Putting aside the fact that, by and large, the Saints and Panthers have played poorly this year, Thursday night’s game between the two teams is the latest example of why playing Thursday games every week is a bad idea.
Sure, as a football fan I enjoy the Thursday night games a lot of the time. This week I’ll be camped out in front of the big screen watching my beloved Saints go to battle against a division rival. I’ve also enjoyed watching games with playoff implications, great matchups, or even fantasy football implications. But ultimately the game, and the players, suffer due to this scheduling.
Take the Saints this week as an example. They just came off a difficult home game against the Packers, a game that wrapped up at approximately midnight eastern time. Now the Saints are asked to perform the unenviable task of traveling to a physical division opponent on short rest.
To put everything in a bit more context, consider that it will only be approximately 92 hours between when the Saints last game ended, and their next game begins. In between the players will have to get treatment for any new or lingering injuries, attempt to install a weekly game plan, pack, take a plane flight, check into the hotel, take the bus to the stadium, stretch, and eventually be asked to perform at their best in a key game with first place in the division on the line. Easy, right?
Situations like the one described above are ridiculous. It’s bad enough to ask a team to play Sunday afternoon and then Thursday night. It’s even worse to ask a team to play Sunday night, and then Thursday night (as the Broncos did last week). It’s just plain terrible to ask a team to play Sunday night and then be asked to travel east to face a division rival in a key matchup.
The NFL — and to an extent the NFLPA — are clearly putting the players and product in jeopardy in order to rake in the profits. Many players have spoken out against such short weeks, but I’m afraid the horse is out of the barn at this point. It’s clear that the NFL has no desire to ensure Thursday night games are the best they can be (given the blowouts we have seen this year), and it is also clear that the NFL has little concern for the effects of playing two games in less than four days.
Forget about market saturation. Forget about late weeknights. Forget about poor matchups or even poor play. The real problem with Thursday night games is that the league is putting its own players at risk just to showcase an increasingly inferior product. I’m not the first to say this, and I realize my voice means nothing in this debate, but it still bears mentioning.
What’s next, asking the Lions to travel to a Monday Night Football game in November on the west coast, and then having them travel home for the early game on Thanksgiving after about 59 hours of rest — including travel and everything else? I kid now, but we’re not that far from such a scenario becoming a reality.