By the time this column is in the wild, the first official Thursday Night Football game of the season will be just a few hours away, with the New York Jets taking on the Buffalo Bills.
I’m all for football on Thursdays. It’s nice that once things are in full swing, football fans only have to go two days without the NFL on TV. The only problem is that more often than not, Thursday football isn’t always worth watching. It’s likely that this year’s first matchup between the Jets and Bills won’t be any different.
In the last few years, Thursday Night Football has often been less than stellar. This could be for multiple reasons. Maybe teams don’t have enough time to prepare for opposing team’s defensive and offensive schemes. Maybe the players are still tired from their Sunday games just three days prior. There are probably some other reasons I’m missing, but there’s no way around it: Thursday Night Football has not been good recently. They make last Monday’s Rams-49ers game look like a game for the ages.
Instead of looking into fixing the problem, the NFL’s solution was new uniforms.
For the second year in a row, Nike, the NFL’s official uniform supplier, released their “Color Rush”uniforms, a monochromatic uniform intended to be worn for Thursday night games.
— ESPN (@espn) September 13, 2016
Make no mistake, some of these uniforms are great. The Seahawks, Colts and Broncos (just to name a few) have some slick looking uniforms that they’ll trot on one Thursday night this season. But as great as these uniforms are, it doesn’t make the football any better. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig.
Last year, the first year with the Color Rush uniforms, still had its share of snoozers. The Cincinnati Bengals smothered the Browns 31-10 in Week 9. The Seattle Seahawks took down the San Francisco 49ers 20-3 in Week 7, and the New England Patriots demolished the Miami Dolphins 36-7 one week later. Granted, there were a few good games mixed in there, with two games heading into overtime (Week 4 and Week 16), but overall, these Thursday night games got out of hand rather quickly.
When it’s the only game on TV, any fan hopes that it’s a good one. More often than not last season (and in 2014), this wasn’t the case. While there’s absolutely no chance at all that Thursday Night Football comes to an end simply due to the money it rakes in, something has to change to give it a chance to make it competitive.
Minimizing travel and keeping these primarily to divisional match-ups is a great start. Cross country flights or flights longer than a couple of hours can wreak havoc on a team with a short week. Having teams only play the 1 p.m. game the week before is a nice touch, too. While the NFL seems to be cognizant of these short week struggles, more can be done. Keeping these Thursday games between division rivals should be mandatory. There’s no reason the Texans should have to travel to Massachusetts on a short week, and the Dolphins shouldn’t have to travel north to Cincinnati a week later, just to name a few. Those games certainly have a better chance of being blowouts than the others, and keeping travel to within the division could help prevent that. Flashy new uniforms however, will not.
When the Bills and Jets kick off Thursday night, it won’t be all bad. After all, it means Week 2 is underway, and some football is better than nothing. But on Thursdays, it’s just not better by much.