Annually, the defending Super Bowl champion opens the NFL regular season at home against a quality opponent on NBC in prime time, three days before the rest of the league kicks off.
Last year was an exception, with the Baltimore Ravens forced to take their show on the road due to a scheduling conflict with Major League Baseball, but the Seattle Seahawks are free to open up at CenturyLink Field on Thurs., Sept. 4, 2014.
The Broncos, Packers and 49ers were all playoff teams. Plus, Denver just met the Seahawks in the Super Bowl and San Fran is probably Seattle's biggest rival. Those teams would arguably put up a better fight against the 12th Man in the Pacific Northwest.
But don't rule out the possibility that the Cowboys could play in that game. Dallas, after all, is "America's Team." As strong as Denver, Green Bay and San Francisco are, the Cowboys are stronger when it comes to drawing in TV viewers, especially when going up against a prime-time schedule.
According to the NFL's communications department and the Nielsen Company, Dallas played in five of the nine most-viewed games of the 2013 regular season. By comparison, the Packers were involved in three of those games, while Denver and San Fran played in two each. But two of the seven aforementioned highly rated games involving those three other teams came against the Cowboys.
|Nine most-viewed games, 2013|
|Rank||Road team||Home team||Viewers|
Last year's prime-time opener between the Ravens and Broncos drew 25.1 million viewers, which is good but didn't even make the top 20 on the list above. Ultimately, 38 percent of the games the Cowboys played in 2013 received more eyeballs than that one did.
And in 2012, according to the same sources, four of the six most-viewed games on the 256-game schedule involved the 'Boys.
In the NFL, TV is king. And if they can get 25 million people to check out Seattle's homecoming game while also probably boosting the Seahawks' chances of winning in impressive fashion, that'd make some sense.
Plus, that gives the NFL a chance to schedule teams like Denver, San Fran and Green Bay for later in the year, when the stakes are higher.
Even from a scheduling standpoint on the Dallas side of the debate, ESPN.com's Todd Archer points out that it would be a practical decision:
One of the reasons why I think the Cowboys could open the season in Seattle is their travel schedule. They are locked in to play the Jacksonville Jaguars at London’s Wembley Stadium on Nov. 9. They have longer road trips for NFC East games to New Jersey and Philadelphia, and the NFL backloads division games for December. Playing Seattle early in the season would help balance out the travel miles.
So it's definitely in the realm of possibility, which could mean an unfortunate start awaits the Cowboys. After all, this Seahawks team is not only coming off a Super Bowl victory, but Seattle has also won 17 of its last 18 home games.