Flexing Thursday Night Football Games Is a Bad Idea

Headliner Matchups
Feb 13, 2023; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (left) and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell pose with Vince Lombardi and most valuable player trophies during the Super Bowl 57 Winning Team Head Coach and MVP press conference at the Phoenix Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This week, the NFL Spring Meetings are taking place, and part of those meetings include voting on new proposals and rule changes. One such proposal that was passed this week involved flexing Thursday Night Football games for the 2023 season.

There is a five-week stretch towards the end of the season where a flex can happen, from Weeks 13-17 (as reported by Ian Rapoport). The only stipulation for flexing these games is that teams involved must be given a 28-day notice before these games are flexed. Let’s take a look at the Thursday games set to take place during this timeframe:

  • Week 13: Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys
  • Week 14: New England Patriots @ Pittsburgh Steelers
  • Week 15: Los Angeles Chargers @ Las Vegas Raiders
  • Week 16: New Orleans Saints @ Los Angeles Rams
  • Week 17: New York Jets @ Cleveland Browns
Flexing Thursday Night Football Games Is a Bad Idea
Jan 1, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (7) celebrates with fans following a 23-6 victory against the New York Jets at Lumen Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Right off the bat, the obvious game in this slate to be flexed is Saints/Rams. LA will likely be in contention for the No. 1 overall pick this year, and there is a ton of uncertainty as to how much success the Saints can actually have this season with Derek Carr.

That being said, should this even be an option to begin with? Your author today would suggest no. There are a few reasons behind this.

First and foremost, the NFL has passed a number of rules this offseason in the name of preserving health. By not only allowing teams to play multiple Thursday night games in a season, but also allowing them to only have four weeks notice before potentially going into one of these games, they undid a lot of the other positive work that went into the other rules. Especially coming off a season where concussion rates increased by 18%, this is a really tough look for the league.

Vikings Questions
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) runs after a catch against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Additionally, from a competitive standpoint, the message here is simple: if a team is very competitive, there is an added risk that they will have to play additional games on short rest. After eliminating a Wild Card ‘bye’ from each conference in the playoffs during recent years, the question has to be asked: what exactly is the incentive to being one of the best teams in the league during the regular season?

And finally, we have to take the fans into account as well. People are setting aside these days to attend games, and particularly for New Orleans, that Week 16 game could be rather important to them in a wide-open NFC South division, and now, they could have to accomodate plans for three days later.

Feb 5, 2023; Paradise, Nevada, USA; AFC quarterback Derek Carr of the Las Vegas Raiders (4) throws the ball against the NFC during the Pro Bowl Games at Allegiant Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There will also be fans traveling for later games that week, such as Bengals/Steelers, Bills/Chargers, and Lions/Vikings. Now, those games could be flexed to two or three days earlier just because they’re a more entertaining matchup.

In all, this feels like a lose-lose for the NFL. Sure, Thursday Night Football gets more entertaining games this way, but guess what? Everyone watched Thursday Night Football regardless of what teams were playing. Perhaps ratings get bumped up a bit this way, but at the cost of player safety and fan experience, it simply doesn’t feel worth it.

Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho and managing editor of PurplePTSD.com. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.