The Dallas Cowboys and the Baltimore Ravens will finally meet, we hope, on Tuesday, December 8th to close the NFL's 13th week. This scheduling oddity and all of the confusion leading up to it will put extra onus on the coaches for both teams to have their players prepared for a crucial late-season game.
The last time an NFL game was played on a Tuesday before 2020 was in 2010; a Vikings home game that had to be moved due to a blizzard. The last one before that was all the way back in 1946. So yeah, it's been very rare that NFL fans waited all day for a Tuesday night.
For the Dallas Cowboys, they will have been waiting 12 days since their Thanksgiving loss to the Washington Football Team.
Dallas and Baltimore were originally supposed to meet last Thursday but a COVID outbreak on the Ravens' roster forced their Week 12 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers to be delayed until last Wednesday. Naturally, this Week 13 matchup had to be moved as well.
The Cowboys were expecting to enjoy a long break between the Ravens and their Week 14 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. But they've had to adjust on the fly, getting the longer break now and then a short week before they head to Cincy.
You could argue that this shift was positive for Dallas. Extra rest and preparation time should be more useful against the 6-5 Ravens over the 2-8-1 Bengals, especially after Cincinnati lost Joe Burrow for the year.
But if anyone can waste a good opportunity, it would seem to be Cowboys Head Coach Mike McCarthy.
There's no question that McCarthy was dealt a tough hand in his first season with the Cowboys. The offensive line has been decimated with injuries and key players on defense have also missed time. Trying to help his new group gel during a pandemic was a tough ask for any first-year coach. On top of all that, Mike lost his starting quarterback in Week 5. In any other division in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys season would've been over a long time ago.
However, the Cowboys happen to reside in the NFC East, where right now New York and Washington are tied at 4-7 for the best overall record. The 3-8 Cowboys still have plenty of time to make up ground and make an improbable playoff appearance.
McCarthy hasn't been helping matters with some of his decisions this year. The stubborn determination to play undrafted rookie Terence Steele at offensive tackle has hampered the offense. Aggressive decisions to go for it on 4th down have cost the team mightily at times, with at least two losses (WK1 @ Rams, WK 12 vs Washington) you could argue came due to unnecessary 4th-down conversion attempts.
The Cowboys have had opportunities, despite all their issues in 2020, to still be the NFC East leader right now. If McCarthy was looking the part of a Super Bowl Winner that Dallas thought they were hiring, you'd expect more from his decision making even in adversity.
But then again, this is the guy who only won one championship despite coaching Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers for 13 seasons. Are we sure he's that good?
This wacky Tuesday night game presents McCarthy a chance to prove something about his head-coaching acumen. How's he done keeping the Cowboys focused and on track for Baltimore despite the schedule changes? How's the team feeling after a demoralizing loss on Thanksgiving Day?
The Ravens' John Harbaugh has the much tougher assignment in trying to get his guys through all of their pandemic problems and having to go from a Wednesday game to one on a Tuesday. Baltimore's routine has been totally wrecked lately and it showed in their play against the Steelers.
This is McCarthy's opportunity to show he's a leader. The Cowboys can't come out flat on Tuesday night or else all fingers will point to the head coach who failed to get them ready.
Mike McCarthy has to start overcoming obstacles soon before he starts being labeled as one.