When it feels like the matchups could not get any worse, Thursday Night Football is reaching even more people. According to Nielsen Media Research, the first five Thursday Night Football games on Prime Video have reached 48% more 18-34-year-old adults than the 2021 set.
In other words, an average of 10.8 million people are tuning in to snooze fests such as Colts-Broncos and Commanders-Bears. In a league where scoring is down across the board, and unders are hitting non-stop in the gambling world, what makes Thursday Night Football so intriguing?
Week 2: Chargers-Chiefs
For once, the game lived up to its pregame promise. Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert dueled it out until rookie Jaylen Watson took a pick-six back to stun the Chargers. Los Angeles only lost by three points, so this excellent showing makes sense.
Week 3: Steelers-Browns
Millions of people actively watched this showdown between the likes of Mitchell Trubisky and Jacoby Brissett. While there is a rivalry element, similar to Week 2, neither the Steelers nor Browns are juggernauts in 2022. The game was within one score for much of the contest, but Brissett is not quite the biggest draw.
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Week 4: Dolphins-Bengals
This is likely the biggest game from a non-football spot. This game featured Tua Tagovailoa’s scary concussion situation. Both teams were competitive, but Tagovailoa’s injury sucked the energy out of a potential playoff preview.
Week 5: Colts-Broncos
Two multi-time Pro Bowl quarterbacks in prime time sound intriguing. However, neither Matt Ryan nor Russell Wilson has played particularly well in 2022. The Colts and Broncos combined to score zero touchdowns, settling for seven field goals. The low-scoring contest did go to overtime, and it was close the entire way. However, close football and bad football often overlap.
Week 6: Commanders-Bears
At least Colts-Broncos had two (relatively) exciting quarterback storylines. Carson Wentz and Justin Fields are two of the worst quarterbacks in the league, and they led teams who might not win 10 games even if they merged into one team. The Brian Robinson storyline was exciting for die-hard fans, but this game was definitely on the side of bad football that happens to come in a close game.
In Week 7, the Saints head to Arizona in a battle of 2-4 teams. Both of these teams have vastly underperformed, and the loser will have limited odds of making the playoffs. Any game featuring Kyler Murray is worth following, but the rest of the supporting cast could relegate this game to a backup TV with the NBA, NHL, and MLB playoffs rolling.
Week 8 puts the Ravens and Buccaneers in prime time. Both of these teams are division leaders, but they are 3-3 versions of underachieving teams. With that said, this is likely the best matchup since Week 2.
Weeks 9 and 10 are pointless affairs. In Week 9, the Texans host the currently undefeated Eagles. Will there be much interest in a game between teams that are potentially 1-5-1 and 7-0? Week 10 is an all-NFC South battle with the Falcons and Panthers. The Panthers are one of the worst teams in the league, and the Falcons are led by Marcus Mariota.
Week 11 features both No. 1 seeds from last season, but the Titans and Packers have struggled to a 6-5 combined record so far in 2022. Neither team is particularly exciting despite the presence of superstars such as Derrick Henry and Aaron Rodgers.
Week 12 is a Thanksgiving battle on NBC between the Patriots and Vikings. It won’t count for Prime Video.
In a game with massive blowout potential, the Patriots host the Bills in Week 13. At least the early-season games were close. The Bills could 30-bomb the Patriots.
Week 14’s Raiders-Rams matchup has lost a lot of its luster. Neither team has any semblance of an offensive line, so the Raiders are 1-4 and the Rams are 3-3. There could be fireworks, but it seems much more likely that this game is dominated by Aaron Donald, Maxx Crosby, and kickers.
One valuable TNF storyline is division rivals. Week 15 features the 49ers and Seahawks. While the 49ers beat the Seahawks by 20 points in Week 2, rivalry games are great for prime time. This game should be closer than the first matchup. However, it still is a battle between Jimmy Garoppolo and Geno Smith.
Trevor Lawrence. Zach Wilson. As much as the NFL wants to push the top two picks from the 2021 NFL Draft, it remains to be seen if the Jaguars and Jets will live up to the hype. The Jaguars got off to a roasting start with impressive wins over the Chargers and Colts, but they have lost three in a row. The Jets have won three in a row, but they are the New York Jets.
Prime Video’s 2022 schedule wraps up with a matchup between potential playoff teams, the Cowboys and Titans. If these teams are playing to expectations, this could be the best TNF of the season.
Prime Video’s Future Plans
Thursday games for the foreseeable future will be broadcast on Prime Video. However, the NFL recently announced a Black Friday joining Prime Video’s slate of Thursday games. The first Black Friday game would be played in 2023.
Outside of Week 1 and Thanksgiving, Thursday is generally an awkward time for NFL games. Games are often lower quality than their Sunday or Monday counterparts, and it seems that more injuries occur. High school football and college football prevent the monopolization of Fridays and Saturdays for NFL football, but those days would almost certainly lead to a better product.
However, as long as the NFL is getting billions of dollars, Thursday Night Football will be a permanent fixture.
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