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Top Five: Dallas Cowboys Regular Season Games To Look Forward To

As the lockout in the NFL seemingly comes to an end, it's time to look ahead to the five most interesting games on the Dallas Cowboys' 2011 schedule.

MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 17:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys drops back to pass in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field on October 17 2010 in Minneapolis Minnesota.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 17: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys drops back to pass in the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field on October 17 2010 in Minneapolis Minnesota. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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Rejoice, football fans: there will almost certainly be a full, 16 game NFL season this year. While I always believed a deal would get done since there's simply too much money to lose, I'm still believing a sigh of relief as it looks like the lockout will be lifted within a week. As such, it's time to start looking ahead to the upcoming NFL season - there's a slew of interesting games that the Dallas Cowboys have on tap this season.

As always, the divisional games are always going to be interesting. Each team in the division hates the other three, which adds a nice spice to six weeks of the season. Beyond that this year, Dallas has some interesting opponents - thanks in part to Dallas playing the AFC East this season.

Without further ado, here are the top five games of the Dallas Cowboys season that I'm looking forward to.

No. 5: Week 3, Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins

Last season, the Cowboys were supposed to steamroll Washington in Week 1, despite the addition of Donovan McNabb to the Redskins. That didn't happen, thanks in part to miscues from Dallas, as the Redskins upset the Cowboys 13-7 to open the season.

Things only got worse from there for Dallas, in what was pretty much a disaster season. The Cowboys will get their chance to extract some revenge this year, taking on the Redskins at home in Week 3 on Monday Night Football. It's always a pretty big deal when the Cowboys and Redskins play each other on, but there will be some more allure to this game with it being on Monday night and all.

No. 4: Week 16, Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

It's tough to look so far ahead, but it's also tough not to circle this game on Dallas' calendar. It'll be on Christmas Eve, which falls on a Saturday this year - so this game will be on the national stage. A playoff stake for either or both teams could potentially be on the line as well.

That, of course, is in addition to the fact that the Eagles have become one of the more hate-able teams lately, thanks in large part to one DeSean Jackson. As talented as he is, there probably isn't a player easier to hate in the league as Jackson.

This game could potentially end up serving as revenge for the bitter 2008 Week 17 game where Dallas had to travel to Philadelphia - and proceeded to get roasted 44-6.

No. 3: Week 6, New England Patriots vs. Dallas Cowboys

Of course I'd pick this game, right? It won't have the allure of the 2003 or 2007 matchups which featured the Tuna Bowl in 2003 (Quincy Carter says hi), or the shootout in Texas with "the Original 81" telling us all to get our popcorn ready.

Neither game ended well for the Cowboys, with New England winning both contests. Even if Dallas loses in Foxboro this year, it should be an interesting game - and potentially a good measuring stick for Dallas. New England is routinely among the elite teams in the league, and even playing the Pats tough would likely give Dallas confidence.

Jason Garrett, though, lucks out partially with this game: Dallas has their Bye week in Week 5, so they'll have two weeks to prepare for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and company.

No. 2: Week 17, New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys

Week 17 games are often meaningless, but it's tough to predict who will be where in the standings at the end of the year in July. A divisional game against the Giants in New Jersey to end the season - on New Year's Day? Sign me up.

If this game does mean something, then it'll likely mean everything for the Cowboys. Going into New Jersey (sorry, I refuse to call it New York), on what will almost certainly be a bitterly cold, windy day against the G-Men is not an easy task.

Of course, the Cowboys could be 12-3 or 3-12 headed into this game with their playoff fate already sewn up - but until then, I'd be looking forward to this game.

No. 1: Week 1, New York Jets vs. Dallas Cowboys

This game was a no-brainer for No. 1 on this list, really. First, it's the first game of a season that for awhile, looked like it was in jeopardy. Secondly, it's Week 1, and hope will be running rampant for Cowboys fans. Nobody will know really how good or bad the Cowboys are, so fans can still dream of the Cowboys going to the Super Bowl - even if they end up 1-15 later this year.

There's lots more to the game than it just being Dallas' first of the season. It'll pit Rex Ryan against new Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan once again - so we'll have the Ryan bowl. It'll also be the first look at Rob's defense in Dallas, which should be an improvement.

Given that it'll be the Ryan Bowl as well, it'll be interesting to see how Tony Romo and Dallas' offense looks against one of the league's elite defenses. Just having Romo back under center will be a relief to Cowboys fans as well. Jon Kitna and Stephen McGee played well in Romo's absence, but they're still not Romo. 

It's also the Sunday night game as well - so once again, the Cowboys will be on the national stage in Week 1.

That's still not all, though. The game is in New Jersey - yes, the Cowboys make two trips to the New Meadowlands this year - and it also happens to fall on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The Jets and the New Jersey/ New York crowd will be especially amped up for this game - and rightfully so.

Every other game on this list could very well be meaningless by the time it comes around - Dallas could drop their first five games, or maybe the Eagles, Giants, Redskins and Patriots (yeah, right) will all end up being lousy - but this game against the Jets? It's a no brainer to be looking forward to this game, as a Cowboys fan and as a football fan in general. 

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.