In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys improved to 10-1 with a 31-26 victory over Washington on Thanksgiving, and a whole lot of people tuned in to watch during the holiday. According to FOX Sports, the game averaged 35.1 million viewers, making it the most-watched NFL regular season game ever for the network.
Sagging ratings were a theme during the 2016 season, although there had been a surge in November. Earlier in the year, Game 5 of the World Series drew a much better rating than a Sunday Night Football game between the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles, which is rare.
But in most cases, the Cowboys are a good way to solve bad ratings.
In 2015, the three highest-rated games of the season featured the Cowboys, including a Thanksgiving game against the Carolina Panthers which pulled an average 32.5 million viewers to CBS. Those games drew plenty of viewers, despite the fact that the Cowboys struggled for most of the year and finished 4-12.
With Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott making Dallas one of the most exciting, fun teams of the 2016 season, even more viewers tuned in to see the Cowboys. Prior to Thanksgiving Thursday in 2016, the most-watched game of the season was a Week 10 matchup between the Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers, which had an average 28.88 million viewers.
Source: #WASvsDAL 35.1M viewers, most-watched reg-season game since 35.7M for KC-Dal Thanksgiving '95 & most-watched non-PO FOX game ever.— Greg Aiello (@gregaiello) November 25, 2016
Prescott and Elliott combined to produce four touchdowns in the matchup, and the Cowboys crept a little closer to locking down their place in the postseason.
That’s all great news for the NFL, because the more the Cowboys are on TV, the more viewers are going to tune in.