Run to the Playoffs

Thursday Night Football
Genre Sports
Starring Brad Nessler
Mike Mayock
Alex Flanagan
Rich Eisen
Marshall Faulk
Deion Sanders
Steve Mariucci
Michael Irvin
Theme music composer David Robidoux[1]
Opening theme "In My City" by Priyanka Chopra[2]
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 48
Running time 180 minutes+
Original channel NFL Network
Original run November 23, 2006 (2006-11-23) – present

Thursday Night Football is the brand name used by NFL Network for its schedule of live regular season telecasts of National Football League games on Thursday nights.

The eight-game package debuted on November 23, 2006, with the Kansas City Chiefs handing the visiting Denver Broncos a 19–10 Thanksgiving defeat. Most games kick off at 8:20 p.m. Eastern Time (ET). Five games aired on Thursday nights, the other three on Saturday nights. Each game would be called either Thursday Night Football or Saturday Night Football, depending on the night on which it appears; the package as a whole was known as the Run to the Playoffs. This format carried over to the 2007 season. However, starting in 2008, NFL Network eliminated all but one of the Saturday night games and started their Thursday night package three weeks earlier. This was to accommodate the earlier schedule and the league's antitrust exemption, which prohibits Saturday games during college football season. As of December 23, 2011, the Thursday Night Football franchise had aired a total of 61 games.

In the 2009 season, all references to Saturday Night Football were dropped and any games not played on Thursday were referred to as Thursday Night Football Special Editions. NFL Network has only aired two games outside of Thursday or Saturday nights; a 2009 contest between the San Diego Chargers and Tennessee Titans played on Friday, December 25 to avoid conflicting with Christmas Eve observances the previous evening, and a Sunday night game in October 2013 between the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders, which had to be pushed back from its original 1:35 p.m. PT start time to 8:30 p.m. PT to facilitate converting Coliseum back to its football layout, due to an Oakland Athletics playoff baseball game played the night prior.

On launch, the package proved highly controversial mainly due to the relative unavailability of NFL Network compared to other cable stations such as ESPN or over-the-air affiliates. In most markets NFL Network is only available through premium tier packages, with war of words frequently being exchanged between the NFL and cable companies to get the channel moved to basic cable. Time Warner Cable, the second largest cable-company in the U.S., did not carry the channel at all until the 2012 season, when an agreement was finally reached to carry NFL Network for the first time. However, as with all other cable telecasts of NFL games, such as Monday Night Football, the league's own regulations require that NFL Network's games be carried by over-the-air stations in the local markets of the teams involved.


The NFL Network's coverage was not the first time games were covered on Thursday or Saturday. Prior to the new contract, ESPN carried a handful of sporadic Thursday night games (usually those displaced from Sunday night) and the broadcast networks used to air several national games on Saturday afternoons in mid-to-late December after the regular college football season ended, a practice which has since been discontinued. Incidentally, the only reason the league is even allowed to televise football games on Saturday night stems from a legal loophole: the league's antitrust exemption, the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, was written when the NFL regular season ended in mid-December, and as such, it contains specific language that prohibits televising NFL games in most markets on Friday nights and all day on Saturdays between the second week of September and the second week of December, to protect high school and college football. Since most high school and college seasons have ended by mid-December, other than bowl games, there has been little desire to close this loophole, even though the regular season has expanded well beyond mid-December since the law's passage.

In 2005, when the NFL negotiated a new set of television contracts, Comcast-owned OLN (now NBC Sports Network[3]) offered to pay $450 million for an eight-year contract to carry NFL games in prime time. In exchange, Comcast planned to add NFL Network to its digital cable lineup. The channel was added, but NFLN decided to air the games itself, foregoing a rights fee.[4] The other TV deals generated $3.735 billion per year over an eight-year period for CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, and DirecTV.

TNT and ESPN were also reportedly interested in these games before they were awarded to NFL Network.

The Thanksgiving matchup was moved from NFL Network to NBC's broadcast package as part of the new broadcast contract after the 2011 season. During Super Bowl week in 2012, it was announced that the Thursday Night Football package would expand from 8 to 13 games and air on NFL Network, again soliciting and rejecting offers from Turner Sports and Comcast.

