the season. But some of the match-ups, especially within the division, grew much more intriguing following this past weekend's NFL Draft. The Cowboys are scheduled to run into nine of the top 20 first-round draft choices, including two meetings each with a pair of top-five selections. The No. 1 overall pick, Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning, ended up with the Giants after the blockbuster draft-day deal with San Diego. And with Kerry Collins possibly on his way out in New York, Manning could end up with the starting job this season. While the Cowboys could have two opportunities to pick off Manning's passes, they'll have two games trying to avoid interceptions by Washington's top pick, safety Sean Taylor. The University of Miami standout was the fifth pick, and should step right into a Redskins secondary which has struggled the last few years and now will be without four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, who was traded to Denver for running back Clinton Portis. Along with the seven other top 20 picks, the Cowboys also will play against a pair of top 10 picks in the preseason, including Oakland offensive tackle Robert Gallery, the No. 2 overall pick. The Cowboys will kick off the preseason schedule Aug. 14 against the Texans, who drafted South Carolina cornerback Dunta Robinson with the 10th selection. But the regular season could be exciting from start to finish. Here's a closer look at what's in store with each of the Cowboys' 13 opponents this upcoming season: MINNESOTA Sept. 12 (Fox), Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome There seems to be sure-fire excitement anytime Randy Moss is on the field, especially if he's playing the Cowboys. The Vikings Pro Bowl receiver has scored eight touchdowns against Dallas in just four career meetings. Throw in national television for the season opener, and there should be fireworks galore. CLEVELAND Sept. 19 (CBS), Texas Stadium The Cowboys welcome back a few familiar faces, including former head coach Dave Campo, who now serves as the Browns' defensive coordinator. Cleveland head coach Butch Davis was a Cowboys assistant for six years and defensive coordinator for two (1993-94), and the Browns have a few former Cowboys players as well, including defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban. The Browns drafted talented rookie tight end Kellen Winslow II (sixth overall), but by Week Two, will he even be signed yet? WASHINGTON Sept. 27 (ABC), FedEx Field Dec. 26 (Fox), Texas Stadium Bill Parcells has stated Joe Gibbs is one of the best coaches he's ever faced, and he'll get the opportunity to go head-to-head once again. Gibbs is back on Washington's sideline, and the Redskins have a bunch of new players, including Taylor, Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis and veteran quarterback Mark Brunell. The Cowboys and Redskins on Monday Night Football is always entertaining, and a Dec. 26 meeting in Week 16 could have playoff implications. NY GIANTS Oct. 10 (Fox), Texas Stadium Jan. 2 (ESPN), Giants Stadium Will Eli Manning be the starting quarterback when the Giants roll into Texas Stadium on Oct. 10? If so, it will only intensify a division rivalry which picked up steam last year with Parcells, longtime coach of the Giants, taking over in Dallas. The Cowboys swept New York for the first time since 1998. But things should be tougher this year, with the Giants adding one of Parcells' former assistants, Tom Coughlin as their new head coach. The Jan. 2 (2005) meeting will be the final game of the NFL's regular season, a Sunday night affair on ESPN. PITTSBURGH Oct. 17 (Fox), Texas Stadium The Cowboys might be facing a pair of rookie quarterbacks in consecutive weeks. Just after Manning and the Giants leave Texas Stadium, the Steelers head to town, possibly with Ben Roethlisberger (11th pick, Miami, OH) as the starting quarterback. The Steelers haven't played in Dallas since Thanksgiving of 1991. While the Cowboys aren't so familiar with Pittsburgh's entire personnel, they know running back Duce Staley, a former Philadelphia Eagle who signed with the Steelers in the off-season. Staley was rated the No. 1 free agent back this off-season and had preliminary discussions about signing with the Cowboys. GREEN BAY Oct. 24 (Fox), Lambeau Field The Cowboys make their first trip to Green Bay since the 1997 season, but a late-October meeting should free them of playing on any "frozen tundra" at Lambeau Field. Still, playing on the road against Brett Favre and the Packers won't be an easy task. The Cowboys have played just two games at Lambeau since the "Ice Bowl" in the 1967 season, losing both games to the Packers. DETROIT Oct. 31 (Fox), Texas Stadium The Cowboys might get their first look at what they passed up on draft day. Detroit took Virginia Tech running back Kevin Jones with the 30th pick, and could have him starting by this point. The Lions also have two big receivers, in Charles Rogers, who missed the Cowboys game last season with an injury, and Texas rookie Roy Williams, the seventh overall pick in this year's draft. Might the Lions also have guard Larry Allen, who still could be on the trading block even though the draft has been completed. Allen did visit the Lions before the draft. This also will be the Lions' first trip to Texas Stadium since the 1994 season. CINCINNATI Nov. 7 (Fox), Paul Brown Stadium The last time the Cowboys visited the Bengals, Boomer Esiason started at quarterback for Cincinnati and led his team to a 31-24 win over the Cowboys late in the 1997 season. The Bengals should be showing off last year's No. 1 overall pick Carson Palmer, who was named the starting quarterback this off-season, after sitting behind Jon Kitna all last season. And one week after playing against Detroit's Kevin Jones, the Cowboys might be facing Chris Perry, another of the draft's highly-rated running backs they passed at 22, allowing Cincinnati to take him with the 26th pick. PHILADELPHIA Nov. 15 (ABC), Texas Stadium Dec. 19 (Fox), Lincoln Financial Field These games usually sell themselves. The first game should be a great one, a Monday Night Football affair with new Eagles superstars Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse coming to town. Will Owens dance again on the Texas Stadium star? Or do the Cowboys have enough to beat them for the second straight year in Dallas? And the late-December game just might be for the NFC East title once again. BALTIMORE Nov. 21 (Fox), M &T Bank Stadium The Cowboys want to believe they'll be more competitive on this trip to Baltimore, where they have yet to score a point in this relatively new stadium, getting shut out 27-0 by the Ravens during their eventual 2000 Super Bowl season. Late November in Baltimore could be frigid, and the Cowboys haven't played too well in recent cold-weather games. CHICAGO Nov. 25 (Fox), Texas Stadium Thanksgiving is a time when families usually reunite, and it could be a gathering for the Jones family on this holiday. No, not Jerry Jones, but the family of Cowboys rookie running back Julius Jones and his brother, Thomas Jones of the Chicago Bears. Both Jones running backs could be starting for their respective teams by then. Chicago is no stranger to Thanksgiving games, having played only once in Dallas, but 15 times at Detroit. SEATTLE Dec. 6 (ABC), Seahawk Stadium This will be the first Monday Night Football game between these two teams, and the Cowboys' first on the West Coast since 1987 when they faced the L.A. Rams. The Seahawks and Cowboys were the two Wild-Card playoff teams last season, and both could be fighting for a spot in the NFC playoffs once again. The Seahawks drafted University of Texas defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs with their first-round pick (23rd overall) last weekend. NEW ORLEANS Dec. 12 (Fox), Texas Stadium While the Cowboys have made many trips to New Orleans in recent years, the Saints haven't played at Texas Stadium since 1991. The two teams have played four times in the last seven years, all in December, and another one this season. La'Roi Glover will be three years removed from his days with the Saints, but will be trying to make sure his team avoids another late-season slip-up against New Orleans. The Cowboys limped into the playoffs last season after falling to the Saints, 13-7, in the regular-season finale.