I noticed this annoying trend last year during the regular season regarding prime time games. Quite often I would see the same team playing in numerous prime time games, some even in back-to-back weeks. It got to the point where a few times I found myself wondering, “didn’t I just see them play?” While this may not seem like a big deal if the teams featured this often are in big football markets and are competitive teams, I’m forced to wonder why NFL fans across America were subjected to watching not two, not three, but five…FIVE Philadelphia Eagles games in prime time.
There were 8 teams that played in a league-high five prime time games over the course of the 2012-2013 season: the Broncos, Steelers, Giants, Packers, Bears, 49ers, Chargers, and Eagles. Of these teams, certain ones are obvious candidates for multiple prime time games. The Giants were the defending Super Bowl champions and thus earned the spotlight. The Steelers, Packers, Bears, and ‘Niners are all high profile and routinely successful teams that have large, dedicated fan bases. The Broncos got their games because of Peyton Manning although their market is just as large as those previously mentioned. That leaves the Chargers and the Eagles. Now, the Eagles make sense on paper because Philly is a very large sports market, but the Chargers blow my mind. They have not been a consistently good team since the mid-2000’s and do not have a great fan base. In fact, they are one of the teams speculated to move to Los Angeles upon completion of the new stadium. Despite these obvious facts, they played in five prime time games, three of the games in a five week span.
The Chargers are consistently underachieving but at least put up some mildly interesting games through this season. The Eagles, however, spent the season searching for the end-zone like it was Manti Te’o’s girlfriend and visibly gave up mid-season. Their defense was an embarrassment the likes the NFL hasn’t seen since the Lions went 0-16. The fact that every team in the NFC East was competing for a playoff spot BUT the Eagles makes this scheduling seem ludicrous. Obviously the season schedule is released before the opening night kick-off, so they had no way of predicting the train wreck named the Eagles that America would be subject to. So how to fix this?
Two solutions come to mind: prime time slots be distributed more evenly so that even if the teams featured are struggling, they only get the best time slots once or twice during the season OR the NFL would assume the power to flex games in and out of prime time games with a few weeks notice. I’d rather see the flex scheduling, especially as the season winds down and the playoff race heats up. Lets be real, no one wanted to watch the Chargers take on the Jets in week 16 last year when the Cowboys/Redskins/Giants/Bears/Vikings were all fighting for a playoff spot. There were often many good games on at 1pm and viewers either had to chose which one to watch if they have NFL Sunday Ticket or were stuck watching a local game with no significance while competitive games took place in other markets.
The Thursday night games on NFL Network are scheduled in a way that good match-ups are sprinkled with small-market games that otherwise don’t get national coverage (or even local coverage in the case of the Jaguars). This is a good system that makes it somewhat fair, but more attention is needed in the case of Sunday night and Monday night games. Even teams that deserve these games shouldn’t be playing back-to-back or even two out of three weeks. If the NFL wants to keep viewers from going “psh, screw this” and turning on The Walking Dead or Dexter on Sunday nights, they’ll want to fix their scheduling system for the upcoming season. Take a look at last year’s prime time schedule and let me know your opinions:
|2012 prime-time schedule|
Cowboys at Redskins