ARLINGTON, TX – SEPTEMBER 13: Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys calls out during play against the New York Giants in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Dallas Cowboys have not been very good this season, but that hasn’t stopped the nation’s most buzzed-about NFL football team from hogging the sports television spotlight.

Through the first 12 weeks of the season, the Cowboys played five games in exclusive, nationally-televised time slots. And despite the fact Dallas’ season was circling the drain with quarterback Tony Romo and Dez Bryant dealing with injuries, the Cowboys drew an average rating of 13.2 and an average viewership of 24.1 million in those games.

To put that into perspective, the other 37 games played in exclusive national time slots have posted an average rating of 10.1 with 16.9 million viewers.

Even in a down year, games involving the Cowboys are 30 to 40 percent more popular than games not involving the Cowboys. And in none of those five games did Dallas play traditionally highly-watched teams like the Patriots, Packers or Steelers.

Four of the eight highest-rated primetime games from the first 12 weeks of the season contained the Cowboys.

Teams that played in the eight highest-rated primetime games from the first 12 weeks:
1. Cowboys (4)
2. Broncos (2)
2. Packers (2)
2. Patriots (2)
5. Bears (1)
5. Colts (1)
5. Eagles (1)
5. Giants (1)
5. Lions (1)
5. Panthers (1)
5. Saints (1)
5. Seahawks (1)
5. Steelers (1)

If we expand beyond primetime slots, the Cowboys continue to roll. As we pointed out last month that if you pull in Sunday afternoons, the Cowboys played in six of the top 10 games in terms of viewership over the first 10 weeks of the season. One month later, even as the Cowboys fall from contention, that basically holds up.

1. Panthers-Cowboys (32.5M on CBS)
2. Seahawks-Cowboys (29.4M on FOX)
3. Panthers-Saints (28.6M on FOX)
4. Patriots-Giants (28.3M on CBS)
5. Bears-Packers (27.8M on NBC)
6. Packers-Vikings (27.5M on FOX)
7. Steelers-Patriots (27.4M on NBC)
8. Cowboys-Eagles (27.2M on FOX)
9. Giants-Cowboys (26.8M on NBC)
10. Steelers-Seahawks (26.6M on CBS)
11. Seahawks-Packers (26.4M on NBC)
12. Patriots-Cowboys (26.1M on CBS)

So even though Dallas is pretty much toast in the standings, expect Saturday night’s primetime matchup with the New York Jets to attract a baffling amount of eyeballs for NFL Network.

And all of this explains why that’ll mark the sixth time this year the Cowboys have played in an exclusive national time slot. And when they aren’t in primetime, they’re still featured prominently.

Sunday afternoon games involving the Cowboys

Week 2: FOX signature late-afternoon game (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman)
Week 3: FOX 1 p.m. ET start (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman)
Week 5: CBS signature late-afternoon game (Jim Nantz, Phil Simms)
Week 7: FOX signature late-afternoon game (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman)
Week 8: FOX signature late-afternoon game (Thom Brennaman, Troy Aikman)
Week 10: FOX 1 p.m. ET start (Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch)
Week 11: FOX 1 p.m. ET start (Kevin Burkhardt, John Lynch)
Week 14: FOX signature late-afternoon game (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman)

Eleven of Dallas’ 14 games this season have been highly featured and 12 have been broadcast by “A crews.” It’s not a stretch or overexaggeration to say that basically every Dallas Cowboys game is televised to what amounts to a national audience. And understandably so, because whatever they touch on television turns to gold.

[Broad ratings and viewership statistics courtesy of Sports Media Watch]

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at, a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at, Deadspin,, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Comeback Media, but his day gig has him covering the NFL nationally for Bleacher Report.

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