Cowboys were a ratings bonanza for the NFL in 2016

It’s no secret that the NFL’s television ratings were down in 2016. It’s also no secret that the league experienced a bit of a bump following the 2016 Presidential Election. But a deeper look at the numbers shows that more than anything, the league’s ratings bump might be attributable to a resurgent Dallas Cowboys season.

According to a report from Bloomberg’s Gerry Smith and Christopher Palmeri, five of the NFL’s six-most watched games during the regular season featured the Cowboys. The one exception came on Thanksgiving Day when the Detroit Lions upended the Minnesota Vikings.

The NFL and its network partners know this. All five of Dallas’ games between weeks 12 and 16 were nationally televised.

“Ratings are driven by storylines, so it’s no surprise there’s been strong interest in the Cowboys,” Lee Berke, president and chief executive officer of consulting firm LHB Sports, Entertainment & Media Inc. said, per Smith and Palmeri.

In many ways, Dallas did indeed save the NFL this year. The NFL had to deal with a particularly heated presidential election, as well as things like national anthem protests, fallout from Deflategate, and frankly, a terrible run of prime-time games in the early season.

An emergence of new stars (Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott) on a familiar brand definitely breathed fresh air into a league that was becoming stale.

Whether this is a temporary fix remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure. In the front offices of the NFL and its broadcast partners, you’ll find plenty of people happy that the Cowboys were 13-3 instead of 3-13.