It doesn't get much better than midweek football, and the NFL is upping the ante in 2014.
Thursday Night Football has continued to gain popularity over the last couple of years, but with the games aired on NFL Network, the audience has never truly been maximized. But with the NFL's new partnership with CBS, which will televise several Thursday night games, that all changes this season.
"NFL Network built Thursday into a night for NFL fans," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement, via NFL.com's Dan Hanzus. "Our goal is to bring these games to more fans on broadcast television with unprecedented promotion and visibility for 'Thursday Night Football' on CBS."
It's a win-win: While the league sees money signs, fans will get to see more football.
NFL's PR Twitter feed offered a stat about this year's packed slate:
The 2014 Thursday Night Football schedule features 11 playoff teams from '13 - including 7 division winners - & 14 divisional rivalries— NFL Media PR (@InsideNFLMedia) April 24, 2014
Let's take a closer look at the complete schedule for all Thursday and Saturday games, courtesy of NFL.com.
Thursday/Saturday Night Football
|1||Thursday, 9/4||Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|2||Thursday, 9/11||Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens||8:25 p.m.||CBS/NFL Network|
|3||Thursday, 9/18||Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons||8:25 p.m.||CBS/NFL Network|
|4||Thursday, 9/25||New York Giants at Washington Redskins||8:25 p.m.||CBS/NFL Network|
|5||Thursday, 10/2||Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers||8:25 p.m.||CBS/NFL Network|
|6||Thursday, 10/9||Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans||8:25 p.m.||CBS/NFL Network|
|7||Thursday, 10/16||New York Jets at New England Patriots||8:25 p.m.||CBS/NFL Network|
|8||Thursday, 10/23||San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos||8:25 p.m.||CBS/NFL Network|
|9||Thursday, 10/30||New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers||8:25 p.m.||NFL Network|
|10||Thursday, 11/6||Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals||8:25 p.m.||NFL Network|
|11||Thursday, 11/13||Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins||8:25 p.m.||NFL Network|
|12||Thursday, 11/20||Kansas City Chiefs at Oakland Raiders||8:25 p.m.||NFL Network|
|13||Thursday, 11/27||Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions||12:30 p.m.||CBS|
|13||Thursday, 11/27||Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys||4:30 p.m.||FOX|
|13||Thursday, 11/27||Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers||8:30 p.m.||NBC|
|14||Thursday, 12/4||Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears||8:25 p.m.||NFL Network|
|15||Thursday, 12/11||Arizona Cardinals at St. Louis Rams||8:25 p.m.||NFL Network|
|16||Thursday, 12/18||Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars||8:25 p.m.||NFL Network|
|17||Saturday, 12/20||Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins||4:30 p.m.||CBS/NFL Network|
|17||Saturday, 12/20||San Diego Chargers at San Francisco 49ers||4:30 p.m.||CBS/NFL Network|
The NFL season will officially start with the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks hosting the Green Bay Packers.
What Thursday/Saturday game are you most looking forward to?
With Russell Wilson progressing another year, a healthy Percy Harvin, who finally showed in the Super Bowl what he's capable of when actually on the gridiron, and a running game behind Marshawn Lynch and Christine Michael, Pete Carroll's squad should have plenty of offensive firepower. But there's no question this team is built on its big, fast, physical defense.
That's often more apparent at Century Link, where the 'Hawks have won 17 of 18 over the last two years.
However, Green Bay's high-powered offense presents a compelling clash of styles.
Aaron Rodgers, whose injury last year derailed the Packers' season, is one of the most dominant quarterbacks in the league, and second-year running back Eddie Lacy offers the blend of speed and physicality needed to have success against the Seahawks.
And, of course, there's a bit of history here, as NBC Sports noted:
It would be difficult to dream up a better season opener than this one.
Turkey Day Madness
Before the schedule was official, NFL Network's Rich Eisen passed along this teasing tweet:
Wait til you see the Thanksgiving triple header. It's a first of its kind. One hour to go on @nflnetwork— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) April 23, 2014
The man was not joking.
Headlining one of the most captivating days of every NFL season will be the Seahawks traveling to San Francisco for the newest chapter of what has developed into the most heated rivalry in the league.
The coaches hate each other, although it's been far too long since we've had a postgame altercation, the fans hate each other, the players hate each other and they didn't exactly end the 2013 season on the most pleasant of terms.
As you probably remember, Richard Sherman batted down a late Colin Kaepernick throw to seal a trip to the Super Bowl for the Seahawks, and he followed it up with one of the most memorable postgame interviews ever.
Not only is there an absurd amount of bad blood between the NFC West rivals, but these two teams are the cream of the crop in the NFL and play an enthralling style of physical football. The Seahawks vs. 49ers has become a must-watch matchup over the last two years, and hosting it on Thanksgiving is just the cherry on top.
But it doesn't end there, as there will be two other intradivisional matchups.
The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, who boast two of the most explosive offenses in the league, start the day off, followed by the ever-popular (and ever-hated) Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.
CBS Sports' Andrew Catalon put it simply:
Thanksgiving just skyrocketed to the best holiday of the year: Bears-Lions, Eagles-Cowboys, Seahawks-Niners.— Andrew Catalon (@AndrewCatalon) April 24, 2014
You better start rearranging your Thanksgiving plans now.