The proliferation of Thursday games, which start in Week Two and continue through Week 15, creates a variety of issues and challenges in 2012.
The good news is that, with 16 total Thursday games this season, every team will have one short week. Every NFL franchise plays once on a Thursday, and none have a bye on the Sunday preceding the game.
One potentially awkward tweak is that, for 10 of the teams that will host the 16 Thursday games, their stadiums will present a pair of games only five days apart. The Packers, Panthers, Ravens, Rams, 49ers, Vikings, Jaguars, Lions, Cowboys, and Raiders each will see 25 percent of their entire home schedule played 96 hours apart.
The good news for those teams is that they won’t have to travel home on the Sunday preceding the short week, giving them extra time to get ready to play a second game in five days. And the good news for the 16 visiting teams is that each will have a home game on the Sunday before going on the road for the Thursday game, creating only one travel obligation.
Also, none of the teams playing on Thursday will be required to make a cross-country flight on a short week, a fact about which 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh complained when having to go to Baltimore on Thanksgiving night last season.
The most fair approach would be to have the 16 teams hosting Thursday games to play on the road the preceding Sunday, which would require both teams to spend part of the limited prep time to traveling.
Still, the current approach — with all Thursday road teams playing at home the prior Sunday — is much more fair than it used to be, when some Thursday road teams had to travel home from a road game on Sunday before traveling again for a second game only four days later.
The full schedule of Thursday games appears after the jump.
Week Two: Bears at Packers.
Week Three: Giants at Panthers.
Week Four: Browns at Ravens.
Week Five: Cardinals at Rams.
Week Six: Steelers at Titans.
Week Seven: Seahawks at 49ers.
Week Eight: Buccaneers at Vikings.
Week Nine: Chiefs at Chargers.
Week 10: Colts at Jaguars.
Week 11: Dolphins at Bills.
Week 12: Texans at Lions, Redskins at Cowboys, Patriots at Jets.
Week 13: Saints at Falcons.
Week 14: Broncos at Raiders.
Week 15: Bengals at Eagles.