It happens every year. Without fail, there are many people who complain about the Dallas Cowboys having to play “3 games in 11 days” when they go Sunday to Thanksgiving to (when it happens, as it does this year ) Thursday Night Football.
This is annoying for two reasons:
- It is not 3 games in 11 days. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thanksgiving, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday is a grand total of 12 days. You have to count the days that the games are actually happening.
- This is actually no longer true now that (as of this year) every team is not guaranteed a Thursday Night Football appearance, but over recent time is my point: Literally every team has had to do this. When teams go Sunday to Sunday to Thursday that is, check this out, 3 games in 12 days! The Cowboys are, I know this is tough to hear, not the subject of hatred from the league office.
Now, when the Cowboys have to play on the Thursday after Thanksgiving, that they are playing 4 games in 19 days which is definitely uncommon as far as most NFL teams are concerned, but that is never the argument that you see floating around the internet (which is a very reliable place). For whatever reason, there are fans who legitimately believe that 345 Park Ave has it out for the Cowboys and will do whatever they can to inhibit the success of what is their most profitable franchise.
The Cowboys are one of only three playoff teams from last season with a positive rest differential this coming season
This may shock everyone in general, but it will be particularly alarming to those who do believe that the league is constantly conspiring against the Dallas Cowboys.
You are well-aware that the NFL schedule was released last week and in the aftermath there have been all sorts of ways that we here at BTB, as well as others across the (as we established) always-reliable internet, have analyzed and dissected it.
It is certainly fun to predict all of the games right now and imagine potential pitfalls, but obviously it is very premature to say beyond a shadow of a doubt how the Cowboys are going to fare on the Sunday before Thanksgiving on the road against the Carolina Panthers.
Something that we can legitimately discern from the schedules across the league is where the discrepancies and/or advantages and disadvantages lie. This mostly shows up in the rest department as some teams are, for whatever reason, seemingly put in more advantageous positions than others. Consider as one example that the Las Vegas Raiders will play a team coming off of Monday Night Football six times. It is “just one day” but that in itself is a serious advantage.
Recently Warren Sharp looked at the rest advantages among all 32 teams and the Cowboys are one of three teams who made the playoffs last year that are on the positive side of things.
This is admittedly a bit overwhelming to look at. If it is not obvious we are looking at the number of days in terms of rest that each team has as an “advantage” throughout the course of their season.
Thankfully for all of us, the example that Sharp used pertains to the Cowboys specifically.
The Cowboys face one team who is off of a bye (-7), the Chargers Week 6, and they play the Panthers in Week 11 who are off a TNF game (-3). However, they have a bye in Week 7 before playing the Rams, but it is +6 instead of +7 as Dallas played on MNF prior to the bye thus have a 6-day edge (+6). Dallas also plays the Eagles in Week 14 after a TNF Week 13 game (+3), they play the Jets in Week 2 who are coming off a MNF game (+1) and they play the Commanders in Week 18 after playing Saturday the week prior (+1).
If you look at the Dallas line specifically, you will see each of these laid out. You can see others and see where other fan bases may be upset about the hands they were dealt like the Los Angeles Rams or San Francisco 49ers.
Some may chalk this up as just “rest” in name and note that you still have to play all of the games and that talent on rosters winds up being more important. There is certainly an argument for that, but rest matters, and to a further point, when the rest happens matters a lot.
Consider the opponents that Dallas has rest advantages against. One is against Aaron Rodgers who the Cowboys need all of the help that they can get against (sigh), and the other two are division rivalries. Division rivalries in the final five weeks of the season at that, likely carrying high levels of importance.
You can make an argument that the December 10th game against the Philadelphia Eagles is the most important one of the season for the Cowboys and that they are going to have an advantage going into it is huge. This isn’t factored into Sharp’s analysis, but consider that Dallas will have played two weeks at home prior to that game as well. There is no travel involved over that three-week stretch.
Even the “disadvantages” for the Cowboys are hard to be upset about. While they are down a full week to the coming-off-their-bye Chargers, that game does not carry the same weight as it is against an AFC opponent. Obviously we don’t want the Cowboys to lose a game, but if they have to lose, we always prefer that it happens against the opposing conference. And even then with the game being on Monday night the Cowboys technically have an extra day so that is a factor as well.
Aside from that, their only disadvantage is against the Carolina Panthers who are in all likelihood going to be starting a rookie quarterback, even if Bryce Young did go number one overall. It is also worth mentioning that the Cowboys won’t have the disadvantage that a lot of teams will who come off of Monday Night Football as Dallas has their bye week following their MNF appearance which is the game against the Chargers that we just talked about.
Consider even the top threats to the Cowboys within their own conference, though. The San Francisco 49ers literally have the worst rest situation in the league with a -20 figure. The Eagles are “only” -6, but it is worth mentioning that the power of the bye week was neutralized for them. Philly plays the Chiefs the week after the bye and Kansas City will also be coming off of their off week. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is famously great after the bye, a matter he proved in their last game when they beat the Eagles in the Super Bowl after both had the week off prior to it.
Again, in the grand scheme of things this is far less important than who the Cowboys are going to trot out as their starting offensive line; however, it holds its own level of merit. So if you think that the NFL wants to see the Cowboys fail then think again because they are one of the better teams in the entire league and have one of the better situations that the league itself controls in the rest department.