Photo courtesy of highschoolamericafootball.com
By Richard Pryor III
Q: Richard, one of the time honored traditions in my household is that of watching NFL games on Thanksgiving. However, I wonder if the play quality could be better each year. What do you think?
- Mashed Potatoes in McCrady
A: Thanks, Mashed Potatoes! Well, you’re right about one thing: it’s not as enjoyable to watch football on Thanksgiving than on any given Sunday. Although it has given us its share of memorable moments (Mark Sanchez’s butt fumble in 2012) and close games (Texans/Lions 2012), Thanksgiving games generally aren’t memorable.
In the 11 seasons since the NFL added a third game to Thanksgiving, the average overall record of a team playing in the game is a bit over the average eight wins and eight losses for each season. The average score differential is 16.5, which is pretty close to two touchdowns and a field goal. Only one game of the 33 has gone to overtime. So here’s my plan, should Jerry Jones want to hire me as NFL Commissioner instead of Goodell (which he won’t after reading this.)
First, we need to get rid of the whole thing where the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys each host a game. Detroit’s been everywhere from middling to rock bottom over the last 11 years, and Dallas has been all over the map. If we want Thanksgiving to be a true national football holiday, we need to provide top notch games each season and that starts by removing any sort of permanency as to which specific teams play.
The second thing would be to limit the types of games that can be played, to provide some extra umph to the game. Division matches, where fans know they are fighting for a playoff spot, as well as bragging rights against local fans, are one way to provide the umph. The second way is to make these games the “intraconference strength” games. In the NFL’s scheduling formula, each team will play against each other team in their conference that finished at the same spot in the other divisions. For example, the New England Patriots, who were first in the AFC East last year, will play against each other AFC division’s top team from last season, the Steelers (AFC North), the Texans (AFC South), and the Chiefs (AFC West). If we made sure that the games were first place intraconference strength, we could be seeing Matt Ryan throwing against the Legion of Boom, Ben Roethlisberger having a QB duel against Tom Brady, and/or the Cowboys against the Packers in 2017’s Suspension/Injury Wreckage Extravaganza™! But anything’s better than having to watch the Giants (1-8) play the Redskins (4-5) in primetime.