Two weeks ago, the question of “What’s wrong with Thursday Night Football?” was all the rage. Early on this season the midweek game saw a historic string of blowouts. And not just any blowouts mind you, we’re talking games that were decided by halftime, if not the end of the first quarter. Before Colts-Texans and Jets-Patriots were decided by less than 7 points, the average margin of victory was over 28 points per game!
With the last two weeks producing closer contest it appears to be just a fluke instead of some kind of cosmic conspiracy against Thursday Night Football from fans of the Big Bang Theory.
Friend of the site Ed Sherman raised an interesting point earlier this week though – blowout games aren’t just limited to Thursday nights this season. A wider perspective shows that Sunday Night Football on NBC has seen more than its fair share of snoozers this season too, especially recently.
In fact, the average margin of victory this season on both Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football are abnormally high.
2014 Average margin of victory Sunday night: 18.8
Thursday night: 21.6
— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) October 20, 2014
Monday Night Football has escaped these primetime doldrums thus far. Although there haven’t been any real classic games to speak of, at least they’ve been close – MNF’s average margin of victory is 11.4 PPG.
The last five weeks on Sunday Night Football have echoed Thursday Night Football’s start to the season. All of them have been decided by 21 points or more with an average margin of victory of 24 PPG:
Sept. 21: Pittsburgh 38, Carolina 17.
Sept. 28: Dallas 38, New Orleans 17.
Oct. 5: New England 43, Cincinnati 17
Oct. 12: Philadelphia 27, Giants 0.
Oct. 19: Denver 42, San Francisco 17
So why aren’t there the same columns being produced about what’s wrong with Sunday Night Football? Why not the same exasperation? Why not the same, dare I use this word outside of a trolling context, outrage?
A lot of it might have to do with how strong the Sunday Night Football brand is compared to Thursday Night Football.
Since the NFL invested in making TNF a fixture throughout the season there has been plenty of dissatisfaction to go around. Viewers and fans complain of an inferior product with teams playing on a short week. Also, with every team mandated to play at least once and it has led to some terrible late season matchups to feature in primetime. (Anyone remember that Jags-Texans classic from Week 14 last year? Yikes!) And then there’s the players, who have also voiced their displeasure with having to play on Thursdays.
About the only people content with the state of Thursday Night Football are the league and the networks. Because $$$$$.
So when TNF saw a string of non-competitive games earlier this season, it was like vultures circling around an easy target on the side of the freeway in criticizing the franchise.
That’s clearly not the case with Sunday Night Football, which has almost the exact opposite reputation. It largely gets the best games every week, especially with flex scheduling kicking in. You’re never going to get an abysmal Bucs-Falcons matchup on a Sunday night to broadcast to the nation. Over the years, SNF has developed into the most important broadcast window for the league.
If I can put on my Darren Rovell hat for a second, the Sunday Night Football brand is exponentially stronger than Thursday Night Football. That’s why it can survive more than a month of blowouts without a “sky is falling” mentality surrounding the product. Thursday Night Football simply isn’t there yet. The NFL may want to own Thursdays the way it owns Sundays and Mondays but it’s going to have to work long and hard to build TNF’s reputation.
One wonders just how much time and effort the league will have to put into the Thursday Night Football brand to get it to that elite level… or if it ever will.