Thursday Night Special

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Note On Thursday Night Games

So far this year, Thursday Night contests have been decidedly one-sided, something I’ve seen being used as reasoning against the league scheduling them at all.

Well, I don’t see it that way. At least, I don’t think they need to be completely removed from the schedule. Why? Well, let’s look at this season’s slate of Thursday Night games so far.

-Week 1, Seattle 36. Green Bay 16

There can be no complaints about lack of prep time for this one, since it was the kickoff game for the entire league. What’s more, we’ve seen that the Packers started slow and are just now hitting their stride, while Seattle simply hit the ground running. Travel considerations also don’t cut it for this week, for the same reasons as not having time to prepare.

-Week 2, Baltimore 26, Pittsburgh 6

This one isn’t even close to having any reason to argue against TNF. Pittsburgh had a short trip, the same amount of time to prepare as the Ravens, and simply played a bad game against a team who are better coached and prepared on a weekly basis, historically speaking.

-Week 3, Atlanta 56, Tampa Bay 14

Superior opponent who matched up favorably against a Buccaneers team who had a short trip, the same amount of time to prepare, and simply laid down for most of the game. This is a sign of poor coaching and player preparation. Thursday Night games are, in and of themselves, tests of team’s ability to condense their normal schedule. Some teams are taught to do it better than others. No reason to condemn the games because of this.

-Week 4, Giants 45, Redskins 14

See Week 3. This was the first Thursday night game won by the away team, but that can’t be much of a surprise when you consider who was playing at home.

-Week 5, Green Bay 42, Minnesota 10

Another short trip, another case of a better team with more established coaching habits beating a less experienced, less talented team.

So, ultimately, Thursday Night games are not in and of themselves broken in any way. Some teams have proven to be able to take the short work week and prepare better than others, which shouldn’t be seen as anything different than some teams preparing for Sunday or Monday night contests better than others. The prime-time slots are not friendly for some, and ideal for others, and yet nobody is clamoring for these to be eliminated.

No, the only issue, the only real problem that TNF has, is that the games are not played in neutral territory. The way I see it, there are enough Thursdays in the regular season for all 32 teams to get one. Now, what if each TNF game was played in a predesignated spot that makes both teams have to travel, eliminating some of the home field advantage while making a compartmentalized version of a football game that could be played in many areas of the country (or even in Mexico, Canada, England, etc) that don’t have easy access to a ‘home team’. Example: Week one. Seattle and Green Bay meet halfway, which would conceivably be somewhere in eastern Montana. How many NFL football games do you think fans in Montana get to attend in a given season? They border one state that even has an NFL team (Washington, Seattle Seahawks) and even then, they’d have to traverse nearly the entire width of Washington to see them.

This proposal makes too much sense. That’s why the league either hasn’t considered it, has considered it and disregarded it, or will take another five-ten years before implementing. It achieves their goals of spreading their brand, it eliminates the only part of TNF that can be unfair to either team by making travel time an equal hassle for both. It’s the perfect way to do it.

So there. And here:

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Indianapolis Colts Vs Houston Texans
Houston, Texas

My Pick: Indianapolis 30, Houston 17

What I See Happening: Yeah, another blowout. Only, I think the first half is going to be hotly contested, perhaps ending with Houston leading. But, at some point, I see the dam breaking and the Colts offense riding the resulting wave to a win. Believe it or not, the Colts are actually playing better overall defense than the Texans, but Houston is giving up about 4 less points per game on average (17 to 21). The problem Houston will have in this game, beyond stopping Andrew Luck and company, is that their offense is essentially one dimensional. Arian Foster is required for them to do anything, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is as likely to throw a game away as he is to throw for a first down. I give Houston plenty of credit for fighting and winning close games, but if the same Colts that beat Baltimore last week show up for this game…there won’t be room to fight and win a close game.

Sizing ‘Em Up

QB: Where Andrew Luck is an answer to the question of a franchise QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick is an answer to what don’t you do when looking for one. His starting is without a doubt the most baffling QB decision made this year, and the Texans will be hamstrung by him until he’s on the bench or off the team altogether.

RB: A healthy Arian Foster, as we saw in weeks one and five, is still one of the best backs in the business. While they’re not being talked about, the Colts’ combo of Trent Richardson and Ahmad Bradshaw have been providing excellent balance to their offense. The advantage here is hard to see either way, but I’ll take two solid options over one excellent one any day of the week.

WR: Andre and DeAndre are a capable duo, but Reggie Wayne and T.Y. Hilton are slightly more capable at this point in their careers. At tight end, Garrett Graham is not getting the targets or the production of Indianapolis’ Dwayne Allen, and Coby Fleener immediately gives the Colts an impressive duo which most teams can’t match.

Offensive line: I like both, but the experience across the Texans’ line is somewhat more enviable. Still, no clear-cut superior unit between the two. I do know that the Texans’ line has to do more, with a less mobile QB and more dependence on a running game they’ll need to control the game and have any chance of winning.

Defensive line: Well, we all know one J.J. Watt equals out to one Indianapolis defensive line, so there’s not much more to say.

Linebackers: Neither group has been overly impressive, but I like some of the younger talent both groups bring. More so for the Colts, with Bjoern Werner and Erik Walden emerging to provide some needed pass rush.

Secondary: While the Colts’ backfield played extremely well last week, I still think Houston has the edge here. Neither team has much at the safety positions, but Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph are a high-end cornerback duo that Houston can depend on.

Special Teams: Tough call. Neither team gets much from their return units, but kicking and punting are about equal. I like Vinatieri’s reliability and veteran presence, but I also like Randy Bullock’s big leg. Pat McAfee is leading the league in punting, but the older Shane Lechler is still capable.

Fantasy Start/Sit

Andrew Luck cannot be benched unless he’s hurt. He’s proven that. However, you might be inclined to bench Bradshaw and/or Richardson, and I’d tell you to hold your horses. The Texans are giving up 132 rushing yards per game on average, so there’s definite room for these two to produce. Start Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen with confidence, as well.

For the Texans, you’re starting Arian Foster, DeAndre Hopkins and maybe throwing up a prayer that Andre Johnson will give you an old-fashioned Andre Johnson type of performance. I have him on my squad and I’ll be seriously consider starting him all the way up to kickoff…

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