If you’re like the rest of NFL Nation, you went into a panic last night when you turned your HDTV to the NFL Network and noticed that Thursday Night Football was nowhere to be found. With so many playoff positions still up for grabs, surely the broadcast was wrong, or the league was playing a sick joke on millions of fans worldwide. Nope. Nothing was wrong, the schedule was right, and the NFL knew what it was doing. Thursday Night Football wasn’t canceled, it just went on hiatus until the 2013-2014 season.
Thursday Night Football is now an institution, an oasis of football goodness to get fans through the doldrums between Monday Night Football and the following Sunday. The NFL and Roger Goodell know this, which is why they’re exploring adding a game to the Thursday Night schedule, not eliminating TNF altogether. Interestingly, the decision to investigate adding to the Thursday Night Football lineup flies in the face of some NFL players’ wishes, but with the league exploring expansion to Europe it would be a turnkey way to fit more games into the season.
There are all manner of great games on tap this Sunday, with more than two-thirds of them having playoff implications. Knowing that is probably a big reason fans were so intent on tuning into Thursday Night Football last night. Surely the NFL wouldn’t have scheduled so many playoff-implicated games for a single day, right? Wrong. Sunday is two days before Christmas, and advertisers will be making one last big push for consumers’ shopping dollar. Being able to pitch an extra Sunday game gives the NFL million$ of reason$ to move the $chedule.
To be fair, Thursday Night Football is done for the season, not just for one night. It wasn’t purely a play for a single week’s advertising dollars. However, that means that Week 17 will see all but one game played on Dec. 29, with the lone outlier being Monday Night Football on Dec. 30. So, be prepared for a long span of time next week as well, as Thursday Night Football on Dec. 26 won’t happen either. The next time we’ll see Thursday Night Football? Sometime in 2014.
So fret not, NFL fans. Missing Thursday Night Football wasn’t a sick joke from your cable provider or signal-hijacking next-door neighbor, it was all part of the NFL’s plan. The bigger question is whether we’ll next see Thursday Night Football with a single game on NFL Network, as we’ve grown accustomed to, or whether we’ll see a non-competing double-header on one or more networks. You don’t think ESPN would pay a pretty penny to get a Thursday Night Football, should the NFL open it up to two mid-week games? Fans might be happy about it, as the wait for good games could be dramatically shortened. Whether NFL players would support it…that’s a different story altogether.