per-game

Relatively speaking, Thursday Night Football sucks

The good news is that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced this week that the league has found no evidence that Thursday Night Football games produce more injuries than other games. That, after all, was a legitimate and major fear when NFL Network expanded its Thursday night schedule to span the entire season in 2012. 

The bad news is that games played on Thursdays still typically suck. 

Since the start of 2012, there's been an average of 3.1 turnovers per NFL game in games taking place on the weekend. But the 21 Thursday games that have been played during that span have averaged 4.0 turnovers, which is an increase of about 23 percent. Some more numbers:

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Only seven of those 21 Thursday games have been decided by fewer than 10 points. Usually, that's something that happens more than half the time. It's just proof that football games aren't supposed to be played on three days' rest. The numbers aren't dramatically different, but those of us who have been watching can see a clear drop-off in efficiency and production and an increase in sloppiness. 

I mean, look at the games we've had this year on Thursday night.

– The Ravens-Broncos opener featured 15 penalties, four fumbles and seven sacks.

– The Patriots and Jets combined for 11 penalties, four turnovers and just 23 points in Week 2.

– There were 15 penalties, four fumbles and 11 sacks between the Chiefs and Eagles in Week 3.

– Add 18 more penalties and another four turnovers between the Rams (mainly the Rams) and the 49ers in Week 4.

– And last week in Cleveland, the Bills and Browns combined to take nine sacks and 13 penalties, fumbling twice. 

But TNF is one of the league's most cherished products. The ratings have increased steadily as NFLN has added carriers, and they're not shy about the fact they want to keep growing the Thursday night package. 

"It's our job to build Thursday Night Football," Goodell said, per NFL.com, "and make it, this is where you want to be on Thursday night, watching NFL football."

That's a shame, because while bad football is better than no football, the league might be better served placing an extra prime-time game on Monday night by doubling the MNF package and playing doubleheaders all season long. Hell, we got a glimpse of early-round March Madness-style football last Sunday, when the Raiders hosted the Chargers after the Sunday Night Football game ended, and it was pretty fun. 

Thursday night games are in prime time, though, and that's more lucrative than 10:30 or 11 p.m. ET on Sunday or Monday night (or Sunday morning, which could come to fruition if London lands a full-time franchise in the future). Unfortunately, we're probably stuck with these mediocre Thursday games for the long haul. 

Brad Gagnon

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com (covering Super Bowls XLIV, XLV and XLVI), a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Bloguin, but his day gig has him covering all things NFC East for Bleacher Report.

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