The day after the Cowboys won their season opener against the New York Giants we all watched the Denver Broncos play on Monday Night Football, knowing that was the team’s next opponent.
One less day of rest and preparation didn’t prove to be much of an issue for the Broncos though, as they demolished the Cowboys 42-17; however, it is an indisputable fact that the Cowboys had that extra time off. It was a benefit of the league’s scheduling.
Just one game after that loss, the Cowboys are preparing to play the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football. While they prepare, plan, practice, and ultimately play that game... their Week 4 opponent is already through Week 3 and getting in time to rest, prepare, and all that jazz.
The Los Angeles Rams took down the San Francisco 49ers in a thriller on Thursday Night Football (yes it really happened) and as a result have 10 days to gameplan for the Dallas Cowboys. In fact on NFL Network’s postgame show, Todd Gurley joked with Michael Irvin about how they (the Rams) were focusing on Week 4 and were going to “whoop up on [his] ‘Boys.”
This of course is the reality of NFL scheduling (like it was in Week 1 when it benefited the Cowboys). Every week there is a TNF game and those teams get the “mini bye” to prepare for the following week. It just seems like it would make sense for the NFL to balance this “advantage” as opposed to stretching it to its fullest extent.
In fact both teams from the Dallas/Arizona game are on the losing end of this “advantage” flexed to its maximum degree. The Rams and 49ers will travel to Dallas and Arizona, respectively, for Week 4 games after the former teams were on TNF and the latter teams were on MNF in Week 3. How does that make sense?
It’s the most disadvantageous situation that you could put the Cowboys and Cardinals in. The only caveat to the difficulty for the MNF teams is that they get to host the TNF teams, but six days of rest/preparation as opposed to 10 is quite the difference.
Let’s move on, though. Imagine life on the morning of Friday, September 29th when the Cowboys are two days away from playing the Rams in what we just deemed a lining up of time that makes little to no sense.
You’ll be waking up that morning fresh off of watching the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears face off in Week 4’s edition of Thursday Night Football. They’ll both be beginning their rest and preparation ahead of their Week 5 contests against the Cowboys and Vikings, respectively.
If you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, you’re right. The Cowboys, upon their completion of their game against Arizona, will face back-to-back teams coming off of TNF, giving those teams an advantage in terms of time to prepare.
Now if you’re thinking that this isn’t unique to the Cowboys, unfortunately you’re mostly incorrect. The only other team that has to face a team coming off of TNF while coming off of MNF themselves is the Baltimore Ravens when they host the Lions the week after Thanksgiving.
Of course, the Cowboys will get a 10-day advantage themselves at some point this season, too. On Thanksgiving they’ll play the Los Angeles Chargers (while coming off of a Sunday Night Football game mind you, although it’s at home) who will also be coming off of a Sunday game.
One week after Turkey Day the Cowboys will host the Redskins, who host the Giants on Thanksgiving and therefore will have just as much time as Dallas to prepare. The week after Thanksgiving (when Baltimore deals with this conundrum) Dallas will get their 10 days on the New York Giants before traveling to New Jersey, where the Giants will be coming off of a home game against Kansas City.
While everyone ultimately does end up swinging in a positive direction with the TNF force, it will swing negatively for the Cowboys for not just the next week, but the next two. Let’s hope that the coaching staff is prepared to get done what they need to against back-to-back staffs that have had more time to do it themselves.