Sure, it’s another day of football.
But could the biggest (neutral) football fan enjoy last night’s debacle? If you say yes, you’re lying.
The New England Patriots defeated the New York Jets, 13-10, in Foxboro, Mass. last night, on the first of what will be 14 straight weeks kicked off by a Thursday night football game televised by NFL Network. It was a sloppy contest that saw both quarterbacks complete less than 50 percent of their passes, Geno Smith of the Jets throw three interceptions, and two Patriots rookie receivers (Aaron Dobson & Kenbrell Thompkins) haul in less than a third of their targets.
Games between Gang Green and New England are never the most aesthetically pleasing contests, but this was a disaster from the start. It didn’t help that rain showers assisted in the ugly play, but even with all the drops, you cannot look me in the eye and tell me that Tom Brady looked himself last night.
This marks the second-straight season that the NFL has adopted a regular Thursday night schedule, and that doesn’t include 2011, which first implemented the regular mid-week game in Week 10 of that year. And although TV ratings will probably tell me otherwise, I think we can declare that this experiment has failed.
For as much as NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says he is worried about player safety, moving a game from its regular Sunday slot to prime-time on Thursday isn’t exactly the best way to show his concerns. The lack of rest between games doesn’t allow the players’ bruised and battered bodies to heal properly, and that in turn can increase the probability of injury. Hell, players sometimes complain about one day’s worth of loss of rest after playing on Monday night.
The new system was also put in place because the NFL wants to showcase all 32 of its teams in a prime-time game during the season. Sorry, but teams such as the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and even the Tennessee Titans don’t deserve to play on the national prime-time stage if they didn’t perform in the season before. If they’re playing well come Week 14? Then use flex scheduling to put them on Sunday Night Football on NBC. No harm done then.
(Side note: The statistics I complied below do not include the mid-week opening night game, nor do they include the yearly Thanksgiving games.)
In the five 2011 TNF games, there was a point differential of 13.2 per contest and an average of four turnovers per contest. Two of these games (Week 13 between Seattle and Philadelphia, and Week 15 between Atlanta and Jacksonville) had point differentials of 17 points or larger. The Week 14 contest that featured AFC North rivals Pittsburgh and Cleveland saw five turnovers between both teams.
In 2012, the 13 NFL Network-hosted Thursday Night Football games saw an average point differential of 11.0 and 4.1 turnovers per game. There were eight games decided by 13 points or more, including disasters such as Week 3 between the Giants and Panthers (36-7 NYG) and Week 15 between the Bengals and the Eagles (34-13 CIN). Four games – including the Cincinnati / Philadelphia contest – had a combined six or more turnovers between the two teams.
Obviously these statistics don’t tell the entire story, and there are probably flaws in the data itself because of game situations, the weather, the players on the field, etcetera. But I do feel the data shows some of the “sloppiness” that comes with playing on Thursday night.
When you take the amount of turnovers in 2011 (809) and 2012 (797), and divide it by the number of regular season games (256), the average turnover rate (2011 – 3.16, 2012 – 3.11) is almost a point lower than the normal TNF game. The seasons’ overall turnover rate is also higher than it should be in this analysis, because it includes the data from the TNF games.
This is all a moot point, because there’s no way the TNF model will be shrunk to accommodate more efficient games under Goodell’s watch. However, I do think that some of the schedule expansion flaws should be known in writing, and not just by what NFL Network shows every Thursday night.
(One more side note: I did not include the Week 1 mid-week game or the Thanksgiving contests, because I am in favor of them. The “opening night” game is a good way to kick off the NFL season, and the Thanksgiving contests are tradition.)