Tramel: Pandemic shows NFL's Tuesday night football works
The longest game week in NFL history ended Wednesday evening, when the Steelers outlasted the short-handed Ravens 19-14. The game was televised by NBC, with a 2:40 p.m. kickoff time mandated not for football reasons, but for Christmas reasons. NBC was committed to televising the Rockefeller Center’s holiday celebration, including the annual Christmas tree lighting.
Take that, sports emphasis.
The NFL’s Week 12 started at 11:30 a.m. (Oklahoma time) on Thanksgiving and finished almost 151 hours later. The extended week was caused by the Ravens’ COVID-19 outbreak, which forced three postponements -- from Thursday night to Sunday to Tuesday to Wednesday.
The postponements meant the Ravens-Cowboys game, scheduled for Thursday night, last night, had to be postponed as well, and the NFL opted for Tuesday night. So Fox will televise Dallas at Baltimore, a day after a Monday night doubleheader (Bills-49ers, as scheduled, and Washington-Pittsburgh, moved back because of the Raven problems).
This will be the second Tuesday night game of the NFL season -- Tennessee-Buffalo played on October 13, again due to COVID delays.
And this game, like Bills-Titans, should provide more proof that Tuesday night football works.
I’ve been writing about this for several years. If teams can kick off an NFL week on Thursdays, with only three days between games, then why can’t teams finish off an NFL week on Tuesday, giving them at least four days between games?
The NFL is all about content. Pro football has live entertainment that is rare in 21st-century America. Few things left are appointment television. Viewing on demand is all the rage.
But each week, the NFL has from 13 to 16 events, depending on bye weeks, that people want to see live. You can’t watch early. You’re risking drama by watching late.
Strangely, though, the NFL consistently squeezes that precious content into five windows -- Thursday night, Sunday early afternoon, Sunday late afternoon, Sunday night, Monday night.
The NFL expands the windows from time to time. A Monday night doubleheader in Week 1. Thanksgiving games. Some Saturday night games in December.
But nothing regular. Why not?
Does the NFL worry about overexposure? That’s possible, I suppose, but it’s never happened before. Not with football.
With businesses always looking for revenue streams, what’s a more obvious revenue stream than Tuesday night football?
Heck, the pandemic has shown us that limited practice time doesn’t necessarily mean an inferior brand of football. Some players believe the crazy pandemic schedule, with quarantining and digital meetings, actually has made them feel better with the rigors of a season.
With Tuesday night football, that’s four prime-time windows a week. Each major network could have a bite at the apple. Or one of the streaming services could land a full-time gig for football. Amazon is going to own the world anyway, why not the NFL?
On any given Sunday, there are eight or nine NFL games played at the same time. The technologically savvy can keep up with many of them. But most of those games are hidden from most of American football fandom.
Tuesday night football, same as a weekly Monday night doubleheader, could free some of that content. The pandemic has shown that it works.
Let’s get to the predictions:
Saints at Falcons: Atlanta 27-24. Don’t look now, but the Falcons are hot, having won four of six.
Lions at Bears: Detroit 24-19. Teams often play better after a coach is fired. Especially when they’re playing a team whose coach probably is going to be fired.
Browns at Titans: Tennessee 26-10. Cleveland has a defense, but Baker Mayfield’s offense is stuck in neutral.
Bengals at Dolphins: Miami 27-0. Cincinnati isn’t all that interesting without Joe Burrow.
Jaguars at Vikings: Minnesota 29-14. The Vikes can get to 6-6 and stay in the running for a playoff spot.
Raiders at Jetropolitans: Las Vegas 41-7. Don’t ask what happened to the Raiders against Atlanta last week. But the Jets cure many an ill.
Colts at Texans: Indianapolis 31-17. Indy is back to being behind Tennessee in the AFC South and needs this game to get a game behind the Titans in the divisional tiebreaker.
Rams at Cardinals: Los Angeles 25-24. Kyler Murray needs a victory, or Arizona’s playoff hopes are in jeopardy.
Giants at Seahawks: Seattle 31-10. New York is tied for the NFC East lead with a 4-7 record and likely will go into next week still tied for the lead, with a 4-8 record.
Eagles at Packers: Green Bay 34-16. Philadelphia clearly has the NFC East’s best team, but Carson Wentz’s quarterbacking has fallen into the abyss.
Patriots at Chargers: New England 23-16. The Patriots can get back to .500. It won’t be easy making the playoffs, but don’t count out Bill Belichick just yet.
Broncos at Chiefs: Kansas City 34-10. New Orleans one week without so much as a quarterback, KC the next week with all the QBs returning. It’s all about the same for Denver.
Washingtons at Steelers: Pittsburgh 21-19. Another matinee for the Steelers, this one a 4 p.m. (Oklahoma) Monday kickoff, in an attempt to get to 12-0.
Bills at 49ers: San Francisco 23-20. Don’t write off the 49ers yet. Win here, and they are either tied with the Cardinals at 6-6 or a game behind the Rams and the Cardinals at 7-5.
Cowboys at Ravens: Baltimore 27-10. Has an organization’s functionality ever been on better display than the Ravens on Wednesday at Pittsburgh. No Lamar Jackson, wiped out lines, others missing, and still the Ravens took the unbeaten Steelers to the wire.
Last week: 11-4. Season: 112-63-1.