The National Football League’s series of weekly Thursday night match-ups is set to conclude this evening as the 3-10 Indianapolis Colts host the 4-9 Denver Broncos. Though there are quite a few titanic contests slated to occur before the end of the regular season, Thursday Night Football’s finale certainly isn’t one of them. Both teams are missing key playmakers, have losing records, and are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention — hardly the formula for captivating primetime content.
Of course, this isn’t the first time the NFL has organized a Thursday night game of little interest or consequence: of the 13 Thursday Night Football games that have occurred this season, only two have featured a meeting between teams that would both go on to have a winning record. October 12 saw a clash between the now 11-2 Eagles and 9-4 Panthers, and December 7 played host to a post-season-altering battle between the 9-4 Saints and 8-5 Falcons. Outside of these affairs, the NFL’s Thursday offerings have been nothing short of lackluster.
For whatever reason — be it the lame games, dwindling fan interest, or an over-politicization of a once-beloved pastime — the future of Thursday Night Football looks bleak. As per a report by Pro Football Talk, the NFL, in response to the decline of its Thursday night events, is considering altering or doing away entirely with these games come the 2018 regular season. Though the league has traditionally been viewed as an organization primarily interested in generating revenue, the report suggests that a reduced cash flow isn’t the impetus for the potential change.
Why this sudden change of heart, if not for the fear of losing money? In an article by the Undefeated, Brando Starkey makes the assumption that Thursday Night Football actively damages the brand. With an onslaught of mediocre matches, NFL fans have slowly become accustomed to tuning in, then quickly tuning out to avoid yet another boring Thursday night slog.
“People are tuning in to games; they are just turning them off. And why now when they didn’t 10 years ago? The experience of watching Thursday Night Football, I think, has taught them to do that when not adequately entertained.”
What’s more, it simply isn’t disinterest from fans spurring the potential downfall of Thursday football as players have often voiced their displeasure with the schedule. Many argue that the gap between Sunday and Thursday simply isn’t enough to allow a body to recover, which not only affects the overall quality of the game but the long-term health and safety of all participating players. As referenced in the same Undefeated article, Richard Sherman, the oft-celebrated Seattle Seahawks cornerback, has gone on record claiming the games to be a “poopfest” and attributing the claim to the fact that players simply aren’t ready to play after such a short period of downtime.
Be it a lack of fan interest, a reduction in revenue, or an increase in player disdain, the league seems likely to impose major changes in the years to come. To some, Thursday Night Football might seem like an unalterable tradition. Yet, it seems that a majority of football fans have had it with the league’s Thursday games and are eager to see them go.