Game announcers

Bryant Gumbel served as play-by-play announcer from 2006 through 2007, resigning in early 2008. He was replaced by Bob Papa. Cris Collinsworth was the color commentator until taking over for John Madden as lead analyst on NBC Sunday Night Football in 2009; Matt Millen succeeded him that year, with Joe Theismann joining as a second analyst in 2010. Brad Nessler (play-by-play) and Mike Mayock have called the Thursday night games since 2011. There was no sideline reporter until 2009 when Scott Hanson assumed that role; Adam Schefter and Marshall Faulk of NFL Total Access have also contributed from the field at various times. Dick Vermeil served as color commentator for Saturday games in 2006.

In the 2012 season, which saw four out of the five networks carrying NFL games carry Spanish language play-by-play on their SAP channels due to FCC guidelines requiring broadcast networks provide audio description, NFL Network also began to carry a Spanish call on their SAP feed. Availability on the local stations carrying the games in their markets may vary due to technical limitations or lack of an SAP feed.

Pregame, halftime and postgame coverage

Each game telecast is preceded by NFL Total Access Kick Off. Rich Eisen, Steve Mariucci, Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin and Kurt Warner report live from the site of each game. The show generally begins two hours before game time (6 p.m. ET). The same Total Access team hosts the halftime and postgame shows.

In 2009, NFL Total Access on Location was replaced by Thursday Night Kickoff. The sponsors for Thursday Night Kickoff as of the 2013 NFL season are: Craftsman (pregame), KFC (pre-kick) and Lexus (halftime).


Games are shown in approximately 45 million cable and satellite households, and on broadcast stations in the media markets of the participating teams. The home-team broadcast is technically subject to the NFL's blackout rule. However, since the games in the package generally feature top-flight teams which sell out their home games, it is unlikely that games will be blacked out. These games can also be seen in Canada on Sportsnet (except for Buffalo Bills games, which are instead seen on Citytv) and in the United Kingdom on Sky Sports.

Preseason games

NFL Network also presented two preseason games before the 2006 season, using the staff that now works on this package. Spero Dedes was the play-by-play announcer, Sterling Sharpe was the analyst, and Kara Henderson was the sideline reporter.

Radio coverage

The NFL on Dial Global Sports provides national radio broadcasts for the games, with Ian Eagle calling play-by-play, Randy Cross handling color analysis, and Hub Arkush on the sidelines for Thursday Night Football.

Game announcers

Darnel "Bear" Brown



Pre-game show
Game coverage




  • Ian Eagle: Play-by-play (Thursday night, 2008–present)
  • Trent Green: Color analyst (Thursday night, 2010–present)



2013 season

Week Day Date Visiting Team Final Score Host Team Stadium Game Notes
2 Thursday September 12 New York Jets 10–13 New England Patriots Gillette Stadium
3 Thursday September 19 Kansas City Chiefs 26–16 Philadelphia Eagles Lincoln Financial Field
4 Thursday September 26 San Francisco 49ers 35–11 St. Louis Rams Edward Jones Dome
5 Thursday October 3 Buffalo Bills 37-24 Cleveland Browns FirstEnergy Stadium
5 Sunday October 6 San Diego Chargers 17-27 Oakland Raiders Coliseum Originally planned to be broadcast by CBS for a 1:35 p.m. PT (4:35 p.m. ET) start, the game was pushed back to a 8:35 p.m. PT (11:35 p.m. ET) start and moved to NFL Network as a Thursday Night Football Special Edition (but maintaining CBS production staff and commentators Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts), as time was needed to convert the stadium back to its football configuration after an Oakland Athletics ALDS baseball game the night prior. In San Diego, CBS affiliate KFMB broadcast the game.[5]
6 Thursday October 10 New York Giants 21-27 Chicago Bears Soldier Field
7 Thursday October 17 Seattle Seahawks 34-22 Arizona Cardinals University of Phoenix Stadium
8 Thursday October 24 Carolina Panthers 31-13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Raymond James Stadium
9 Thursday October 31 Cincinnati Bengals 20-22 Miami Dolphins Sun Life Stadium
10 Thursday November 7 Washington Redskins Minnesota Vikings Mall of America Field
11 Thursday November 14 Indianapolis Colts Tennessee Titans LP Field
12 Thursday November 21 New Orleans Saints Atlanta Falcons Georgia Dome
14 Thursday December 5 Houston Texans Jacksonville Jaguars EverBank Field
15 Thursday December 12 San Diego Chargers Denver Broncos Sports Authority Field at Mile High

Thursday Night Football all-time team standings

This list shows the National Football League teams' all-time standings in the games they played on Thursday Night Football.

Standings are current as of September 13, 2013.

