Blog Entry

Serious flaws in Thursday night schedule

Posted on: April 20, 2011 11:37 am

Network (US Presswire)Posted by Andy Benoit

In its nearly eight years of existence and four years of broadcasting live games, NFL Network has drawn plenty of external and internal criticism.

The external criticism has been from fans who subscribe to non-dish cable services and, for many years, have been unable to receive the channel as part of their basic programming package (the unavailability was a consequence of the NFL and cable providers – most notably Comcast – bickering about the channel’s price).

The internal criticism is less publicized but perhaps more damaging to the league. The eight-game Thursday night package is rumored to be costing the NFL hundreds of millions in lost revenue (considering the package could have been sold to another network like Versus or Turner). What’s more, many teams privately disdain having to play on a Thursday night, especially on the road.

Expect that disdain to manifest. This year’s NFL Network schedule contains three uncommonly brutal scheduling snafus.

In the Week 11 Thursday package opener, the New York Jets must fly across the country to face the Denver Broncos. Exacerbating the Jets’ travels is the fact that they host the Patriots in the Week 10 Sunday night game. The Jets players won’t even leave the Meadowlands until well after midnight Sunday night. The coaches might not leave the Meadowlands period.

In Week 11, the 49ers must fly across the country to face the Ravens on a short week. (John Harbaugh, by the way, has been privately clamoring for a primetime home game for several years; the Ravens often get stuck on the road for night games.) This isn’t an atrocious scheduling blunder, especially given that the league wants to trumpet the Harbaugh Brothers matchup on the ultimate family holiday. But a west coast to east coast trip on a short week? Iffy.

It gets worse. The Eagles host the Patriots at 4:15 in Philly in Week 12 and then travel to Seattle for a Week 13 Thursday night matchup. That’s a late start preceding a cross-country trip that is already outrageously unfair in the first place. What’s more, the Seahawks get to play at home in Week 12. In a more just world, Seattle would at least be on the road in Week 12 so that both the Seahawks and Eagles would have some sort of travel in the short time leading up to their Week 13 contest.

Instead, the Eagles will lose one of their three days of prep time to dealing with the hassles of travel and adjusting to a three-hour time zone change. The Seahawks will be comfortable at home for all three days of prep time, thus ensuring 50 percent more prep time than their opponent (two days the Eagles, three days for the Seahawks). This same issue occurs with the Ravens-Niners game, by the way.
To be fair, the NFL got it right with it’s Week 14 Thursday matchup (Cleveland @ Pittsburgh) and especially with its Week 15 matchup (Jacksonville @ Atlanta). The Jacksonville-Atlanta matchup is a.) short travel for the Jags and b.) a non-conference game, making the more difficult short week slightly less impactful on the standings.

Obviously, the league is not trying to bilk any teams. Scheduling is complex and impacted by many unseen factors (stadium availability, team requests, etc.) Certainly the league took travel concerns into consideration.

That said, to appease teams and ensure fairness, the NFL may want to consider a time zone rule with the Thursday night package (something along the lines of “no team shall have to travel more than one time zone away for a Thursday game”). Or, as the league has always done with the Thanksgiving games, ensure that any team playing on Thursday at least gets the earliest possible kickoff time for their previous week’s game on Sunday.

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Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: January 9, 2012 3:16 am

Serious flaws in Thursday night schedule

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Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: April 20, 2011 2:36 pm

Serious flaws in Thursday night schedule

I have a simple suggestion but it does cause some logistics questions.  Why not have the teams featured on a Thursday night game both coming off of or going into a bye?

Now I realize that the NFL starts packing in the Thursday night games early in November when the college regular season is all but over, but what does that have to be the case?  Why not limit teams to single Thursday night appearances -- it's not like the NFL Network is in it for the ad money, otherwise they would have sold the Thursday night package for infinitely more money.  Guarantee every team at least one nationally broadcast game each year.  Start with 32 teams and 16 matchups.  Skip week #1 with the first two teams as that's going to be your kickoff special-- 30 teams/15 games/15 weeks.  Drop two of the Thanksgiving games from your portfolio since you've already sold them to the networks-- 26 teams/13 games/13 weeks.  If you end up with winter holidays on a Thursday, again you can chop off a game or two because of Network obligations.  No Thursday night games for the last week of the season so everyone goes into the postseason on equal footing.

In addition, if you still want to schedule the games in London or elsewhere overseas, here's your spot for them.  They've been terrible games the last few matchups so why not relegate them to the Thursday night game and use that as an opporunity to give them the extra rest they deserve for traveling overseas.

You could even turn this into a broadcast event before the full season schedule is announced.  Have representatives for each of the teams draw their game week in a lottery-style event.  Teams with the worst record the season before choose first and get to pick their opponent from a list of three or four choices.  The NFL loves that kind of instant drama and analysis.

Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: April 20, 2011 1:24 pm

Serious flaws in Thursday night schedule

NFL Network is a sham. Local channels should be allowed to showcase the game if its a local game. Why would I want to pay for a NFL Network subscription to watch one local game a year and about 6 mos. of replays from the previous season. Who watches old games anyways? Hopefully they don't have too much time left on their contract.

Since: Jan 22, 2007
Posted on: April 20, 2011 1:19 pm

Serious flaws in Thursday night schedule

Well, the Niner/Ravens and Seattle/SF scheduling seems to be not too bad, but not fair. But who in thier right mind would schedule a team for a Sunday night and a Thursday night in the same week? This is just a foolish decision.

Since: Aug 9, 2009
Posted on: April 20, 2011 12:55 pm

Serious flaws in Thursday night schedule

The main flaw is that the games are on the NFL network and not all cable providers offer that channel. So some viewers dont even get to see there teams play that week!

Since: Feb 26, 2007
Posted on: April 20, 2011 12:30 pm

Serious flaws in Thursday night schedule

Since: Jan 5, 2011
Posted on: April 20, 2011 12:30 pm

Serious flaws in Thursday night schedule

You  have good points. I agree that the Thursday games should be out of conference games. I also think they should try to someone give the teams a bye the week before the Thursday games. This is not always possible as late in the year the byes are done. I would rather see an additional game Sunday and no Thursday games. For example Central time games be Noon,3pm,6pm, and 9pm what a day of football.

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