The 2017 slate of Thursday Night Football got underway last night with a big dud between the Houston Texans and Cincinnati Bengals, in a game that featured 22 points and 16 punts.
It was a game we all knew was going to be lousy, featuring two offenses who can’t move the ball, and two quarterbacks who have looked…not great so far in 2017, to put it mildly.
And still, the game went on, with all of one touchdown, five field goals, and two quarterbacks combining for the most average QB Rating you could imagine, 76.2.
The game featured two exciting plays, DeShaun Watson running 49 yards for his first career touchdown, and JJ Watt absolutely destroying the Bengals’ center with a perfect tackle on the last play of the game. That was it. The entire game’s excitement was in two plays, or, roughly 15 seconds of actual play. Awful.
It’s time to put a stop to these games. When played at its peak NFL football is wonderful to watch and can be more exciting than college football. But when it’s played on three days of rest, nobody is going to look good, and that’s continuously been the case since the NFL added Thursday night games that aren’t of the Thanksgiving variety.
Players look out of sync, slow, and like they had no time to prep for this game, mainly, because they didn’t have any time to prep for the game, or to heal injuries. It’s not a good look for a league that already has people complaining about the quality of play when players are healthy to start the year.
You know how college football has those wild mid-week games featuring MAC and Sun Belt teams? These games are the exact opposite of those.
And part of that is the MAC and Sun Belt don’t make their guys play on Saturday and then turn around and play against on Wednesday. They give them that next week off, then they’ll play their weird Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday game. And part of the reason that those games turn out so fun, at least in my opinion, is that both teams are well-rested and come out guns blazing. They would not have #MACtion and the Fun Belt that we know if those guys had to play on three days rest, like the NFL has its teams do for TNF.
To be honest, I’ll give credit for trying to make this year’s TNF slate better than years past. While next week’s game is a big dud, Rams at 49ers, following that there are some legitimately interesting games on the schedule, no more Jaguars-Titans matchups, thank goodness.
In Week 3 you have Bears at Packers, which may not be a good game but at least it’s a legitimate and historic rivalry. Then you have Patriots at Buccaneers, followed by Eagles at Panthers, then the great Chiefs at Raiders game on October 19. Really, there re only two games I look at on the rest of the TNF schedule that will be bad, at least on paper: Dolphins at Ravens on Oct. 26, and Bills at Jets on Nov. 2. Every other game has some sort of intrigue to it.
But having good games on the schedule doesn’t mean much if the teams playing in them are dead tired and banged up for it. You know how people in the NBA and NHL complain about playing back-to-back games? This is the NFL equivalent of that.
And to be honest, I don’t know what the NFL can do to make the games better. Maybe have the games featuring teams coming off their Bye Week? But then you can’t have it season-long, and we know the NFL and its TV partners want those ratings every week. You can’t have games on Friday’s because that impedes on high school football, and they can’t go on Saturday’s until college football ends, because you’d be dead in many markets. So there really isn’t a great solution to this problem.
The NFL is going to show its Thursday games, and the players and fans are going to suffer through a dulled down version of NFL football.
The only solution in my eyes is to get rid of the Thursday games. Shoot, do what you do to open Week 1 and have a Monday Night Football doubleheader each week, or just put it on Sunday like the fathers wanted.