I sat down on my couch Sunday morning and something felt off. As I flipped through the measly two channels of football all day, I never saw what I was looking for. Did the Seattle Seahawks play last week? Back and forth and to-and-fro my eyes searched and my remote flipped and I stood up a bit overwhelmed. Damnit! The Seahawks already played?
Yep, Thursday Night.
In a seemingly boring game last Thursday, they marched right over the less talented and less prepared Arizona Cardinals on the road. A great division road blowout indeed but when I thought back over the annals of the neo-ritualistic Thursday Night Football events, I noticed that this was nothing new. Chances are on Thursdays, you aren’t going to see a very good game.
Thursday nights just don’t hold the same weight as a Sunday or Monday game. Let me tell you why.
The average score of an NFL game over the past ten years has been right around 23.8 points. SportingCharts.com has also run the numbers and found that the most common margin of victory in the NFL is less than 3 for over 15.67% of the games since 2002 while a little more than 50% of the games have been decided by 9 points or fewer. That makes for an exciting season. One entertaining game after another!
However, on Thursday nights, the numbers slump in a miserable fashion. In the past three seasons of Thursday night games, the average margin of victory has been over 12 points with the winning team having scored more than 25 points 46% of the time. While over 60% of the time a team has scored above the 23 NFL average no matter if they won or lost.
Oh boy, defenses beware.
Offensive barrages are aplenty and we know exactly why the numbers are a bit askew. In a sport defined by physical prowess and savvy play, Thursday nights just don’t allow for enough preparation physically or mentally and the numbers say that it affects the defensive side of the ball more.
In conclusion, teams that are given less time to prepare will rely on their God-given talents and team chemistry to overcome the time crunch of Thursday nights. Either you sink or swim, if you’re a better team than them or not it won’t be defined by your work week. Defenses don’t have the necessary time to watch film, study and recuperate from the previous week on only 4 days of rest and maybe two days of practice. The games get sloppy, the offenses are profoundly better and the games are lopsided.
Just in week six of this year alone, we saw teams with lesser or equal records beat teams with better records. The underdog in pro football is never far behind on Sundays but since 2011 on Thursday night, we have only seen underdog teams win a grand total of four times! That includes absolutely zero wins by underdogs this year!
That bids well for teams like the Seahawks who are clearly strong on all sides of the ball – especially defensively - while teams much like the Cardinals may have needed those few extra days to study Russell Wilson or recuperate their bodies to be able to tackle Marshawn Lynch. This gives the offense the edge more often than the defense. There is a reason the first week of the season has such low scoring affairs – the defense has had months to study!
In recent weeks, there have been rumblings all over ESPN and media talk shows about expanding Thursday Night Football. While the numbers say it’s not the best decision for the league, then again, this isn’t just any league, it’s the NFL and the NFL is a cash cow – more like a cash oxen. So by randomly placing a game on a Thursday, the most positive thing that could have happened for the league has occurred. Offenses have thrived. The numbers say that Thursdays get more entertaining, high-octane attack, higher scoring games. So why not add more games? If you’re a fan of the NFL and you watch the Thursday night games, even if your team isn’t playing, you for sure would rather see more touchdowns then not. That’s just the plain stupid luck of a multi-billion dollar business because now it’s actually in the realm of possibilities!
Do I want more Thursday Night Football though? No chance. Not just because better teams win all the damn time but because football has always been decided by ‘inches’ and we always say ‘any given Sunday for a reason. Close games and thrilling finishes are what make the NFL a success. The chance of winning on Sundays keep bring fans back and put more people in the stadiums to see the lowliest of teams play, not because of blowouts.
So let me clear the air here, it was cool to get the national coverage for our Seahawks but other than that, we all knew that they would pull this one out on a short work week. All the importance of preparation and work ethic are sucked out of the game on short weeks and it comes down to purely which team is better. Thursday nights favor the greater teams. It’s just not an even playing field and for the Seahawks that’s a great thing this year because they aren’t going to be the underdog very often.
I’m OK with that.
I guess if your team is like the Seahawks, where they’re offensively sound and defensively stout, there’s nothing to worry about on Thursdays. Then again, if you’re a fan of the other 75% of teams out there, you’re in big trouble.
So next time you watch a Thursday Night Football fiasco, just know that it’s not going to come down to a game winning field goal or a thrilling fourth and long but rather it will come down to how many dollars the NFL can shovel into its broad pockets and how much the better team can run up the score.