The NFL schedule was released Thursday. Hopefully you were able to see your team’s schedule leak instead of watching a two-hour special (odd to call a show “special” that’s literally dragging out something as simple as just putting it out there). One of the games that’s watched closely every year, are the Thursday night games.
We’ve previously called these games “poopfests” thanks to Richard Sherman, and for good reason. Players are playing on short rest, injuries happen, and often times, the games are downright bad. But this year, the games actually seem not so terrible on paper. Let’s rank them by watchability.
Disclaimer: I’m disqualifying Week 8’s Eagles at Jaguars game in London, Week 15’s Texans at Jets game and Browns at Broncos game, and the two TBD games in Week 16, because they don’t fall on Thursday. Stop calling those games “Thursday Night Football: Saturday/Sunday Edition” please.
It’s early in the season. You can put it on the TV for background noise and do the dishes or something else productive. Call your grandparents. Anything.
This game might not be a bad one. We get to see Case Keenum in his new home, as well as the $20 million man in Sam Bradford. By the time this one rolls around we’ll really know if this game is worth a damn or not. But this is easily one of those games where if it was on Sunday, you might not know it was happening.
10. Jets at Browns, Week 3
The Browns are going to come into the season with a young, but talented roster, and the Jets will have one of these highly-touted rookie quarterbacks on their roster. At least it’s something different, and it’s early on in the season. We can get this out of the way, but still appreciate it for what it’s worth.
AFC West games like this tend to be good. Two years ago, the Chiefs pulled off their biggest comeback in franchise history to stun the Chargers. Last year, the Chiefs and Raiders played arguably the best Thursday Night Football game of the season. I’m going to pin that responsibility on these two teams, though you shouldn’t count on that.
8. Jaguars at Titans, Week 14
Any game the Jaguars play in this season is going to be worth watching. They play with an attitude that’s unmatched in the NFL, and will be going up against what we can only hope is a healthy Titans’ team, that might have their own impressive defense. Maybe this will be the year the AFC South isn’t so bad.
If this was 10-15 years ago, it might have been No. 1 on this list. But assuming Andrew Luck is healthy and general manager Chris Ballard’s moves are turning around what Ryan Grigson made a sinking ship, this could be a good game. I don’t need to give you a reason to watch the Patriots, they’re the Patriots.
6. Eagles at Giants, Week 6
Even more than AFC West games, NFC East games are almost always worth watching. This time around, we get to see the defending Super Bowl champions go up against one of the game’s biggest stars in Odell Beckham Jr. What could make this game even more worth watching, is the possibility of Saquon Barkley playing in it too (and maybe even Dez Bryant).
There’s no shortage of talent in this game. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Dak Prescott, and Ezekiel Elliott are all good reasons to watch a football game. The Cowboys might not be as good this season after dropping off in 2017, but watching them go up against the Saints at home in primetime will be well worth it.
4. Raiders at 49ers, Week 9
The battle in The Bay should be a good one this season. The Raiders struggled in 2017, and are now under the command of Jon Gruden. That may or may not be a good thing, and time will tell. For at the very least for this first season, it’s going to be entertaining. We also get to watch Jimmy Garoppolo play, which was a joy last season. With an improved 49ers’ roster in 2018, it should only get better.
There’s no shortage of personalities in this game. On the Steelers these are obvious — Antonio Brown, Le’Veon Bell, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. But there’s also Cam Newton, who is always fun in primetime games. Both of these teams should contend in their respective conferences, and will be playing as we start heading into the playoff race.
There won’t be replacement referees in this one, but you should never turn down an opportunity to watch Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, especially when they go up against each other. Magical things happen. Sometimes they include tears.
The Vikings are coming off of a stellar season, and added the biggest free agent prize this offseason in Kirk Cousins. Expectations are going to be high for them, and for good reason. If Cousins is able to bring more to the offense than Case Keenum did, and their defense plays up to their 2017 level, they’ll be a Super Bowl contender.
But on the other side of the coin, are the offseason champion Rams. They were aggressive in getting the players they wanted and needed in Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, Ndamukong Suh, and Brandin Cooks. This is going to lead to endless elite matchups on the field.
And if we’re lucky, either Adam Thielen or Stefon Diggs will be wearing a chain going up against Talib.