The NFL has two reasons to assign great games to the Thursday night package to be simulcast on CBS and NFL Network. First, great games deliver major audiences on broadcast TV. Second, the package lasts only one year; great games will create great ratings and in turn more money for the games in 2015 and beyond.
The games may not all be great on paper, but the seven-game CBS-NFLN Thursday night slate features divisional games exclusively.
The new venture launches with a renewal of one of the NFL’s best rivalries: Steelers at Ravens. Multiple cameras surely will be trained to Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin, who may want to consider coaching that game from the press box after last year’s walkabout into the field of play.
For Week Three, the new-look Buccaneers visit the suddenly desperate Falcons in a key early-season NFC South game. This one could be an unexpectedly good game.
For Week Four, the Giants travel to D.C. With a pair of major markets, the ratings should be very strong, even if the game isn’t.
In Week Five, the divisional trend continues, as the Vikings visit the Packers. Again, not a sizzler but a potentially potent contest, especially if the Vikings get off to a strong start it could be intriguing.
In Week Six, it’s the Colts at the Texans. Yes, the 2-14 Texans. But they can’t be as bad this year, can they?
In Week Seven, it’s Jets-Patriots. We’ll see how much the gap has closed between the two teams.
And for the last of the CBS-NFLN Thursday night games, the Chargers visit the Broncos. San Diego won in Denver on a Thursday night last year.
Every division is covered by the seven-week package with the exception of the best one: The NFC West. So while the slate of games is solid, it’s hard to call all of them marquee games.