The 2017 NFL schedule release wasn’t kind to Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars fans, especially ones that live outside of the local media market that covers the team.
That’s because neither club was awarded a primetime game this season—that means no nationally-televised football on Thursday, Sunday or Monday nights featuring those two—and we have to assume this snub was more than just a strange coincidence.
NFL fans often see the same 8-10 teams continuously appearing on primetime television, year after year, with owners looking to optimize revenue. The scheduling committee ensures that the nationally-broadcasted games feature compelling matchups to drive ratings. It’s important to showcase a quality product on the primetime stage, while avoiding the duds.
It’s hard to overlook the fact that two small-market teams—the two worst in the AFC last season—weren’t invited back to the party in 2017. They joined this crop of mediocre-or-worse clubs, all of which won’t be playing on Monday Night Football this season.
The real loser here is the fans, unfortunately; but both teams potentially take a hit from a ticket sales perspective as well, not getting the opportunity to host, or at least play in a primetime game to keep the teams relevant at the national level.
There’s always a silver lining, though, and that’s the case here as well. The Browns and Jags won’t have to worry about coming off a short week this year at least.
For the sake of comparison, both teams played in a Thursday night game last year. The Browns battled the Ravens on Nov. 10, in between playing the Cowboys and Steelers, which was a pretty brutal 14-day stretch for them, playing those three tough, physical teams. And Jacksonville was on tap two weeks beforehand, as the Jaguars got destroyed in a game they trailed 27-0 at the half in, against the Titans.
It’s possible that the NFL was sending a message here in that if a team is not competitive, they’re not gonna be seen by a national audience. Not surprisingly, teams such as the Packers, Cowboys, Chiefs, Steelers and Patriots will be shown multiple times.
It’s important to note that they could still possibly get flexed into a primetime slot at some point in the year, but judging from the recent history of these two teams, the idea of either one playing in a significant game seems unlikely to happen anytime soon.