Cowboys 1st and 10: Fixing Thursday Night + Who To Root For Today

Each weekend I provide 10 quick hits on the Dallas Cowboys. I provide my thoughts on how the NFL can fix the Thursday night schedule issue and ensure teams don’t have to do what Dallas did the last two weeks in this edition of First and 10.

1. Three games in 12 days. That’s what the Cowboys are resting up from. It was daunting, it was challenging and ultimately fruitful for the Cowboys.

And it should never be allowed to happen again to another NFL team.

This is the NFL’s masochistic version of the NBA back-to-back, or an NHL team’s full Canada swing or a Major League Baseball team’s 12-game road trip. It’s simply too much, especially considering how physical the game of football is. This happens more and more because the league has stacked the deck against itself with a 16-game schedule in 17 weeks, a Thursday game every week, games in London and Mexico City, and a network television schedule that is as demanding as any in pro sports. The Cowboys were fortunate that it exited this stretch without any serious injuries. In fact, they got a little healthier with the return of safety Barry Church.

But the NFL must ensure this doesn’t happen again. And I think that the current impetus to get rid of the bulk of the Thursday night TV schedule is the perfect opportunity. The idea is gaining momentum. The current deals with NBC and CBS are only set through 2017, and while it’s not in the NFL’s nature to give up revenue, there is also an “on-field product” issue. Most of these Thursday games are not “best foot forward” games. They’re awful in some cases (every NFL team must play on Thursday once). Yes, the Dallas-Minnesota game was compelling. But for the most part it’s the exception and not the rule. There is also the natural concern about player safety. Playing two football games in five days, and three in 12, is just unnatural physically.

So how do we fix it? Well, shelve the Thursday games except for the Thanksgiving tripleheader. And give those six teams the traditional 10 days off. That solves the issue. But what if the NFL decides not to shelve the Thursday games? Then I offer this suggestion. Expand the season to 18 weeks. The NFL actually did this for a time in the 1990s and offered NFL teams two bye weeks. My idea would be to give any team a three-week block to work with for any Thursday game — a full 10 days off before the game and a full 10 days off after the game. That would be their bye for the season, but it would do a better job of ensuring player safety for these Thursday games. The same would apply to the foreign games — a week off before, play the game, then a week off after.

If you think this sounds crazy it’s happening in college football. Earlier this season Baylor played two games in a month — a Saturday game, a bye week, a Saturday game and then another bye week. If it’s good enough for college football then why not the NFL as well?

And while we’re at it not team playing on a Thursday night should be asked to play a night game the Sunday before. What the NFL did to Washington before the Thanksgiving game with Dallas was just as bad.

2. The whole Ron Leary-La’el Collins debate is played out. If Tony Romo can lose his job to injury, then so can Collins. Leary is playing great football. The line is playing great football. End of discussion. Collins sits. But it doesn’t mean the Cowboys don’t have plans for Collins down the line.

Fish expands on the concept here for Cowboys Premium fans -- by the way, thanks to the many serious Cowboys fans who signed up for Premium this week -- as he breaks down "Moving Men - 5 Potential Cowboys Roster Moves.''

3. Looking to watch a game with Cowboys ramifications in Week 13? Watch the Denver game. I think Paxton Lynch’s progress the rest of the season has a lot to do with helping Denver make a decision on whether to pursue Tony Romo or not this offseason.

4. I think this ‘My Cleats, My Cause’ idea is a fantastic one by the NFL. Giving players the opportunity to wear custom-made cleats to shine attention on causes they’re passionate about has brought the league and its players a great deal of positive attention all week. Ezekiel Elliott was among the players that took part.

I personally wish the NFL could apply the planning and execution from this week to the issues they’re currently struggling with, including players involved in domestic violence. It amazes me this league can be so good at some things and so horrible at others. It’s like there’s no balance at all.

5. As a public service, here is where the NFC playoff race stands going into the rest of this weekend’s games. Here is the current seeding:

1. Cowboys (11-1)

2. Seahawks (7-3-1)

3. Lions (7-4)

4. Falcons (7-4)

5. Giants (8-3)

6. Redskins (6-4-1)

And now a quick breakdown of each team and their chances moving forward.

Cowboys: Dallas can clinch a playoff berth if Tampa Bay or Washington loses in Week 13. The Cowboys can put a headlock on the NFC East with a win over the New York Giants on Dec. 11.

Seahawks: Now two games behind the Cowboys for home-field advantage, the Seahawks can’t afford to lose another game if they want to take advantage of any weakness the Cowboys might show down the stretch. Tonight’s game with Carolina is key in tiebreakers, if the Cowboys and Seahawks end up tied at No. 1 overall. Seattle has three wins over Arizona in the NFC West.

Lions: If the Lions beat the Saints this week they have a two-game lead on the field in the NFC North with four to play. They have two division games left (Bears, Packers), plus meetings with the Giants and Cowboys. It’s a tough final month.

Falcons: The Falcons have a one-game lead over Tampa Bay, so they’re sweating out the division race. The Falcons and Bucs spit their season series. After today’s game with Kansas City the Falcons get Los Angeles and San Francisco back-to-back. It’s a great opportunity to put some space between them and the Bucs.

Giants: The Giants have a tough one with Pittsburgh today and then faces Dallas on Dec. 11. Those games will determine whether the Giants have a shot at the NFC East. The Giants have a two-game lead on the Wild Card field.

Redskins: The Redskins are on the most precarious footing, with two other six-win teams nipping at their heels. Washington gets Arizona today and has two tough division games down the stretch.

Outside looking in: Tampa Bay (6-6) and Minnesota (6-6) are the only remaining NFC teams at .500 or better.

Officially eliminated: San Francisco.

6. Need a good review of last week’s Thursday victory over Minnesota? Let me help. Here are links to all our stories from the game:

Cowboys Rob the Bank, 17-15, to improve to 11-1

Win at Minnesota is a ‘Welcome to Playoff Football’ for the Dallas Cowboys

Exclusive: ‘Ugly Baby’ Randy Gregory’s Drug Suspension Status with Cowboys

Cowboys Starcast: 1on-1 with Bob Ryan of ‘There’s only one America’s Team’

7. Rolando McClain is out indefinitely with another suspension for violating the league’s drug policy. I’m just bringing you the news. No analysis. I’m done putting any thought into what this guy means to the Cowboys because he means nothing.

8. It’s our Tweet of the Week:

Wonder if Josh Norman has a Dez Bryant jersey and vice versa? Nah.

9. This week’s great moments in headline porn: “Pastor Clears up Rumors of Church Watching Dallas Cowboys Football Game in Sunday Service” from

Or, as we call it in Texas, a typical Sunday. Actually, the pastor told the reporter that because the church was holding a post-service event and wanted people to stay they put the Cowboys game on once the service ended. Or, as we call it in Texas, a typical post-church Sunday.

10. One more thing…

Mike Fisher is enjoying his Sunday off. If you need quick Cowboys answers, here you go:

Want to talk more Cowboys? Hit the message boards or hit up Postins @PostinsPostcard or Mike Fisher @FishSports on Twitter.

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