There are certain teams in every league that The Suits wants to be relevant and competitive. The Lakers and Celtics in the NBA, the Yankees and Red Sox in MLB, and yes, the Raiders and Cowboys in the NFL.
Dallas (10-1) has the best record in the league but is also closing in on its sixth playoff appearance since 2002. The Raiders, on the other hand, have floundered in the abyss of anonymity for the last decade and beyond. In fact, Oakland (9-2) is guaranteed to finish with a winning record for the first time in 14 seasons.
The NFL couldn’t be happier.
“The league loves it,” former Raiders quarterback and current CBS analyst Steve Beuerlein said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “The TV networks love it, believe me. I’m a CBS guy, and when the Raiders are playing well and they’re relevant, it just adds a whole new perspective and level of excitement to the television broadcast world. They immediately become a dominant attraction from that perspective. It’s the following and the culture and the tradition and all the different things that go along with the association of the Raiders. They’re as recognizable arguably as any team in the NFL – aside from maybe the Dallas Cowboys. But they’re a team that the NFL wants relevant and they’re a team that the television networks appreciate being relevant big-time.”
Dallas, meanwhile, has been led by a pair of rookies – Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott – who are both in the MVP discussion. That’s rare. So are 10-game winning streaks.
“It’s very hard,” said Beuerlein, who played in the NFL for 17 seasons. “There’s a reason why it doesn’t happen very many times. I don’t think there’s more than maybe three quarterbacks in the league right now that have ever done that – Brady being one of them and Dak Prescott being the other. I would have a hard time thinking of who that third would be. Maybe Ben Roethlisberger. His rookie year, I guess, he did something similar to that.”
Indeed, Roethslisberger went 15-1 in his 2004 rookie season. The Steelers won 14 straight games after starting the year 1-1. Pittsburgh ultimately lost to the Patriots, 41-27, in the AFC Championship.
“But there are not many guys that have ever gone on a run like that,” Beuerlein said. “And it’s not all Dak. Let’s be serious. Zeke Elliott, that running game, that offensive line they have upfront, it’s all come together very, very nicely. But you cannot say enough about Dak Prescott and his poise and his consistency and his ability to bounce back after a couple of slow starts. He’s finished up games very impressively. He’s a guy that does not seem to get rattled and does not seem like the game is ever too big for him. I wouldn’t put it past him going pretty darn deep in the playoffs, but to expect the Cowboys to win the Super Bowl with a rookie quarterback, I think, is a little bit of a stretch.”