On December 17, the Dallas Cowboys were scheduled to take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday Night Football. The Week 15 matchup is a primetime game, one the NFL hopes will draw some of the best ratings of the week.
When this was scheduled, that made sense. The Cowboys and Raiders had both just made the playoffs in 2016. The Raiders were thought of as potential Super Bowl contenders until quarterback Derek Carr broke his leg, and so the thought was that they’d be even better in 2017. The Cowboys had just gone 13-3 with two rookies leading the charge, in quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. The sky was the limit.
In reality, this now looks like a downer of a game. The Cowboys are 6-6 and, despite just notching a win over the Washington Redskins, have really not looked like the same team during Elliott’s six-game suspension. The Raiders generated a lot of hype when they signed running back Marshawn Lynch in the offseason, but they’re also 6-6.
Technically, with the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers also sitting at 6-6, the Raiders could be a playoff team. But are they a powerhouse, a team with a real shot at the Super Bowl? No.
With both teams having disappointing seasons, it was suspected that the NFL would try to flex them right out of primetime, but it looks like they’re going to leave it.
“The league announces that Cowboys-Raiders will stay in its time slot,” wrote Scott Blair of NBC. “Sunday Night Football in Oakland.”
The reasoning could be simple. The Cowboys are always a huge draw because Texas is a big state. They get good ratings even when they’re not winning. And, as noted above, the Raiders may be realistically battling for a playoff spot, so there’s a bit of drama still involved.