The Dallas Cowboys went 3-2 in their allotted five primetime games in 2022. In 2023, they have a head coach potentially on the hot seat entering the season, and they are chasing a division champion that also represented the NFC in the Super Bowl last season. In typical America’s Team fashion, there is hardly a shortage of reasons to keep the Cowboys out of the maximum five primetime games again this year, and it won’t be long until we know where on the schedule these fall.
Prior to the NFL’s schedule release on Thursday night, Mark Lane and I shared our predictions for when the Cowboys will appear on either Thursday, Sunday, or Monday night football. Let’s take a closer look at some of these predictions, which are a mix of considering recent history for the Cowboys in these games, as well as a wishlist of sorts for games we’d like to see in primetime.
Vs. Philadelphia Eagles
The 2022 season marked the 19th consecutive year the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles played in primetime, and it saw Philadelphia strike midnight on the Cooper Rush Cinderella run with a 26-17 win. Another primetime rematch to mark 20 years of this rivalry feels like easy pickings, but the storyline is as good as ever if any of ESPN, NBC, or Amazon get a Dak Prescott vs. Jalen Hurts showdown.
What will be made of Prescott’s contract at this point, in comparison to Hurts? How will both Mike McCarthy and Nick Sirriani be perceived when this game rolls around - the latter facing the daunting task of repeating as NFC East winners for the first time since 2003-04.
With last year’s Sunday Night Football game being in the City of Brotherly Love, Mark and I both agreed it’s time for the Eagles to come to Arlington for their first primetime game at the Cowboys since a 41-21 loss in 2021.
Vs. Los Angeles Rams
It’s no secret that the Rams are a shell of the team that won the Super Bowl just two seasons ago, but Sean McVay’s squad coming to AT&T Stadium could still draw a primetime slot for a very important reason.
As mentioned on the podcast, there’s nothing the national media enjoys more than hyping up the Cowboys before a potential pitfall game. Rams at Cowboys has all the makings of an early season matchup that works in a national setting regardless of outcome. The Cowboys are either contenders that make a statement against a team that still has plenty of big names, or slip up and invite the McCarthy hot seat talk while losing ground in the NFC standings.
At San Francisco 49ers
This game was on both Mark and I’s list, and like any of the two Eagles contests, it’s painfully obvious to see why. The Cowboys have been purposely building their roster to get over the hump of beating the 49ers in the playoffs, as Kyle Shanahan’s team has ended their season two years in a row.
With Brock Purdy going on to get injured in the NFC Championship against the Eagles after knocking out the Cowboys, this revenge game for Dallas as the latest installment of a classic rivalry was just made for primetime. While a later season game would be more telling of the form both teams are in potentially entering the playoffs, repeat playoff matchups are typically pushed up the schedule, with Cowboys at 49ers being a popular Week 1 prediction for both teams.
At Carolina Panthers
This game may come as a surprise of a primetime pick, but wound up on both Mark and I’s list as the Cowboys make their first visit to Carolina since Week 1 of 2018. The Cowboys facing the Panthers marks the second straight year they’ll play against that year’s top overall pick - assuming QB Bryce Young earns the starting job for the Panthers.
Though not nearly as flashy, the Cowboys game against Jaguars’ top overall pick Travon Walker last year ended in an overtime loss. This game being in the early window goes against the reasoning for the Rams game this year to be primetime, as the Cowboys stumbling against the Jaguars wasn’t displayed in front of the biggest possible audience.
The Panthers have been trying to reset their roster and team identity for a while, and feel they have a foundational piece in Young. What better way to find out than having him start against the Cowboys in a primetime home game?
This would be the first time the Cowboys play against a quarterback drafted first overall in his rookie season since November of 2015, a 10-6 loss to Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers.
Vs. Detroit Lions
This game has a little of everything that makes it ripe for primetime. The Lions ended their season last year with a Sunday night win at Lambeu Field, making a statement that they’re the up-and-coming team in the NFC North. With that being Aaron Rodgers’ last for the Packers, the Lions are much more than just a trendy pick to win the division now under Dan Campbell.
Cowboys vs. Lions is sure to draw memories of a 2014 Wild Card playoff game in Dallas, infamous for the Anthony Hitchens penalty turned non-penalty that swung the game in favor of the home team. A game from nine years ago may as well be prehistoric times when it comes to NFL time and where these teams are currently, but whenever the Lions and Cowboys get together a nail-biting game seems to follow.
Three of the last four meetings between these teams have been decided by four points or less, and Dan Campbell’s Lions already feel like they’ve earned more primetime games against other NFC contenders.
Regardless of when and where the Cowboys play under the lights this season, there’s little doubt they’ll hit the maximum of five primetime games once again, with the wait nearly over for Cowboys Nation to learn the full schedule - set to release on Thursday.