“Thursday Night Football” tried something new the last two seasons, with CBS on board. It gambled on a heavy rotation of divisional rivalries making the product better.
Its first 11 games last season, not counting the Week 1 Thursday opener, were divisional games. It also ended with the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders squaring off.
There have been some decent games the past two seasons, probably better than years past. The NFL obviously didn’t see much reason to change the formula, because divisional games again dominate this season’s “TNF” slate.
The first Thursday night game (not counting the Denver Broncos-Carolina Panthers opener) is an AFC East clash, with the New York Jets at the Buffalo Bills in Week 2. That is the first of 11 divisional games on the “Thursday Night Football” lineup. There is also a Dolphins-Jets game on Saturday, Dec. 17 that will be under the “TNF” banner on NFL Network, as is a Ravens-Steelers game on Sunday, Dec. 25.
Here are the Thursday night games:
Week 1: Panthers at Broncos
Week 2: Jets at Bills
Week 3: Texans at Patriots
Week 4: Dolphins at Bengals
Week 5: Cardinals at 49ers
Week 6: Broncos at Chargers
Week 7: Bears at Packers
Week 8: Jaguars at Titans
Week 9: Falcons at Buccaneers
Week 10: Browns at Ravens
Week 11: Saints at Panthers
Week 12 (Thanksgiving): Vikings at Lions; Redskins at Cowboys; Steelers at Colts
Week 13: Cowboys at Vikings
Week 14: Raiders at Chiefs
Week 15: Rams at Seahawks
Week 16: Giants at Eagles
The NFL Network will have all of those games, aside from the opener and the Thanksgiving games. CBS will broadcast five of the first six (excluding the Week 4 Dolphins-Bengals game) and NBC will have five, with Week 11 and Weeks 13-16.
The NFL tried to figure out a new formula after many of its Thursday games fell flat for years. The league will always struggle to give fans the best games possible on Thursday nights, because it’s almost impossible for players to recover and coaches to properly prepare with just three days between games. But scheduling helps, and the NFL has found its answer: Divisional games, and then more divisional games.
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