When the NFL regular-season schedule is released, expect the Thursday night games in the first half of the season to look better than the Thursday night games in the second half of the season.
That’s because the NFL plans to give CBS, its new broadcast partner for Thursday nights in the first half of the season, a great package of games to start the season. SportsBusiness Journal reports that the CBS games will be much stronger than ESPN’s Monday Night Football package and much stronger than the Thursday night games in the second half of the season.
In other words, games featuring teams that made the playoffs last year, and teams with the biggest fan bases, will go on CBS early in the season. Games like Texans-Jaguars and Browns-Bills will be relegated to NFL Network late in the season.
Of course, there’s no way to say for sure in April which games will be good in the fall. The NFL is unpredictable enough that Texans-Jaguars or Browns-Bills could turn out to be big games between teams fighting for playoff spots, and Seahawks-49ers or Broncos-Patriots could turn out to be matchups or disappointing teams. The only package that is guaranteed to have strong games is the NBC Sunday night package, which takes advantage of flexible scheduling to move marquee games into prime time.
But the NFL has a pretty good idea in advance which games will generate the largest audiences. And a lot of those games will be on Thursday nights early in the season.