How NFL's new Thursday Night Football flex scheduling could impact the Cowboys

Cincinnati Bengals v Dallas Cowboys
Cincinnati Bengals v Dallas Cowboys / Richard Rodriguez/GettyImages
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Possible Thursday Night Football flex scenarios for the Dallas Cowboys

For starters, one of the rules under the amended policy stipulates that clubs can not play more than two Thursday night games in total during the regular season. Dallas already has two Thursday night games on their schedule: Week 12 against the Washington Commanders, and Week 13 against the Seattle Seahawks. The Thanksgiving game during Week 12 is obviously staying put, but there's a possibility some shifting could occur during Week 13.

Dallas is currently scheduled to host the Seattle Seahawks on Thursday Night Football in Week 13 on November 30. If they were to get flexed out of TNF, they would have to be notified by November 2. There is at least one intriguing matchup — an NFC Championship Conference rematch between the 49ers and Eagles — that runs the risk of bumping Dallas out of the Thursday night spot. If that were to happen, it would open up the possibility for Dallas to have one of its Sunday games flexed into Thursday during Weeks 14-17.

I honestly don't see this happening. The Dallas Cowboys — regardless of their record — are a primetime ratings draw. Regardless of Seattle's record at this point of the season, if Dallas is even remotely competitive this season and within the playoff hunt, which they should be based on offseason moves alone, then this game should remain as is. Amazon isn't going to want to boot a team responsible for four of the five highest-rated games in 2022. But let's say they do, then it opens up all sorts of crazy scenarios for Weeks 14-17.

Dallas has three late Sunday games scheduled from Week 14 through Week 16, along with a Saturday evening game in Week 17. Here's what Dallas' schedule looks like:

  • Week 14: Sunday 12/10 at 8:20 p.m. EST - vs Philadelphia Eagles
  • Week 15: Sunday 12/17 at 4:25 p.m. EST - at Buffalo Bills
  • Week 16: Sunday 12/24 at 4:25 p.m. EST - at Miami Dolphins
  • Week 17: Saturday, 12/30 at 7:15 p.m. EST - vs Detroit Lions

Now let's take a look at the currently scheduled Thursday Night Football games for these weeks:

  • Week 14: Thursday, 12/07 - New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Week 15: Thursday, 12/14 - Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders
  • Week 16: Thursday, 12/21 - New Orleans Saints at Los Angeles Rams
  • Week 17: Thursday, 12/28 - New York Jets at Cleveland Browns

Looking at the Thursday night games, there does seem to be potential for a possible flex. The Week 14 game is between the Patriots and Steelers, who were both third-place teams in their respective divisions last season and hovered around .500. If neither team makes a significant jump this season, they could be flexed, but that's the same week Dallas plays Philadelphia on Sunday Night Football. There's zero chance the NFL moves that game.

In Week 15, we have the Chargers at the Raiders. I know this is a divisional rivalry, but that doesn't always guarantee a good game, especially in this scenario. Not only are the Raiders coming off a 6-11 season, but they are replacing their starting quarterback and have a pretty tough schedule. There's a good chance they could be out of the playoff hunt by Week 15, so it would really depend on where the Chargers stand at this point. If the Chargers also disappoint for some reason, then this game could have the potential to be flexed. And with Dallas facing Buffalo — two competitive teams that figure to be making a playoff push — this would make for a potential marquee primetime Thursday night matchup.

In Week 16, Dallas visits the Miami Dolphins on Christmas Eve afternoon. On paper, this is a matchup between two very talented teams with some electric playmakers. By now, you've probably seen the online spat between Micah Parsons and Tyreek Hill. That social media drama could spark the decision to put the game between Dallas and Miami in the Thursday night spotlight. The current matchup that week between the Saints and Rams doesn't feel like it will be a very meaningful one based solely on preseason projections, potentially paving a way for the Cowboys to be flexed into TNF.

Week 17 shouldn't really impact Dallas as they play on Saturday, which isn't a day eligible to be flexed. It should remain as is.

As you can see, there's some potential for a scheduling shuffle to occur, but it would ultimately depend on what happens first in Week 13. If the Cowboys stay in their slot in Week 13, then that would give them their maximum two Thursday night games, which means no flex for the remainder of the season. But if the NFL and Amazon decide to move swap that game, then look to Week 15 or Week 16 as possible flex candidates.

Ideally, everything stays as is. The Cowboys' current schedule as it pertains to Thursday night games is about as good as it gets. Their two Thursday games are back-to-back, giving them a full week to rest and prepare. If it were to switch, it would mean two weeks on short rest late in the season, giving the team less time for rest and recovery and potentially increasing the risk of injury.

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