After another round of Thanksgiving blowouts, I keep wondering to myself, why people keep on putting these mismatches on national television. The Lions have not covered a Thanksgiving spread in over five years and many of those are more than seven points. The games have been non-competitive and the Cowboys games have not been any better.
However, this silliness is not relegated to Thanksgiving alone. A few weeks ago we got an awesome Monday Night Football game between the Browns and Ravens. Oh, and when I say awesome, I mean physically painful, just so you are well aware. The Raiders, who have not won more than five games in a single season since 2002, have been on national television twice this year (they were on MNF in Week 1 and the aforementioned Thanksgiving blowout). I do not want to see those teams. I want to see good football during primetime as I already have to watch the Giants and Jets during the day. The Browns and Raiders perennially stink and making my television show the Raiders for the fourth time in a year (the Giants and Jets both played Oakland this year) is cruel and unusual punishment for my TV as well as myself.
What do you do about this then? First, the league should mandate that you need seven (yes you need to be a near .500 team) wins to be scheduled for a nationally televised game (any game that is not on a 1:00 or 4:00/4:15 ET time slot or on NFLN), with one exception, which I will get into later. The theory is that it provides an incentive for cheap owners to spend more money for their team to do well. If your team has a surprising year (2008 Dolphins, Ravens or Falcons), there is always flex scheduling. The number of primetime appearances that your team has should be proportional to the number of wins that they had the prior year (I am sick of seeing the NFC East on a national game). This also gives clubs with no national attention, like Houston and Jacksonville some national air time. There should still be a maximum of five primetime appearances because there are only so many times I can watch the Colts play. Plus, the thought of Jon Gruden fawning over Brett Favre or the Wildcat any more than he does is vomit worthy. I am just tired of seeing crappy teams get primetime appearances in games that will be over by the middle of the first quarter.
What are my exceptions that I alluded to, you ask? Thanksgiving games. Both the Cowboys and Lions need to play opponents that are about as good as they are. When the Lions played opponents with bad records this year, they went 2-1, and beat Washington (19-14), Cleveland (38-37) and lost to Saint Louis (10-17). All of those games were memorable, as they were historic, a barn burner, or a comedy of errors, respectively. When the Cowboys played decent teams this year (teams with over .500 records), the games have been close and exciting to watch. So have the Lions play the Rams or the Bills next year on Thanksgiving. Have the Cowboys play a decent team like the Eagles, Colts or Texans. I want to see a compelling game of football rather than a guessing game of whether the favorite will cover the double digit spread or they will get a backdoor touchdown.
While we are on the topic of Thanksgiving games, it should be noted that playing on Thanksgiving at home gives your team a huge advantage. To negate that, I propose two options. First, the host team should be on the road the prior week and the visitor should be at home, to try to balance out the time each team has to prepare. The other possibility is to have the Cowboys and Lions alternate between hosting games and playing away games on Thanksgiving to neutralize a home field advantage. This year’s favorites outscored the underdogs by a score of 56-19, which will put you to sleep far faster than the tryptophan ever will. I am not trying to bring down traditions, but rather as a fan of the game, I am trying to improve them and make primetime football showcase good games week in and week out.