Thursday Night Football has been a controversial scheduling item for the NFL the last couple of years, with question marks about the quality of games and safety of players coming up given teams have just four days to recover and prepare for the game after having played the preceding Sunday. The league has moved to 16 Thursday games, with every NFL team playing at least once on the mid-week schedule, in an effort to add prime-time games and keep fans tuned in to football.
According to a report from Pro Football Talk, however, there is a fear that the scheduling is actually having the opposite effect. The NFL is considering whether the Thursday Night Football package has actually caused an over-saturation of the market, with football too easily accessible in prime-time too many times during the week - one possible factor in the TV rating decline seen this year. The concerns of diluted quality and safety also play into the league’s considerations.
The report indicates the league is considering making a change to how it schedules Thursday Night Football in the future. The current split-contract with CBS and NBC - with a simulcast on NFL Network - ends after the 2017 season, meaning there could be just one more season of the current Thursday structure.
The league experimented this year with Twitter live-streams of the games as well.
The league could consider scrapping the entire idea of Thursday night games, or they could look to reduce the number of games being played on Thursdays.
Another idea could be to ensure teams that play on a Thursday have their bye week prior to the Thursday night game. That would limit the weeks in which games could be played, and it would also mean not every team could have a Thursday game each year (particularly in weeks where four or six teams have their bye week the previous week). It could, however, factor into the International Series schedule, allowing for a way to keep Thursday football, while removing the injury and quality concerns.
The league has denied any backing away from the idea of Thursday Night Football being cancelled or reduced, a move that makes sense given the 2017 season still has to be played under the current TV contracts. However, the complaints about the game and the injuries have gotten louder this year than in the past, and it might be time for the league to re-look the Thursday night scheduling.