The NFL is eventually going to win. People can push back on the product, and complain about Thursday Night Football and overseas football all they want, but in due time changes become normalized, and even the most inept schedule makers hit on a matchup. Enter the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens on Thursday.

Two premier QBs, two hot teams, and the AFC North is always a sure bet for a good, physical game. About that last part: It’s no secret Baltimore, Cincy, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland maul each other every time they face off. Fans know it, teams know it, your niece Shelly knows it and she doesn’t watch football. The only entity that doesn’t know it, or doesn’t care, is the NFL.

Of course, the perpetually dinged-up Joe Burrow was dinged heading into a short week and messed up his wrist further. And of course, Mark Andrews’ season ended on a “hip-drop” tackle that the league thinks it can regulate out of the game. Hell, Lamar Jackson took a trip to the medical tent just for good measure.

Sure, the Bengals season probably wasn’t going anywhere (and last night basically guaranteed it won’t) but imagine if Jackson’s injury was serious as well? Baltimore’s new coordinator has the new offense rolling, and they were finally getting kind of healthy. There’s no reason to take unnecessary scheduling gambits to appease a TV partner.

Football fans are drawn to NFL games like Swifties to an Eras Tour stop. It doesn’t matter what teams pull the short stick, viewers will tune in once the muscle memory is ingrained. Any press is good press, and if you don’t believe that’s the NFL’s approach then why is Roger Goodell still employed?

It’s almost as if the owners enjoy how much the media and fans detest their designated scapegoat.

“Thank god they’re focused on Roger, and not us, right Mortimer?”

One of the unwritten rules of scheduling is Thursday night matchups have to be so dismal that the audience only needs to pay attention for a half. If Amazon says anything about the ratings, they have the tech for hologram Al Michaels, and while they’re at it, can give AI Al a shot of enthusiasm.

All season, the league has been touting its use of supercomputers to make the schedule as if anybody cares. Here’s an idea: How about asking Hal to rig it so teams coming off bye weeks play Thursdays? Then they’d have extra time on the front and backends of the off week. No? Too logical? Alright, I’ll go sit in the corner.

Up until last night, the TNF slate was its usual forgettable self, and the ratings were up over last year despite developmental showings from Tyson Bagent and Will Levis the past two Thursdays. Who cares if the narrative of midweek football is the poor quality of play? Prime Video already sent a Hummer full of cash to all 32 franchises, and the league didn’t tell them to invest a small fortune into another useless studio show.

It would take a hell of a lot to usurp Sunday Night Football’s broadcast as the most insufferable, so Tony Gonzalez and Kirk Herbstreit are superfluous. Pick one, and try to cancel the other so you can get out of a contract. That’s what the Raiders did with Jon Gruden, and look how well that worked out.

The NFL is more unkillable than Haliburton. Missteps don’t matter so make Carolina, Atlanta, Tennessee, Las Vegas, and the rest of the organizations with disposable quarterbacks the designated TNF and NFL Europe teams. Let the bona fide stars stick to their recovery routine because what happened Thursday night was as predictable as it was avoidable.


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