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Jags-Titans Is The New Tradition In Bad Prime-Time Games

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Thursday Night Football isn’t known for its riveting matchups, but this week’s Jacksonville Jaguars-Tennessee Titans tilt is especially dismal, seeing as it sets up a face-off between what our Elo ratings think are the NFL’s second- and third-worst teams. In theory, prime time is supposed to be for good games, so where does tonight’s matchup rank among the worst prime-time games in NFL history? To find out, I took the harmonic mean of the two teams’ pre-game Elo ratings for all 1,413 prime-time games ever.1

paine-bad-nfl-primetime

You might be surprised to learn that not only is tonight’s game not the worst prime-time game ever, it’s not even the second-worst Titans-Jaguars game to ever grace prime-time television. (Nos. 1 and 2 in the all-time dumpster dive were the 2014 and 2015 versions of Tennessee-Jacksonville, respectively.) Why does this horrible matchup keep coming up every year? Every team has to play at least one Thursday Night game, and these teams have consistently been each other’s designated partner in awful prime-time football (presumably to keep either of them from polluting other matchups). But for a league with declining prime-time TV ratings so far in 2016, this kind of game won’t help.

Footnotes

  1. Going back to the advent of Monday Night Football in 1970.

Neil Paine is a senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight.

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