NFL: Bad Thursdays
On a personal level, I think it's great that there's an NFL game on Thursday night's during the second half of the regular season. I'm a big football fan and really haven't gotten excited about Thursday night primetime since George Clooney left "ER," so it works for me even if it apparently doesn't work very well on either a commercial or competitive level.
Sure, the Thanksgiving night game was great because it was a terrific matchup between the Ravens and 49ers, but the idea of certain teams being taken out of their regular routines in the heat of a playoff race just doesn't seem right. Throw in that a lot of the games aren't very good -- because you've got teams working on short prep weeks -- and you can make a pretty good case that it damages the integrity of the overall competition.
This year, in particular, the difference between the offensive performances of Thursday night teams vs. teams playing on Sunday or Monday is stark, particularly in the first half of those games. The first five games played on Thursday (not counting Opening Night) have featured an average of 11.6 total points in the first half, which is about half the first-half average (22.0) for teams playing on Sunday over the course of Weeks 2 through 11.
Obviously, I left out the opening Thursday game and the first slate of Sunday games, since I'm making a point about the short rest, which wouldn't apply in those cases.
That's a pretty dramatic difference. You can give some credit to the solid defensive performance of the Ravens and Packers on Thanksgiving Day, but it's pretty clear that teams playing on three days rest are a little slower off the ball. The 49ers and Lions are two of the highest-scoring teams in the NFL, and they combined for three points in the first two quarters on Thursday.
True, it's a small sample, and the first-half performance of teams last year was much closer to the overall average, but I'm wondering if the whole NFL Network thing is worth the trouble, especially when the league is having trouble selling the commercial spots for those games. If that wasn't the case, I don't think you'd get to see that "Top Five Plays" promo every 10 minutes throughout the broadcast.
I like my highlights at halftime, thank you.