Thursday Night Football is back in the crosshairs after Richard Sherman, already a vehement opponent of games on short rest, ruptured his Achilles and his teammate Doug Baldwin said those games should be illegal. But the owners aren’t exactly the type of people to allow $500 million to evaporate into thin air, and as Mike Florio points out, taking these games away without replacing them would cost each player an average of $132K per year, which isn’t nothing. On ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown, Chris Mortensen provided what sounded like a sourced solution:
“I think we’re gonna see a possibility of Thursday night games being reduced to the back end of the schedule again, with more Saturday night games mixed in on the nights colleges don’t play in December,” Mort said. He added that “We’ll probably have expanded playoffs, too.”
Mort’s solution still has ~8 weeks of Thursday games with players on short rest. An expansion of Saturday games would be fine on paper, especially with out-of-home viewing getting factored in more on Nielsen ratings and making Friday/Saturday nights better real estate than previously recognized, but it doesn’t really solve the oversaturation issue the networks have all been complaining about on the record in the past couple weeks. There just aren’t enough good teams to justify all these standalone NFL windows.
I hate the idea of expanded playoffs. While there is some argument that it may not even be an advantage for the top two seeds to have a bye while their opponents stay in grind mode in the first round, the last thing I want to see is more playoff games with bad quarterbacks. 12 teams in the playoffs for the NFL is the perfect number to maintain urgency in the regular season and I really don’t want to see their great playoff structure get diluted.
As far as Thursday nights go, a lot of people have suggested that the NFL goes to an 18-week season with two byes per team. While this format was disastrous in 1993 when the NFL tried it, I think it could work today. In a Twitter exchange with me last week, Chris Russo’s Sirius XM producer Bill Zimmerman suggested a framework for it:
With this there is still the oversaturation issue, but at least the game is safer for the players than either the current format or the one Mort is bringing to light.