NFL’s Thursday Night Football Concludes Bumpy First Season

This year marked the first in the NFL’s new initiative to play games on most Thursday nights during the regular season. NFL Network’s package expanded from 8 to 13. NBC added a Thanksgiving night game. Add in the season opener (which was actually on a Wednesday because of a political convention) and there was weekday football every week this season until now. There are no Thursday night games in weeks 16 or 17.

Many of the games, which air on league-owned NFL Network in the States, were duds. The best matchup was probably the very first when bitter rivals Chicago and Green Bay played in week 2. The Packers won 23-10, but the Bears turned out to have a good season as well. They are tied for the last NFC wildcard spot. Who knew on October 18 that the Seahawks and 49ers would play each other on national television again two months later? This week they play on Sunday Night Football. Aside from those two, there have been no Thursday Night games this year that featured teams that now have .500 or better records. Three times teams who both have sub-.500 records met.

Of course it isn’t entirely the NFL’s fault for poor scheduling. Who knew that Cam Newton would be so bad that he’d throw three picks and his Panthers would get destroyed by the defending Super Bowl champion Giants in week 3? Who knew that New Orleans would have a mediocre season, taking some of the buzz away from the NFL Network’s second most buzzworthy matchup against the Falcons? Who knew that the Eagles would completely collapse after September taking any buzz away from their matchup against the Bengals? All of those games looked like quality national television matchups in August. Even NBC got in on the underachieving party as the hapless Jets got blown out by New England on Thanksgiving.

It wasn’t all bad for the Thursday night experiment though. Many of the games early on were decided by less than a touchdown, although the same can’t be said for those in November and December. The Titans upsetting the Steelers in October was memorable. Other than that, and maybe the Bucs beating the Vikings, they’re weren’t any upsets all year in an NFL season filled with parity.

Personally I see no harm in having Thursday night games, even if the Browns played the Jaguars every week. They give fans a chance to see their favourite team on national TV one more time per year. Every team played once on Thursday this year (the Giants and Cowboys did twice including the Wednesday night opener). That seems fair to me.

Of course the NFL is mostly concerned with ratings. It seems that in America, the ratings are doing just fine. Despite carriage issues with NFL Network in some markets, Thursday Night Football won the night on cable every  week. In Canada I only have ratings for November and December available to me now. It is worth noting that three of the four games in October aired on Sportsnet One due to the MLB playoffs, so this takes into account 7 of the 11 games that aired on the main Sportsnet channels. Those seven games averaged 336, 000 viewers. That’s not as impressive as the late Sunday games, which regularly bring in close to half a million for Citytv alone. It is also not as impressive as the Sunday or Monday nighters, which are averaging 533, 000 and 521, 000 viewers on TSN over the same time period. The highest rated Thursday game was 421, 000 for Miami @ Buffalo (only one other topped 400, 000 viewers). Those two games only beat one Monday night game and no Sunday night games since November 1.

Having said all that, Thursday night games still do better in the Canadian ratings than many scripted cable shows and every NBA regular season game. Especially considering the NHL lockout, they are valuable sports programming.

14 thoughts on “NFL’s Thursday Night Football Concludes Bumpy First Season

  1. Maybe it was because I was busy, or maybe it was just because most of the games were shit, but I found myself rarely watching Thursday night games. The only game I ever fully watched I think was week 2 when my Packers played.

    Personally, I’d much rather see a Saturday night game every week instead of Thursday night one. Though, this would bone Sportsnet most Saturday nights with clashes from NHL, UFC, and NBA.

    • The NFL has a non-compete agreement with the NCAA to not show games on saturdays during the College season, as well as an agreement with High School football to not show games on fridays.

    • I only watched the Packers-Bears game, I think. Barely watched any of the rest.

      And like Scott said, playing on Fridays and Saturdays between September and the 2nd Saturday in December is illegal because it violates US anti-trust laws.

  2. Just one correction if I might add Josh, two of the games were broadcast on Sportsnet One. I remember seeing the Steelers @ Titans game back in October on Sportsnet Ontario as there was a conflict between the Game 5’s of Baltimore @ N.Y. Yankees & Detroit @ Oakland.

    As far as what I think about the Thursday Night Games, if the NFL decides to tweak the scheduling format when the new television contracts come into effect starting with the 2014 season, I would hope that the only Thursday night games would take place on Opening Night & Thanksgiving Day. It would be nice to see some Saturday afternoon & night games take place once again once the college football regular season is finished. That is probably wishful thinking though as the NFL Network is available on just about every major cable & satellite system in the United States.

    • I mentioned that 3 games were on SN1 in October…

      AFAIK this is part of the new TV deal. And the new CBA. Its not going anywhere. Certainly not to Saturdays in late December. That only allows for six games anyway. NFL Netwiork shows 13.

  3. Personally I enjoy TNF. One change they are talking about and I hope happens is when the schedule moves from 16 to 18 games and they add another wildcard for both conferences as well as eliminate 2 weeks of pre-season that they schedule the teams a bye the week before their Thur Night game, that to me makes the most sense.

    • Cutting two weeks of the preseason makes sense for sure. There are too many preseason games. Adding a 7th team in the postseason would be awesome. Would love to see a tripleheader of NFL Football on Saturday & Sunday in the first round of the playoffs! If it hasn’t already been made official, I would like to see an 18 week regular season schedule with two bye weeks per team. My ideal format would be every team plays in the first & final three weeks of the regular season. Each team gets a bye week between Weeks 4-9 and a second bye week between Weeks 10-15. It would still be a 16 game regular season schedule but we would get an extra week of regular season action if this is the direction that the NFL decides to go.

    • I agree with the NFL and all football high level football leagues preaching safety we may very well see the teams playing on thursday night be the teams coming off their bye week for the most part. The 1st bye week was week 4 so starting with week 5 the bye teams would play the thursday night game. The last bye week was in week 11 this year so maybe stretching the bye weeks for teams into at least week 13 or even 14 and have the last thursday night game on week 15 would be perfect. Early in the season it will not be as bad for a team to have a short week and play on thrsdy Night but to have a short week in week 14 or 15 is kind of tough for football teams.
      The CFL has alot of there thursday night games in the summer first half of the season

  4. I’m a Canadian I just love cfl more. I guess I’m just a fan boy.

Leave a Reply to Darren Johnston (@AFRAUDHATER) Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s