For the 2019 NFL season, there’s a full slate of 15 games on NFL Thursday Night Football. FOX will broadcast 11 of the Thursday night games, while Amazon Prime and the NFL Network will be simulcast partners.
Please note all games are scheduled for 8:20 p.m. (ET) / 7:20 (CST) Kick-offs.
Thursday Night Football 2019 Schedule
The oldest NFL rivalry starts off a season full of divisional match-ups. The Packers and the Bears are each featured twice on TNF games this year.
Week 1 (Season Opener)
September 5: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears (NBC).
September 12: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (NFL Network).
September 19: Tennessee Titans at Jacksonville Jaguars (NFL Network).
September 26: Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers (FOX/NFL Network).
October 3: Los Angeles Rams at Seattle Seahawks (FOX/NFL Network).
October 10: New York Giants at New England Patriots (FOX/NFL Network).
October 17: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos (FOX/NFL Network).
October 24: Washington Redskins at Minnesota Vikings (FOX/NFL Network).
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Week 9 – (Halloween)
October 31: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (FOX/NFL Network).
November 7: Los Angeles Chargers at Oakland Raiders (FOX/NFL Network).
November 14: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (FOX/NFL Network).
November 21: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans (FOX/NFL Network).
Week 13 (Thanksgiving)
November 28: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
November 28: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons (NBC).
November 28: Buffalo Bills at Dallas Cowboys.
December 5: Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears (FOX/NFL Network).
December 12: New York Jets at Baltimore Ravens (FOX/NFL Network).
So, when someone asks, “Who plays Thursday Night Football tonight?” you’ll have your answers.
Notable NFL Thursday Night Games
The premiere Thursday night game will feature the oldest rivalry in the NFL as the Chicago Bears play host to the Green Bay Packers on September 5, 2019. NBC will broadcast the opener. The Bears host two Thursday night games this year with the other being a December 5 game against the Cowboys.
In addition, NBC will broadcast the Thanksgiving game where the Atlanta Falcons host the New Orleans Saints. Matt Ryan vs. Drew Brees should make for a good match-up. Note that Week 2 and Week 3 games will only be broadcast on the NFL Network.
Other notable games include a September 26 tilt between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. And, an October 3 game in which the Los Angeles Rams visit the Seattle Seahawks.
History Of Thursday Night Football
Thursday Night Football games, sometimes abbreviated to TNF, is a little slice of heaven sent down to serious football fans. Back in 2002, the NFL scheduled a Thursday night opening kick-off game after labor day leading into the full slate of games on Sunday.
In 2004, the NFL began awarding the first game hosting duties to the Super Bowl winner. The unfurling of the Super Bowl banner has become a tradition in the opening ceremonies before the game.
Games last about 3 hours or until the game ends.
When Thursday Night Football Started
In its current format, Thursday Night games began in 2006.
Through the years, some fans believe that Thursday night games are of lower quality relative to Sunday and Monday night games. But, a study by Sports on Earth writer Aaron Roberts showed that the games were of comparable or better quality than non-primetime games.
Some players have expressed concerns about playing on Thursday nights after limited rest. But, in 2015 the NFL released a health and safety report that showed that an average of 4.8 injuries occurred on Thursday games compared to 6.9 injuries on games played on Sundays and Monday.
Fun Facts about TNF
1.) The teams with the best winning percentages on TNF are the Green Bay Packers (.833), the New England Patriots (.833), Dallas Cowboys (.800), Indianapolis Colts (.778), the Kansas City Chiefs (.750) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (.727).
2.) The teams with the lowest winning percentages on TNF are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (.167), the Buffalo Bills (.288) and the Minnesota Vikings (.333).
3.) The original NFL Network broadcast team included Bryant Gumbel as play-by-play announcer and Chris Collinsworth providing color commentary.
4.) Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will call the games this year for FOX.
5.) Westwood One is the national radio broadcaster for Thursday Night Football games.
6.) NFL player Richard Sherman expressed his displeasure with Thursday night games by calling one a “poopfest.”
7.) According to the NFL health and safety report, Thursday night games result in an average of 4.8 injuries compared to 6.9 injuries for Sunday and Monday games. This was startling to many who believed the short week resulted in more injuries.
The NFL Conferences and Divisions
The NFL is made up of 32 teams that are split equally into two conferences of 16 teams: The National Football Conference (NFC) and The American Football Conference (AFC).
The conferences are further broken down by divisions. The NFC and the AFC each has 4 divisions: North, East, South and West. Each division has four teams, e.g. the NFC North’s team include the Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears.
How the NFL Schedule is Made
NFL schedule makers set the season schedule in the following manner:
1.) Six games are set against divisional opponents. So, continuing with our example, the Green Bay Packers would play the Vikings, Lions and Bears twice in one season. One game on the road, and one game at home.
2.) Four games are scheduled against teams within its conference from a different division. So, the Packers will be scheduled against four teams from one of these divisions: NFC South, West and East divisions. Two will be home games and two will be road games.
3.) Two games are scheduled with teams from the two remaining conferences not selected in point two above. The teams selected are based on division ranking from the previous year. One game will be a home game and one will be away.
4.) Four more games are scheduled with teams from a division in another conference. In the Packers’ case, that would be the AFC. Again, two home games and two away games are scheduled.
How are Teams Selected for Thursday Night Play
Each Spring the NFL using computers and multiple schedules to come up with the season’s schedule for all 32 teams. NFL schedule makers are looking for competitive games that will capture an audience’s interest. Like MNF, TNF is the only game on of NFL teams for that particular date and time. As such, the NFL is interested in putting its best foot forward while also accommodating all of the teams’ interest in playing in such showcase games.
Most Thursday Night Football games feature divisional rivals like the Packers vs. Bears or Chiefs vs. Broncos. When teams are scheduled for Thursday Night games, they will not have to play a short week Thursday more than once per season.
Why Doesn’t the NFL Play on Fridays and Saturdays?
To protect the interests of high school football and college football, the NFL does play games on Fridays or Saturdays during the schools’ seasons. There are exceptions as when Christmas falls on a Friday.
— Greg Johnson and Mike O’Halloran
Greg, a Vikings’ fan, and Mike whose mutual fund of teams include the Vikes, Packers and Chiefs have been writing about football for over a decade. Mike was a contributing writer to USA Football, the youth football arm of the NFL.
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