The Dallas Cowboys are a ratings magnet. For that reason, they are frequently selected to grace our television sets during primetime football-watching events. Whether it’s Sunday, Monday, or Thursday, any day the Cowboys are under the lights is a good day.
While it’s nice for us fans to see them more on TV, it’s not always great for the players. Games played on Monday, Thursday, or the occasional Saturday mean short weeks for players and allow less time to prepare for their opponent. The NFL does a pretty good job keeping things even, but with so many games in primetime, it’s not always fair for everyone.
This season, the Cowboys will have two Thursday night games, which on the surface is pretty standard; however, this season is a little different. In fact, this year’s arrangement actually gives the Cowboys a slight disadvantage compared to other NFL teams. Before we discuss this, we first wanted to clarify a couple of things about past seasons when the team has also played multiple games on Thursday night.
The normal back-to-back Thursday games offers no disadvantage
There is this belief that whenever the Cowboys play in the Thursday night game the following week after Thanksgiving that they are burdened with an extra disadvantage. Yes, they do play three games during a 12-day stretch, but if you look closely all teams that play on Thursday night, even just once, are also subjected to three games over a 12-day window. For example, playing a game on Sunday/Thursday/Thursday is no different than playing a game on Sunday/Sunday/Thursday. It’s three games. It’s 12 days. Even-Steven. So, if you felt the Cowboys were getting the short end of the stick before, they really weren’t.
The Cowboys played three times on Thursday last year but endured no disadvantage
Last season, the Cowboys played not one, not two, but three games on Thursday. One might think they really got hosed on that one, but again the team suffered no time disadvantage in doing so. In actuality, they got an extra break.
The first Thursday night game came in Week 1, so they got to play that one without coming off a short week because, well, there were no games prior. Instead, they got to kick off the new season with a mini-bye as they gained extra rest heading into the second week of the season. Opening the year on Thursday night is the way to go in terms of dodging playing on a short week.
The Cowboys eventually did get hit with a short week when Thanksgiving rolled around as they always do, but as we indicated earlier, the following Thursday night game offers no disadvantage.
How this year is different
Rather than playing their second Thursday night game the following week after Thanksgiving, they are playing it in Week 17. This means that they will be on short rest in Week 12 for the Thanksgiving game and in Week 17. Now, the good news is that for the second Thursday night game, they’ll have played the previous week on a Saturday, so they’ll get five days of rest instead of just four. Additionally, they’ll also receive a second mini-bye prior to the Week 18 finale against Washington.
Without knowing the Cowboys’ playoff situation, it’s tough to say if this second Thursday night game will end up being more of an advantage or disadvantage, but regardless the Cowboys will now play two games on their schedule with five or fewer days of rest for the first time in their NFL history.