Does Playing Thursday Games Really Impact Play On the Field?

After the terrible performance from the Denver Broncos coaches and players on Thursday night, many cried out that this was a sign that Thursday night games caused below-par performance from both teams and leads to less enjoyable games to watch. I wanted to look at this by studying the Thursday night games of this season. To do this I looked at a few key areas:

– Points per game- Total yards per game
– Passing yards per attempt
– Rushing yards per attempt
– Penalties per game

I looked at these five because points and yards are a decent indicator of the offensive play of the game while the two efficiency metrics (the two yards per attempt numbers) show if the teams were efficient in getting their yards and points. Lastly I added penalties because those are one of the bigger indicators of preparations and sloppiness of a teams play. These five are hardly perfect but provide a good sampling of what the game was like both in magnitude and quality.

I’ll take these and compare each teams performance on Thursday against their season averages to see if they are above or below those averages. Finally I’ll include a percentage difference, that this means is that I take the difference between their Thursday game and their seasons averages and then divide it by the season average to get a percentage difference.

For example if a team normally averages 25 points a game but had 20 points on Thursday, that’s a difference of -5. Now take that -5 and divide it by the season average of 25 and this team underperformed by 20%. Another example is a team that normally has 5 penalties but only has 3 on Thursday has a difference 2 penalties and did better by 40%.

Here is a link to the table.

The table is broken down into four key columns: season numbers, Thursday numbers, difference between the two, and difference percentage between the two. The five metrics will be included under each heading. At the top of the page will be the averages of every Thursday game this season and below that will be the individual games if you want to look at singles games.

Quick Breakdown:

– Teams average 1.64% fewer points on Thursdays or about 0.4 points.
– Teams also average 3.77% fewer total yards or about 13.2 yards on Thursdays.
– Team average 10.54% more yards per passing attempt (0.7 yards per attempt) and 0.9% more yards per rushing attempt (.07 yards per attempt).
– Teams average 5.87% more penalties or about 0.4 more per game.

Overall three of the factors were negative for Thursday night games while two were positive, but it should be noted that none of them were of any worth outside of the surprising increase in net passing yards per attempt. In the end there isn’t a big difference when viewing a larger sample size of games. Now some teams have great games on Thursdays while others struggle, but most just have normal games. Also it should be noted that the home team isn’t an advantage on Thursday night games like I suspected, you would think being home and not having to travel on a short week would impact the game but it doesn’t.


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