(SportsNetwork.com) – No one likes Thursday night games, at least according to
the Texans’ Arian Foster.
“Thursday Night Football is pretty annoying for players,” Houston’s star
running back claimed. “I don’t know one player that likes it. I really don’t
know a fan that likes it, either. I think it’s just the league’s way to try to
generate more revenue.”
Foster’s not wrong.
The Thursday night games are most definitely a money grab by a league which
already has plenty of ducats stashed away, and the players certainly don’t
like the short week of preparation leading up to the contest.
Meanwhile, the Nielsen ratings say the fans watch but they do so with a
critic’s eye, mindful of the fact that the weekly game seems to spawn a lack
of competition in a parity-driven league.
So far, we are 5-for-5 with blowouts in Thursday night affairs in 2014 with an
average score of 41-12.
The advantage has skewed heavily toward the home team with the New York Giants
being the lone visitor to solve the short-week dilemma in Week 4 against
Washington. The fact that “Big Blue” was able to make the quick trek down the
I-95 corridor to the Beltway probably played into its success, however.
Perhaps Foster’s more legitimate and stinging criticism pointed directly
toward player safety and the apparent hypocrisy of staging one game just four
days after another.
“(The NFL) emphasize(s) concussions when they start getting hit with lawsuits
and then they care about the player safety but “Thursday Night Football” is
putting every player on the football field in danger,” Foster said. “Nobody is
ready to play physically after a Sunday game but you have to go out there and
There is one team, though, who has figured out how to “do it” better than most
and might even like “Thursday Night Football,” at least a little bit — the
The Colts have excelled historically on short weeks, winning nine straight
games on Thursday as they get ready to make the 1,015-mile trip to South Texas
in Week 6.
Normally the fact that it’s the Colts who will be uprooting and making the
sojourn down to Space City should have the Texans pretty excited to welcome
Houston-area native Andrew Luck back to the city for what will be an early-
season bragging rights matchup between the two top clubs in the AFC South.
The defending division champion Colts, who have rebounded from a slow 0-2
start with three consecutive wins, including last weekend’s 20-13 triumph over
Baltimore, have been the exception to the Thursday night rules, however.
Luck and the Colts will come in hot after getting fat over the past three
weeks thanks to a fortuitous turn in their schedule with two lightly-regarded
opponents — Jacksonville and Tennessee — followed by a home game against
You can only play who is put in front of you and Indianapolis has handled its
business, outscoring those three opponents by a combined 105-47 margin or by
an average of 35-16.
The Colts defense, which allowed 409.5 yards per game in the first two games
of the season, has settled down and surrendered only 297.3 per game since. The
Robert Mathis-less unit mustered just one sack and one turnover in the first
two and then generated 11 sacks and nine takeaways during its three-game run
with outside linebacker and Mathis caddie Bjoern Werner registering a career-
high two sacks last weekend.
“The good thing about the Colts is that we’re very familiar with them,” Texans
tackle Duane Brown said. “Of course you have a different game plan than we’ve
had in years past, but as far as the personnel and things like that we kind of
know what to expect.”
What to expect, of course, starts with the real strength of the Colts and that
lies in their QB, Luck, who pilots an offense that is second overall in the
NFL with 439.6 yards per game and tops in passing offense (321.8 YPG). Luck
himself leads the NFL with 1,617 passing yards and 14 touchdowns but the free
thrower is also tops in interceptions with six.
The impressive Houston defense, which leads the NFL with 12 takeaways,
counters with All-World defensive lineman J.J. Watt, who has two sacks, three
bat downs, an interception return for a TD, and an NFL- high 16 QB hits
through five outings.
Safeties Kendrick Lewis and D.J. Swearinger both have three forced fumbles,
tied for the most in the NFL, and inside linebacker Brian Cushing leads an
ornery unit coming off a tough overtime loss in Dallas with 45 tackles.
“No loss feels good, but, like I said, we have a quick turnaround,” Texans
coach Bill O’Brien said. “We’ve got to get better, and we’ve got to get better
fast because we haven’t played a division game yet and we have a very big
division game coming up on Thursday night in front of our home fans.”
