Will Falcons Struggle After Hosting Thursday Night Football?


The Atlanta Falcons hosted the Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football this past week, decimating them 56-14. The team looked improved in many areas, and now travels to Minnesota to face the 1-2 Vikings, who are fresh off a defeat to the New Orleans Saints. As you may know, the Falcons road record hasn’t been particularly strong in recent years

The Falcons have gone 38-12 at home under head coach Mike Smith, but their 24-25 road record leaves a lot to be desired. While the problems faced by the Falcons away from the Georgia Dome are well documented, there is in fact another stat that suggests Sunday could be tough for Atlanta; teams that travel after hosting Thursday Night Football have historically struggled the following week.

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In the past three seasons, teams that have hosted TNF and played on the road the following week hold a dismal 8-21 record. In 2011, with only 8 Thursday games played, teams that hosted and then travelled went 2-5 the following week. One of the two wins came in a narrow overtime victory from the Broncos. Hosts in 2012 performed about as poorly, with such teams going a lowly 3-8 after hosting Thursday Night Football. Of these 3 wins, one was a 9-6 stalemate, with the Super Bowl winning Ravens just escaping with a win over the last placed Chiefs. Another was a 35-34 Titans victory against the Buffalo Bills, demonstrating that even the rare wins from the travelling side were none too convincing. 2013 teams that hosted on Thursday before travelling the following Sunday also went 3-8, including the shock loss from Miami to the 4-12 Buccaneers.

“In the past three seasons, teams that have hosted a game on Thursday and played on the road the following week hold a dismal 8-21 record. Even the rare wins from such teams are none too convincing.”

Teams in this category are 1-1 this season, with the Super Bowl champion Seahawks losing to the Chargers and the Ravens needing a walk off field goal to beat the Browns. Interestingly, the Falcons have hosted a Thursday game every year since 2011, and have travelled every week after. In 2011, after winning big on a Thursday game with the Jaguars , Atlanta were destroyed 16-45 in New Orleans. They also recorded one of their only 3 losses of 2012 after hosting TNF and travelling to Carolina, only to be beaten 20-30. Last season the Falcons were one of the teams that triumphed under these conditions, hosting a Thursday game before travelling to Toronto where they defeated the Bills 34-31. However, the Dirty Birds needed overtime to do so, further demonstrating the difficulty experienced by the travelling side

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  • So why do teams struggle after hosting Thursday Night Football? One argument is the impact of the awkward 10 day break between games. The NFL week adheres to a highly structured schedule of training, game planning and team meetings. Breaking this cycle can only be bad for a team’s focus. Teams that play early in the week often have days off and won’t start practice until Monday, which may impact the fitness or mindset of the players. We have seen good teams struggle in the past coming out of bye weeks, and the awkward break between Thursday and the following Sunday could influence performance similarly. Secondly road games are more difficult, which may have some bearing on the results regardless of the break between games. Lastly, despite a few documented upsets listed above, strength of matchup obviously influences the results here. However, it is interesting to note that many top seeds and Super Bowl teams did succumb to the trend, recording losses in otherwise strong seasons. Whilst it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is about the 10 day break between games that makes it so much more difficult for road teams, it is clear that an evident trend has formed in the past few seasons. Taking that into account, alongside the existing difficulties the Falcons have had on the road, it seems Atlanta might have more of a fight on its hands on Sunday than we first thought.

    What do you think about this trend? Is it just a coincidental stat, or is there more to it? Please discuss your opinion in the comments below, along with your predictions for Sunday’s game.