Team Games Played Wins Losses Ties Win Pct. First Appearance Most Recent Appearance
Indianapolis Colts 6 6 0 1.000 November 22, 2007
defeated Atlanta 31-13
November 8, 2012
defeated Jacksonville 27-10
Kansas City Chiefs 3 2 1 .667 November 23, 2006
defeated Denver 19-10
November 1, 2012
lost to San Diego 31-13
Pittsburgh Steelers 7 5 2 .714 December 7, 2006
defeated Cleveland 27-7
October 11, 2012
lost to Tennessee 26-23
New York Jets 5 3 2 .600 November 13, 2008
defeated New England 34-31
September 12, 2013
lost to New England 13-10
San Diego Chargers 5 4 1 .800 December 4, 2008
defeated Oakland 34-7
November 1, 2012
defeated Kansas City 31-13
Dallas Cowboys 7 5 2 .714 December 16, 2006
defeated Atlanta 38-28
December 17, 2011
defeated Tampa Bay 31-15
Philadelphia Eagles 4 2 2 .500 November 27, 2008
defeated Arizona 48-20
December 13, 2012
lost to Cincinnati 34-13
New York Giants 4 3 2 .600 December 30, 2006
defeated Washington 34-28
October 9, 2013
lost to Chicago 27-21
San Francisco 49ers 6 4 2 .667 December 14, 2006
defeated Seattle 24-14
October 18, 2012
defeated Seattle 13-6
Denver Broncos 6 4 2 .667 November 23, 2006
lost to Kansas City 19-10
December 6, 2012
defeated Oakland 26-13
Atlanta Falcons 6 4 2 .667 December 16, 2006
lost to Dallas 38-28
November 29, 2012
defeated New Orleans 23-13
Baltimore Ravens 5 3 2 .600 November 30, 2006
lost to Cincinnati 13-7
September 27, 2012
defeated Cleveland 23-16
Chicago Bears 5 2 3 .400 December 6, 2007
lost to Washington 24-16
September 13, 2012
lost to Green Bay 23-10
Seattle Seahawks 3 1 2 .333 December 14, 2006
lost to San Francisco 24-14
October 18, 2012
lost to San Francisco 13-6
Green Bay Packers 2 2 0 1.00 December 21, 2006
defeated Minnesota 9-7
September 13, 2012
defeated Chicago 23-10
Arizona Cardinals 3 1 2 .333 November 27, 2008
lost to Philadelphia 48-20
October 4, 2012
lost to St. Louis 17-3
Washington Redskins 2 1 1 .500 December 30, 2006
lost to N.Y. Giants 34-28
December 6, 2007
defeated Chicago 24-16
New England Patriots 3 2 1 .667 December 29, 2007
defeated N.Y. Giants 38-35
September 13, 2013
defeated N.Y. Jets 13-10
Miami Dolphins 3 1 2 .333 November 19, 2009
defeated Carolina 24-17
November 15, 2012
lost to Buffalo 19-14
Houston Texans 3 1 2 .333 December 13, 2007
defeated Denver 31-13
December 22, 2011
lost to Indianapolis 19-16
Oakland Raiders 3 1 2 .333 December 23, 2006
lost to Kansas City 20-9
December 6, 2012
lost to Denver 26-13
Cleveland Browns 6 2 4 .333 December 7, 2006
lost to Pittsburgh 27-7
October 3, 2013
defeated Buffalo 37-24
Cincinnati Bengals 5 2 3 .333 November 30, 2006
defeated Baltimore 13-7
December 13, 2012
defeated Philadelphia 34-13
Carolina Panthers 4 0 4 .000 December 22, 2007
lost to Dallas 20-13
September 20, 2012
lost to New York Giants 36-7
Jacksonville Jaguars 4 0 4 .000 December 18, 2008
lost to Indianapolis 31-24
November 8, 2012
lost to Indianapolis 27-10
Tennessee Titans 3 1 2 .333 December 25, 2009
lost to San Diego 42-17
October 11, 2012
defeated Pittsburgh 26-23
New Orleans Saints 4 0 4 .000 December 11, 2008
lost to Chicago 27-24
November 29, 2012
lost to Atlanta 23-13
St. Louis Rams 2 1 1 .500 December 20, 2007
lost to Pittsburgh 41-24
October 4, 2012
defeated Arizona 17-3
Buffalo Bills 4 2 2 .500 December 3, 2009
lost to N.Y. Jets 19-13
October 3, 2013
lost to Cleveland 37-24
Minnesota Vikings 2 0 2 .000 December 21, 2006
lost to Green Bay 9-7
October 25, 2012
lost to Tampa Bay 36-17
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2 1 1 .500 December 17, 2011
lost to Dallas 31-15
October 25, 2012
defeated Minnesota 36-17
Detroit Lions 0 0 0 .000

Digital on-screen graphics

When the games started showing on NFL Network in 2006, a red score banner that spanned the top of the TV screen was used. The team logos were in oval shapes, like most NFL Network programs used since the start of the 2006 NFL season, and with their respective scores next to the ovals. During the Texas Bowl, and the Insight Bowl, the score banner was gold, instead of red.

