Will Anyone Watch Thursday Night Football After World Series Game 7?

The Buffalo Bills are no longer futile. The Buffalo Bills are 5-2, chasing the New England Patriots in the AFC East even if they'll probably watch Tom Brady and Bill Belichick zooming off into the distance to prove you can win a Super Bowl with one, 40-year-old quarterback on your roster, because who needs backups anyway? The Bills just traded for Kelvin Benjamin, to give maybe the NFL’s least-praised-but-still-good quarterback Tyrod Taylor another quality receiving option. The Bills are in the playoff hunt despite a running game that has only just started to wake up. The Bills have a defense that reminds Boomer Esiason of the Bills defense of the 1990s, and as the Buffalo News pointed out on Sunday, Esiason used to get beaten up pretty regularly by those Bills teams, so he should know.

There’s something almost tragicomic, then, that the Bills’ burst from the cocoon of mediocrity has coincided with some of the best baseball anyone can remember. The World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros has been a heady delight, Yuri Gurriel’s racist gesture toward Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish aside. After a Game Five that came out of a comic book, the Dodgers did the only reasonable thing and hauled themselves into a Game Seven scheduled for Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night.

After that nationally televised catharsis, after someone ascends to immortality and another sinks into the kind of hell that even Hellraiser’s Halloween kookiness could struggle to depict—who’s going to have the energy for Thursday Night Football? The Bills and Jets share a primetime national television slot of their own on Thursday, and it should be a good enough game—almost certainly better than anyone could have predicted at the start of the season. The Jets actually aren’t absolutely horrible—they played the Falcons pretty close on Sunday—although their competence could cost them a plum draft pick. The Bills have a chance to turn up the heat on the Patriots with a win. Even taking into account those valid complaints about short weeks leading to sloppy football on a Thursday night, the game at MetLife Stadium looks fairly promising.

The television ratings will make interesting reading. The last nationally televised NFL game, Monday night’s AFC West encounter between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos, provided some worrying news for Roger Goodell in a season marked, again, by falling viewing figures. Deadline reported that the Chiefs’ win at Arrowhead was down nine percent on the equivalent game in 2016, the Eagles’ 34-24 win against the Redskins. ESPN has bucked the general trend this season. At the start of October, USA Today reported that MNF ratings were actually up by five percent on 2016. A dip in one of the rare stable markets, then, must be a further headache for the NFL. Goodell and the league could do with a strong Thursday. After a baseball classic, though, they may be out of luck.

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