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December 20, 2016

Thursday Night Football: NFL's garbage time comes to Philly

This had to be the worst season in recent memory for hardcore fans of the Philadelphia Eagles and not just because the team was out of playoff contention before the winter holiday season.

The 2016 season was a nightmare for those tier-one fans that actually go to the games. It has been a slow ride to nowhere for the people who stock up their SUVs and campers with food and drink to hold a tailgate party before every game and look at the eight-week regular-season home schedule as so many mini-vacations.

It started well enough, way back in October with the victory at home against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the real drama of the schedule comes with the divisional games at home – and that has been a huge disappointment.

That home division schedule continues this Thursday night against the New York Giants.

In the first place, Thursday Night Football has proven to be the scratch-and-dent basket for the National Football League. It is a money grab for the owners for a subpar product that offers little enticement for the fans.

The players might ultimately benefit in terms of more money in the pot to drive up the salary cap, but even they admit the mandate to play on Thursday night is more a burden than a feeling of being the only game in town.

The advent of Thursday Night Football makes a mockery of the NFL’s assurance that player safety comes first and foremost. It even makes a mockery of a union that would allow its members to have so little recovery time to get ready to play another game after playing on Sunday.

On top of all of that, there is just no pop to Thursday Night Football. If the local team is not playing, it is a forgotten event, and it’s good enough to just check in on your smartphone from time to time to check and see the score, or the running balance on a fantasy chart.

No doubt, if the Eagles had been in a playoff race this Thursday night’s game against the Giants would be a must-watch event, but certainly not more than if it had been scheduled for a Sunday afternoon, Sunday night, or even Monday night.

What you are left with is a stale Thursday night game against a traditional rival. It would have been so much better to have at least spaced out these home division games a bit better, rather than having Redskins, Giants and Cowboys all in Philadelphia within a four-week window, and the Giants and Cowboys both after the Eagles had been eliminated from the playoffs.

Imagine looking at that schedule back in October and hoping that those December matchups would mean something. However, even back then it was a long shot, as a team with a rookie quarterback and a rookie head coach didn’t have much of a chance to drag its playoffs hopes into the Christmas season.

Thus, for those long-suffering Eagles fans who count on the eight home games to provide what amounts to their money's worth of entertainment, they get a dull thud at the end of the season against the two teams that should provide the biggest bang for their bucks.

If it isn’t bad enough that the Giants game means nothing more to the Eagles than getting a head start on NEXT season, the home game against the Dallas Cowboys is likely to be even less enticing.

There is a chance that the January 1 game with the Cowboys will have little meaning to either the Eagles or the Cowboys. And if you add to that the fact that the Mummer’s Parade will also be taking place that afternoon, you might be checking in on a stadium with empty seats against the Dallas Cowboys.


For those who want to look at the positives as the Eagles head into the end-stage of this 2016 season, there is the knowledge that the team really has found the most important element to improve in quarterback Carson Wentz. The rookie has been given the opportunity to run the whole show in his first NFL season, and for the most part, he has displayed the sort of toughness to expect a successful future.

In the long run, it might prove beneficial that he was thrown into the NFL with so few offensive weapons. Wentz has kept his team in games despite being forced to run an offense with literally no deep threats at receiver.

His own game has had some dips and flat spots after the spectacular first few weeks, but overall, the Eagles have a head start on the future and must now spend the offseason gathering at least a few weapons to give Wentz a real chance to show his abilities.

And maybe then the fans can hope that next December will be a December worthy of tailgating – even on a Thursday Night.