In 2007, the on-screen graphics went to a complete overhaul. The scoreboard is located at the middle of the top of the screen. The team logos in ovals were kept; with the visiting team's logo and their respective score or on the left side, and the home team's logo and score are on the opposite side. In the middle, there is a red background, with the game clock in white, yellow bars to indicate quarter, and the NFL Network logo at the bottom. When a touchdown is scored, the scoring teams side opens, and a light goes through, revealing "TOUCHDOWN" in white in the team's color background. The side closes, and what appears to be a black graphic "wipes" away the score, thus changing it. Like in 2006, the scoreboard got a change in color, during bowl coverage, except that the red area was light orange.

In 2008, the on-screen graphics had minor changes, including listing the quarter underneath the game clock instead of using the yellow bars from 2007.

On Thanksgiving in 2009, NFL Network introduced timeout indicators above the team logos and their respective scores.

In 2010, the on-screen graphics underwent a complete overhaul, including the scoreboard (which itself returned to a banner) being moved to the bottom of the screen and timeout indicators below the team abbreviations and logos. The score banner got a change in color, which was white with a black background.

In 2012, the on-screen graphics were completely overhauled once again as part of an overall rebranding of NFL Network. The score banner, which takes on a more traditional look (similar to that of NBC and ESPN) than its aforementioned 2006-2011 predecessors, resembles a black background color with a silver chrome-like finish and also features the NFL Network logo to the left and team logos alongside the abbreviations with timeout indicators below them. In 2013, there is a minor change on the graphics, when a team scores a touchdown, the team logo is shown next to "TOUCHDOWN" instead of the team name.


The move to air games on the NFL Network has been criticized for various reasons


Moving Thursday and Saturday night games to NFL Network has caused problems in the scheduling of other night games. In the past, Thursday and Saturday were used as overflow nights in the event that playing a Sunday night or Monday night game was not possible or desirable (for instance, during the World Series, the final week of the season, or Christmas Eve) so that the respective broadcaster could be compensated. The new television contract with NFL Network eliminated that leeway, which has especially impacted Monday night. In 2007, not only did ESPN have to air a doubleheader on Week 1 to compensate for the lack of a game in Week 17, but the league also had to play a game on Christmas Eve, a day when the league has historically avoided playing in prime time. The game was played between two West Coast teams, so the kickoff was at 5:00 p.m. local time.

This problem was rectified in the 2011 television contract extension, which eliminated Saturday night games from NFL Network and allowed ESPN the right to move select Monday Night games to Saturday. In 2012, Christmas Eve falls on a Monday. Rather than having a game on Monday night, ESPN will instead broadcast a Saturday Night game on December 22 between the Atlanta Falcons and the Detroit Lions.


Upon the original launch of the Thursday and Saturday night games, few television service providers have carried the NFL Network due to disputes over carriage contracts for the network. These disputes were magnified throughout the 2007 season, as two high profile matchups were to be broadcast by the network. The match up between the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, both 10-1 at the time, drew large attention to the issue; the fact that such a high profile matchup would be unavailable to a majority of the country was seen as unacceptable to fans. This controversy was surpassed when NBC and CBS both bought the broadcast rights from the NFL Network to air the New England Patriots' season finale against the New York Giants, as they were 15–0 and vying to be the first team to finish the regular season with a perfect 16–0 record; the controversy was centered around the networks' actions denying exclusive over-the-air rights to local stations WWOR-TV and WCVB, who were the Giants' and Patriots' local broadcast homes for games on cable (the game aired on these stations, as well as on WCBS, WNBC, WBZ, and WHDH in the teams' market areas). The game was the first ever three-network simulcast in NFL history, and first simulcast since NBC and CBS both aired Super Bowl I in 1967.[6]

TV Ratings

Most Recent Ratings: 6.047 million viewers (8:29-11:48pm)[1]

See also


External links

  • Internet Movie Database