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Injuries and Dollar Signs: Making a Case for a Second Bye Week

Reports that the NFL is considering adding another Thursday night game to the schedule is just another slap in the face to injury-riddled teams like the Packers. Would another bye week help? Quite possibly.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

I imagine running the NFL is a lot like having a slot machine at home with a row of 7's permanently locked into place. Pull the lever, money comes out. Pull it again, more money comes out. Rinse and repeat. Now, whether the cash cow nature of the NFL is a result of its popularity or its ability to stay more relevant throughout the year better than any other sport is beside the point. The fact is, almost everything the NFL does turns to gold. The NFL Draft? Huge ratings and advertising dollars. Its own network that airs 24/7, 365? Ditto. Its gotten to the point where even the NFL Scouting Combine - a five day meat market that shows the exciting act of running a 40-yard dash - draws enough interest to be televised. Again, cha-ching.

So it's no wonder the league has attempted to saturate the season with its biggest attraction of all - the games. Last year kicked off on a Wednesday and on top of that you've got opening-week Monday Night doubleheaders, Sunday night games and of course, the ever-controversial Thursday night games. Basically, there's a lot of football going on. This should be a good thing. But now the Wall Street Journal is reporting the NFL is considering two Thursday nighters. That I'm not so sure of.

First there's the obvious downfall of teams playing on a short week: the games suck. Yeah, it's football and there's still some entertainment value there, but by and large, the games have been boring, ugly contests with players having not only little time to recover, but even less time to prepare due to travel. Then there's the physical toll it takes on players. In a game as consistently violent as football, I doubt there are any studies that show a correlation between playing on short rest as opposed to say, getting your brains beat in on any other day, but still, it can't help. In some instances we've seen teams forced to play three times in 11 days. For the Packers - a team already facing an infirmary's worth of injured players - Thursday night games can't be a welcome sight on their schedule.

And now the NFL supposedly is thinking about two per week?

This year's Packers - a team that drew a short straw in getting an early Week 4 bye - also have to play on a Thursday later this season, on Thanksgiving Day.

Ignoring the laughable absurdity of the notion - especially in the wake of the NFL's concussion crisis - this seems like a bad idea. Not only do you face the issues I just mentioned, but by forcing more teams to play on Thursday night, you potentially harm the quality of the game later in the season. This year's Packers - a team that drew a short straw in getting an early Week 4 bye - also have to play on a Thursday later this season, on Thanksgiving Day. It seems crazy that a team would have their schedule play out that way. But remember, this is the same league that in the midst of being sued by former players for lying about concussion-related brain damage trotted out the idea of an 18 game schedule.

There is however, one solution to all this that I think might work: give every team two bye weeks.

One of our FanPosts from last week, written by user Michael Herndon, had a similar idea in making the season 19 weeks with 17 games (and two byes). But why even go that far? I say keep the 16 game schedule and make sure that all Thursday night games come after a bye week - with teams receiving another full bye (since the Thursday night game would only give teams 10 days off as opposed to 13) at another point in the season.

I know as a fan that means not seeing your team play (gasp) twice during the season, but isn't it worth it? If given the choice to see the Packers play next month or giving the players an extra week to recover as they gear up for a potential playoff push, I know which one I'd choose.

So with two byes, the players are able to stay fresher and healthier. The fans get (hopefully) a higher quality viewing experience and another option on Thursday night. And the league? They'd possibly be the biggest winners in all this.

The push for an 18 game schedule was about one thing - money. The demand is there and thus, so are the dollars. But while adding a Thursday night game to the docket wouldn't quite account for the increase in revenue the league would see by adding two additional games, it would still see more money. That's because the additional Thursday night game would be sold to other networks instead of airing on the NFL Network (which according to ratings, no one really watches much anyway) . One more time, cha-ching. Imagine the bidding war the NFL could start between NBC and FOX and ESPN for the rights to air another marquee matchup like the Packers vs. Seahawks. Plus, extending the season from 17 to 18 weeks would earn another week's worth of ad revenue. So not only does the league earn more money, they get to continue the act of being concerned about player safety without sacrificing their credibility (what's left of it, anyway) by adding two games.

Again though, this only works with two bye weeks. It would allow flexible scheduling that gives players ample rest, makes the game more watchable, and ultimately keeps the league printing money at a record pace. Make it happen, NFL. It's a solution that as one Viking once famously said is, ‘Straight cash, homey.'

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