Tony Romo

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) runs with teammates during the team’s minicamp June 15 at Valley Ranch in Irving.

Predictions are fun, especially when you can make them with friends, family and co-workers inside and outside the workplace. 

I am not afforded that luxury here, however. My predictions are going to be publicized for all to see, and my name will be attached to it in print forever.

That is the nature of the beast, and flak will be thrown my way — guaranteed. But I am OK with that, because I have no problem facing scrutiny if and when I am wrong.

The Dallas Cowboys will, of course, play six games against their NFC East rivals in 2016. They will also play each team out of the difficult AFC North and NFC North divisions, as well as one team out of the NFC South and one out of the NFC West.

Every year, a team usually wins one or two games you would not expect it to, and it will drop one or two it was picked to win. That is why they are not played on paper.

To put it bluntly, Dallas’ road to the playoffs will be difficult this year and, as always, health is key.

In the first quarter of the season, the Cowboys will play the New York Giants at home, Washington on the road, Chicago at home and then San Francisco on the road.

They will be without pass rushers Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory for those first four games, and they will be missing middle linebacker Rolando McClain, who has been suspended for the first 10 games.

If Jerry Jones and company were smart, they would simply cut bait with the talented yet undependable McClain right now.

But with very little pass rush, they will drop the opener to Eli Manning and the Giants — whom they are playing in the season opener for the fourth consecutive season — and their first road game at the Redskins in Week 2.

The Silver and Blue will start 0-2.

It will rebound with a squeak-out win over the Bears at home and defeat a hapless 49ers team at Levi’s Stadium to even its record at 2-2.

The Cowboys will then get Lawrence and Gregory back, but the pass rush will still be rusty, and they will fall in their next two games at home to Cincinnati and on the road to Green Bay.

They will head into a well-needed bye in Week 7 after starting 2-4, but will come out of the open week to defeat two bad teams — Philadelphia at home and Cleveland on the road — to get back to .500 at the halfway point.

Dallas will keep its head of steam with surprising wins at Pittsburgh and versus Baltimore at AT&T Stadium to move to 6-4, but will come back down to earth and drop two in a row against Washington at home and at Minnesota.

In their final four-game stretch, the Cowboys will defeat the Giants at MetLife Stadium and lose to Tampa Bay at home before dropping both Detroit at home and the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field to finish 9-7.

That should be enough for them to make the playoffs and just might win the division if the NFC East is as bad as it was last season.

The hope is that Dallas’ rushing attack, led by Ohio State rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott and a beast offensive line, can fire on all cylinders as it did in 2014.

The pass rush could be better than advertised, although it might be best to expect the worst out of that area of the team.

But the Cowboys should qualify for the playoffs.

COWBOYS SCHEDULE

  • Sept. 11 N.Y. Giants
  • Sept. 18 at Washington
  • Sept. 25 Chicago
  • Oct. 2 at San Francisco
  • Oct. 9 Cincinnati
  • Oct. 16 at Green Bay
  • Oct. 30 Philadelphia
  • Nov. 6 at Cleveland
  • Nov. 13 at Pittsburgh
  • Nov. 20 Baltimore
  • Nov. 24 Washington
  • Dec. 1 at Minnesota
  • Dec. 11 at N.Y. Giants
  • Dec. 18 Tampa Bay
  • Dec. 26 Detroit
  • Jan. 1 at Philadelphia

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