Home fans or not, what’s past is prologue, meaning the Colts are usually the
better prepared team on a short week and there is little reason to expect that
will change this time around.
Indianapolis is 11-1-1 overall on Thursday and has never lost on NFL Network’s
“Thursday Night Football,” posting a 7-0 record dating back to 2007 with six
of those seven wins coming away from Indianapolis.
“You realize once the game starts, it’s football,” said Luck. “There’s no use
complaining or whining about anything. It’s what you do.”
WEEK 6 (All Times Eastern)
Indianapolis (3-2) (-3) at Houston (3-2), Thursday, 8:30 p.m. – See above.
Colts 24, Texans 17
New England (3-2) (-3) at Buffalo (3-2), Sunday, 1 p.m. – First place in the
AFC East will be on the line in Western New York as the Bills will try to
solve Tom Brady and build on Kyle Orton’s debut with the team, a 30-of-43
performance with 308 yards and one TD at Detroit last weekend. Terry Pegula
might own the Bills on paper now but Brady is their real master, having
compiled a 22-2 career record against Buffalo. Brady passed for 292 yards and
two TDs in an impressive win over Cincinnati in Week 5, becoming just the
sixth QB in NFL history with 50,000 career passing yards (50,232).
Patriots 17, Bills 16
Carolina (3-2) at Cincinnati (3-1) (-7), Sunday, 1 p.m. – The Bengals are
coming off a disappointing loss at New England and have won 11 consecutive
regular-season home games, making this a daunting spot for Carolina. Bengals
QB Andy Dalton has thrown for 2,563 yards and 22 TDs with a passer rating of
97.7 over that 11-0 stretch. Panthers signal caller Cam Newton has won five of
his past eight games against AFC foes and is the only NFL player with 50-plus
passing TDs (69) and 20-or-more on the ground (28) since entering the league
Bengals 31, Panthers 23
Pittsburgh (3-2) at Cleveland (2-2) (-2), Sunday, 1 p.m. – It’s time to
exorcise some demons in Cleveland. The Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger is 18-1
all-time as a starter versus the Browns, the best record of any NFL QB against
one team since the 1970 merger. Cleveland, meanwhile, is fresh off the largest
road comeback in NFL history against Tennessee last weekend and the underrated
Brian Hoyer is now 5-2 in seven starts with the Browns.
Steelers 21, Browns 20
Green Bay (3-2) (-3 1/2) at Miami (2-2), Sunday, 1 p.m. – It’s easy to relax
when your QB has thrown for seven TDs with no interceptions and a 147.0 passer
rating in his last two games and that’s exactly what the game’s best signal
caller, Aaron Rodgers, has given Green Bay. The Dolphins had extra time to try
to solve A-Rod after beating lowly Oakland in London during Week 4.
Packers 28, Dolphins 23
Detroit (3-2) (-2) at Minnesota (2-3), Sunday, 1 p.m. – The Vikings figure to
be far more competitive now that Christian Ponder will be back on the bench
and rookie Teddy Bridgewater will return from a sprained ankle. Bridgewater
passed for 317 yards and had a rushing TD in his career NFL start against
Atlanta back in Week 4. The Lions have the NFL’s top-ranked defense but are
dealing with ankle injuries to both Calvin Johnson, who has 19 receptions for
315 yards (157.5 per game) and three TDs in his past two trips to Minnesota,
and Reggie Bush.
Vikings 23, Lions 20
Denver (3-1) (-8) at New York Jets (1-4), Sunday, 1 p.m. – The reeling Jets
have a tall task this week in trying to stop Peyton Manning, who passed for a
career-high 479 yards and four TDs in a win over Arizona in Week 5 as he
joined Brett Favre (508) as only players with 500-or-more career TD passes
(503). Manning also matched Dan Marino for the most 400-yard passing games in
NFL history with 13. The embattled Geno Smith is scheduled to start ahead of
Michael Vick for New York again but expect coach Rex Ryan to have a quick hook
if things go south quickly.
