Should The NFL Consider Changing The Way It Schedules Thanksgiving Day Games?
Watching football on Thanksgiving Day has become a tradition for many people. They wake up in the morning, turn on the Thanksgiving parade, start cooking their meals, and then settle into the day by turning on the first NFL game. These days, there are three NFL games throughout the course of the day, and in most households, those games are at the center of the action. From the early game that starts at around noon through the late-night game, the NFL gets to showcase itself for the majority of the day on Thanksgiving. But are they really giving us the best product possible?
This year, there has been a lot of talk about the NFL’s ratings. Specifically, ratings have been down for the first time in many years, and analysts are trying to figure out why that is. Part of it is that the NFL had to compete with the presidential election this year. But part of it also seems to be that fans aren’t thrilled with the product that the NFL is producing. Many of the primetime games—especially those shown on Thursday nights—haven’t been good and have turned some fans off from watching. And that’s something that has traditionally turned into a problem on Thanksgiving over the last few years.
The NFL’s Thanksgiving games typically feature some combination of the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, and Green Bay Packers. One of those four teams has been included in 68 percent of all the Thanksgiving Day games over the years. And the Lions in particular have played in 34 percent of Thanksgiving Day games, which is problematic because the Lions haven’t been a great team over the last two decades. The NFL continues to include them in games on Thanksgiving, though, simply because it’s a tradition, and that means that, more often than not, the league starts the football festivities out on the holiday with a game that includes a bad team. Some NFL fans enjoy this, regardless of whether or not the Lions are any good, because they’ve gotten so used to seeing the Lions play football on Thanksgiving. But it has hurt the overall perception of football on Thanksgiving.
The solution to the NFL’s problem—if you want to call it that—should be simple. Rather than scheduling the same teams over and over and over again, the NFL should consider scheduling teams other than just the Lions, Bears, Cowboys, and Packers on Thanksgiving. They’ve done this a little bit more as of late with the night game on Thanksgiving, but unless those four teams have something to offer on Thanksgiving, the NFL should reserve Thanksgiving slots for exciting matchups. The NBA has done a fantastic job of this in recent years, and as a result, most sports fans now look forward to the NBA’s Christmas Day slate of games. And it has to do with more than just tradition.
We’re still going to be tuned in to the Thanksgiving Day games this year, because they just so happen to be pretty good matchups. The Lions are, for once, decent this season, and they’ll be playing the tough Minnesota Vikings. The Washington Redskins and Cowboys will play in the afternoon, and that matchup is always good as well. And while the Pittsburgh Steelers/Indianapolis Colts game at night isn’t quite as intriguing as most people thought it might be earlier this season thanks to the struggles of both teams, it’s still better than some of the other stinkers the NFL has given us in recent years. But it won’t always work out this way, and unless the NFL thinks about changing their scheduling patterns for Thanksgiving, it could end up hurting them in the long run.