Earlier this week, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reported that the NFL was contemplating whether to pull the plug on Thursday Night Football due to poor play and sagging ratings. The NFL, however, responded that Thursday Night Football is not an endangered species and will continue to be a staple of the NFL schedule.
“Two things about the story itself,” TheMMQB.com’s Peter King said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “One is there is no profit for the NFL whatsoever to imply in any way, shape, or form that Thursday Night Football is in some trouble. Two, as of right now, according to people I have talked to, I don’t believe Thursday Night Football is going to go away. However, I do believe that after the current deal expires (after next season) that includes Thursday Night, I believe there will be discussions about whether Thursday Night should be in any sort of different form, which could be anything.”
Many Thursday Night Football detractors believe that the mid-week game is an affront to player safety. It has also resulted in a lot of lackluster match-ups and lopsided final scores. That could be one reason why ratings are down across the board for the NFL. In fact, King estimated that the overall ratings decline for the season will probably be between eight and 10 percent.
“That’s significant, but is not as big of a crisis as it seemed a month ago,” he said. “But I think the biggest issue that is going to come up if the NFL attempts to get rid of Thursday Night Football, I believe you’d be surprised. I believe that the players would say, ‘Hang on, we don’t want to get rid of Thursday Night Football.’ I don’t deny that the players hate it, (but) if you look at the schedule, I believe that it’s true this year that teams are not ask more than once to play a short-week Thursday Night game. So you’ve got 16 games and on one of the games you’re going to be inconvenienced. But on the other side, Mike McCarthy once told me, ‘Hey, our players like it because they get four days off after the game.’”
They also like it because it fattens their wallets.
“You can’t just say to the players, ‘Do you want Thursday Night Football eliminated?’” King said. “You have to say to the players, ‘Do you want Thursday Night Football eliminated, and do you want the salary cap to go down $4 million and do you want your average salary on your team to go down between $50,000 and $75,000?’ That’s what the reality of this would be. If you eliminate Thursday Night Football and the money that goes along with it, you’re also eliminating a small portion of every player’s salary in the NFL. Nobody talks about that, but that’s a reality of what would happen if you eliminate Thursday Night. . . . I’m neither pro nor con on Thursday. But I do think that it’s too much, that you’re asking players to do too much, to turn around so quickly.”
Tonight’s game, it is worth noting, should feature fresh players on both sides, as Dallas (10-1) and Minnesota (6-5) both played on Thanksgiving and have had a week off. Dallas has won 10 straight games, while Minnesota has dropped five of six. Kickoff from U.S. Bank Stadium is slated for 8:25 p.m. ET.