Focus on tail end of Cowboys' schedule

4/21/2010 - NFL Dallas Cowboys

When the Cowboys' 2010 schedule was released Tuesday evening, the first thing you looked at was the last part of the season.

The December/January slate is made up of home games against Philadelphia and Washington sandwiched by road games at Indianapolis, Arizona and Philadelphia.

The Cowboys' late-season struggles have been well documented. They went 3-3 after November in 2001, Dave Campo's second year on the job. But they didn't win more than two games in December/January for the next seven years.

That streak ended last season, when the Cowboys won the NFC East and went 3-2 in December/January.

Guess what?

The Cowboys then won a playoff game for the first time since the 1996 season, not coincidentally the last time they had a winning record after November (2-1 under Barry Switzer).

Finishing the season is vital to a team's success.

Wade Phillips said the December/January stats were baseball stats.

But the reality is, especially when you talk to the players, the club had to end the season strongly.

Can the 2009 breakthrough propel them to greater things in 2010?

"Every time you look at the schedule, the end of the year you never know where you're going to be," quarterback Tony Romo said. "We have some tough games ahead, but we're not looking at December. We're looking at how to get better."

The Cowboys learned how to finish a season, and now the objective is to do it again.

The NFL changed the way the schedules are made, allowing for more divisional games toward the end of the year. Dallas has three divisional games and one against another conference foe in the last four weeks of the 2010 season.

The results of those games could decide tiebreakers and more.

"What we run into is to make sure the best team is on the field at the end," owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. "That's the most logical way to do it, that I know of. I think that's great for the fans."

But if the Cowboys can't achieve their goals at the end of the year, the fans aren't going to like it.

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