Thursday Night Football: Good for the Game?

My favorite time of year is upon us: football season. More specifically, NFL football. When I first heard that there would be games on Thursday night starting in Week 2 of this season, I was pretty excited. Football = good, more football = better, right? Well, I don’t know about that. A recent conversation with my good friend Jordan Burkholder got me thinking that we may have a “too much of a good thing” situation with the emergence of Thursday night games every week. Here’s why:

1. Thursday Night Football dilutes the overall NFL experience.

Which day of the week first comes to mind when you think of the NFL? Sunday, right? Now, it’s not so simple. We had a Wednesday night game to open the season, a full slate of Sunday afternoon games, Sunday night, Monday night, and now every Thursday night through Week 15, with some Saturday games to wrap up the season and in the opening rounds of the playoffs. Look, I LOVE football, but there was just something about the exclusivity of NFL Sunday (and Monday) that I really liked. Last year, Thursday Night Football didn’t start until Week 10, so I think it felt like more of a treat once it finally came. This year, the “specialness” just isn’t there, getting hit with football four times a week right out of the gate (I consider Sunday afternoon and Sunday night to be different sessions). Would the Olympic Games be as special if they were every year? Would Christmas be as special if it were every month? You get my point. I think we’ve spread ourselves too thin here.

2. The quality of Thursday night games is just awful.

I mean, look at this lineup. There is no doubt about it: it’s PUTRID. I didn’t realize what we’d be in for this year until I actually sat down and looked at the schedule. Below is a list of every Thursday night game of the 2012 season. I have color-coded all of the games based on how I perceive their quality to be. Green = good, no color = OK, red = bad.

Week 2: Bears at Packers

Week 3: Giants at Panthers

Week 4: Browns at Ravens

Week 5: Cardinals at Rams

Week 6: Steelers at Titans

Week 7: Seahawks at 49ers

Week 8: Buccaneers at Vikings

Week 9: Chiefs at Chargers

Week 10: Colts at Jaguars

Week 11: Dolphins at Bills

Week 12: Thanksgiving, thus no NFL Network games (CBS, FOX, NBC)

Week 13: Saints at Falcons

Week 14: Broncos at Raiders

Week 15: Bengals at Eagles

I’m seeing two “good” games out of this lineup, one of which (Bears at Packers) turned out to be horrible. Of the “bad” games I’ve labeled above, the combined record of these teams last season was 67-125. SIXTY-SEVEN AND ONE HUNDRED TWENTY FIVE. A sizzling 0.349!  I’m sure there were a lot of limitations and scheduling hurdles when determining this lineup, but this is a very poor slate of games for prime time. I think I would have rather these games been flushed out on a Sunday afternoon. CARDINALS/RAMS? DOLPHINS/BILLS? Come on. These games have no business being in prime time. That’s what Sunday Ticket is for.

3. NFL Network’s broadcast leaves much to be desired.

Sunday Night Football on NBC has set the bar in terms of how a broadcast should be done, in my opinion. Sure, they’ve got a big advantage with the legendary Al Michaels and the play-no-favorites Chris Collinsworth in the booth, but that’s just the beginning. Sunday Night Football is just a really solid production from top to bottom. And have you seen their slate of games? My gosh. Have a look for yourself. Find me a bad game in there.

As for NFL Network’s effort on Thursday night, yikes. Mike Mayock is the only bright spot on that broadcast. He’s very smart and adds a lot to the color commentary. That said, the guys in the studio are simply unbearable. Rich Eisen does his best, but when you’ve got three loudmouths in Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, and the ESPN recyclable Michael Irvin, it’s just too much. And is Warren Sapp still around? He’s worse than all of those guys combined.

4. Thursday night games make managing a fantasy football team increasingly difficult.

If you think you’ve had to make some tough lineup decisions already, just wait another week or two when you’re juggling more injuries. Do you roll with your healthy backup player who’s playing in a bad matchup on Thursday night, or do you roll the dice that your stud listed as Questionable will be ready to go on Sunday? I’m from the school of “play it safe”, so I will undoubtedly be leaving plenty of points on the bench this year by burning my roster spots too early. We’ve only had this issue for a few weeks in years’ past when Thursday night games didn’t start until late in the season, so this could be a maddening year for fantasy football owners.

5. Speaking of injuries, how hard are the Thursday night games on the players?

You’d have to ask them, but it seems like playing a game on only three days’ rest is a tall order. The Packers got beat up in a late game against the Niners in Week 1, then traveled back home to prepare for a huge game against the Bears just four days later. Had their bodies recovered? Would Greg Jennings have been able to play if he had three more days’ rest before a Sunday matchup?

The NFL is a business. I get that. And I’m sure there is a lot more going on behind the scenes that I’m not aware of. I’m just an armchair quarterback calling it like I see it, but from where I’m sitting, Thursday Night Football is not good for the game. The NFL thinks we want football 24/7. Am I in the minority when I say that I’d prefer to see quality football over the course of two days each week, just like the good ol’ days?

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