Broncos 34, Jets 13
Baltimore (3-2) (-3) at Tampa Bay (1-4), Sunday, 1 p.m. – The Bucs are
expected to stick with Mike Glennon at quarterback and the second-year player
has won all three of his starts against AFC foes to date. Pressing Glennon
will be Ravens pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, who has 3 1/2 sacks in his past
four games against NFC competition.
Ravens 17, Buccaneers 16
Jacksonville (0-5) at Tennessee (1-4) (no line), Sunday, 1 p.m. – The oft-
injured Jake Locker is dealing with a thumb problem and his status for Sunday
is yet to be determined. With Locker on the sidelines, the Titans blew a 25-
point lead against Cleveland in Week 5, the worst implosion by a home team in
NFL lore. The Jags remain a work in progress as they continue to build around
rookie Blake Bortles, who completed 29-of-37 passes for 254 yards in his first
NFL road start at San Diego a few weeks ago.
Titans 24, Jaguars 17
San Diego (4-1) (-7) at Oakland (0-4) , Sunday, 4:05 p.m. – Tony Sparano takes
over in Oakland after an 0-4 start got Dennis Allen canned. Sparano, the ex-
head coach in Miami, is facing a juggernaut here as the Chargers’ Philip
Rivers leads the NFL in passing with a 116.3 rating and the San Diego defense
is tops in the conference, allowing just 290.8 yards per game.
Chargers 33, Raiders 14
Washington (1-4) at Arizona (3-1) (-8), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. – The Cardinals, who
have won six of their past seven home games, are hoping to get QB Carson
Palmer, who has been dealing with a nerve injury in his shoulder, back this
week. The Redskins have lost four of five to start the season and are trying
to build around signal caller Kirk Cousins, who has recorded a 100-plus passer
rating in three of four games this season, and running back Alfred Morris, who
is second in the NFL with 3,233 rushing yards since entering the league in
Cardinals 27, Redskins 21
Chicago (2-3) at Atlanta (2-3) (-3), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. – Home is usually sweet
for Atlanta as QB Matt Ryan is 38-10 as a starter in the Georgia Dome,
including 2-0 this season, completing 52-of-67 passes for 734 yards with 6 TDs
and no interceptions for a 142.2 passer rating in those games. The Bears are
trying to halt a two-game skid behind Jay Cutler, who has his last two starts
against the Falcons.
Falcons 27, Bears 20
Dallas (4-1) at Seattle (3-1) (-8), Sunday, 4:25 p.m. – The Cowboys have won
four straight games behind early MVP candidate DeMarco Murray, who leads the
NFL with 670 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. Murray has joined Hall
of Famers Jim Brown (1958) and O.J. Simpson (1973, 1975) as the only players
in NFL history to rush for at least 100 yards in each of his team’s first five
games. The competition picks up for the ‘Boys this week, though, as they visit
the reigning Super Bowl champion Seahawks, who have won 19 of their past 20
games at home, outscoring opponents 584-273 in those games (15.6 points per
Seahawks 31, Cowboys 17
New York Giants (3-2) at Philadelphia (4-1) (- 2 1/2), Sunday 8:30 p.m. – The
Giants have bounced back from a dismal 0-2 start, winning three in a row and
scoring 35 points per game over that stretch. The 4-1 Eagles have been doing
it in a most unconventional way, scoring seven return touchdowns this season,
tied with the 1920 Buffalo All-Americans for the most return touchdowns in the
first five games of a season.
Eagles 28, Giants 27
San Francisco (3-2) (-3) at St. Louis (1-3), Monday, 8:30 p.m. – After a 1-2
start, the 49ers have won consecutive games with veteran running back Frank
Gore leading the way by posting consecutive games with 100-or-more rushing
yards, including 107 yards against Kansas City in Week 5. The Rams nearly
erased a 27-point deficit last weekend, scoring 21 unanswered points before
falling short in Philadelphia as quarterback Austin Davis passed for 375 yards
and three touchdowns, his second consecutive start with at least 300 yards and
49ers 27, Rams 17