Contrary to contrarian belief, the NFL still puts out a goodtelevision product.Amid all the talk about decliningratings and fu s about the Thursday Night Football schedule duringthe 2016 season, the league is finishing strong with matchups made more for the marquee.MORE: Bad development ruining QB playBut even if oneloves football and wouldwatch itat any time, any place, no matter who's playing, he or shecan admitthere are ways the NFL canimprove its overall weekly TV package.Every major network presidentand programming director is always looking tomake things better ormore popular, and the leaguenever stops trying to getbigger.For them, Sporting News puts on allthose broadcasthelmets to present the ideal regular-season TV schedule.Thursday night TV schedule"Your weekend starts early" is nota badway to sellmidweek games, which won't be going anywhere for awhile. But before the NFLre-ups on TNF for thelong haul, it needs to make some changes toupgrade the consistent level ofplay, and therefore the viewing product.Asking players to performat their best with only three days to recover from Sunday is asking the impo sible. The road team especially isput in an unfair position, needing to scramble to travel. Later in the season, as players' bodies get worn down and the weather doesn't provideany favors, it's a more volatile combination.Consider what happened ahead ofThursday night games for Arizona and Indianapolis duringthe 2016season. Quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Andrew Luck would have been cleared to play after their respective concu sionshad they been givenuntil Sunday to recover. Instead, they mi sed their teams'games, which in turn lost their luster.MORE: How NFL can fix pace of playAndrew Luck (Getty Images)The NFL needs to treat every Thursday night game like Week 1 both teams should be coming off abye. Thanksgiving day action is an exception, because it's a tradition for which Dallas and Detroit are always prepared.The logistics of NFL scheduling as it is don't allow for this, though,when you also factor in Tyler Boyd Jersey
the bye needed after London games. That means the league would have to scaleback TNF to no more than half the season, but have it spread out over non-consecutive weeks.However it breaks down, there should be no TNF after Thanksgiving. That gets the players and teams at their freshest to play on Thursday over the season's first three months, and it also preserves their routine for the final month of the season, when the games aremost important.From the league's perspective, there's a better meansto getting those other eight-plus gamesin prime time to please the networks payingto get them: Move them backtwo days.MORE: Player protests are indeed a problemSaturday TV scheduleThe NFL scheduleda full slate of Saturday games forWeek 16 this season, on Christmas Eve, with only two on Sunday,Christmas Day. It scheduledone Saturday nighter in Week 15, too. Late-season games on Saturdaysused to be commonplace there's no reason not to bring them back with a more expansive package.In those few weeks during the first three months in which Thursday night games are not scheduled through our staggered model, why not schedule Saturday games?There are some old-school feelings that Friday is for high school, Saturday is for college and Sunday is for the pros. But college football already has brokenthose rules.Besides, after rivalry weekend in college football, there's a post-Thanksgiving football void. That's when the NFLcan and shouldflip from Thursdays Cedric Peerman Jersey
andeven go with an east-west doubleheader on Saturday nights for four weeks. There's your eight games that would have been played on Thursday.A big complaint fromfans is that, even with DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket, they would like more games to consume in their entirety without conflict. Spreading out the scheduleand going away from the every-week routine wouldset up better airplay over more time slots.Sunday TV scheduleThe best thingabout the average, midseason college football Saturday is the fact that oncegames beginaround noon ET, they don't stop until after midnight. That's four windows of games with a lot of overlap. Wall-to-wall football isnice.The NFL can learn from the collegemodel whilekeeping it within its parameters:no game comes after or trumps Sunday Night Football, and there are enough games played at the same time to keep Sunday Ticket alive.A natural place isto start with the standard, 1 p.m. ET kickoff time forearly games. There are typically eight or nine games played in that slot. The best part for multi-screen viewers is the finishing flurry of games when, without fail, there are more than a few great endings in one-po se sion games.So why not break things up a little more?MORE: NFL announces 2017 London gamesThe Giants and Ramsplay a 2016 NFL game at London's Twickenham Stadium. (Getty Images)The "early" London (9:30 a.m ET) games area bit extreme, and the NFL is going away from that me s. It can, however, still ownthe day by starting games at 11 a.m. ET.That would also create a third afternoon window, at 2 p.m. ET, with the 4:05 p.m. ET and 4:25 p.m. ET games sliding back to 5 p.m. ET. The only casualties arepregame shows, and let's be honest, thereare too many and they're all too long.Every game under this model would havethe potential to be flexed to any time, starting earlier in the season.With Thursday, Monday and now Saturday in play, you're looking at spreading out 13-14 games over most Sundays. There would bethree orfour played at 11 a.m.,four or five in the new, main 2 p.m. windowand three or four (as usual) for now-5 p.m. slot.MORE: All-time worst Thursday gamesThis way, onegets to see more actioninstead of being overwhelmed in onethree-hour period, thenbeing too limited in the others. It's easier to consume from reality and, yes, fantasy football perspectives.The flexing is critical. The NFL would never admit it has several unappealing national games that have only regional value, but the hierarchy of broadcast teams and the coloring ofcoverage maps screamotherwise.The 11 a.m. ET slot would berelegated to non-marquee games kicking off in Eastern Vincent Rey Jersey
stadiums,with no Mountain or Pacificteams involved. The 2 p.m. ET and 5 p.m. ET slots would keep the same scheduling approach, all leading to up to one of the threebest matchupsof the day often the best on Sunday night.Monday night TV scheduleWhen Sunday Night Football arrived atNBC, it meant Monday Night Footballon ESPN would be the B-list prime-time game of the week. In general, it's one popular, surefire contender against a team that's not as marquee and projected to be more mediocre.In 2016, 12 of 17 games featured playoff teams from last season, with threematching up a pair of them. But in the end,25of the 34 MNF combatantswill end up being in some kind of contentionthis year at the time they played on Monday.That's because there arealways several of those "average" teams thatexceed expectations. For 2016, think Raiders, Falcons, Buccaneers and Giants (twice). Ravens-Patriots and Lions-Cowboys arethe two SNF-like games in the final three weeks. In between those,nobody canblame the NFL and ESPN for thinking Panthers-Redskins would also be a big game.Flexing these games won't work, because teams and fans need to know well in advance if theyneed to make plans around a Monday game. The one thing that could be done is movingkickoff to 8 p.m. ET, rather than 8:30, to cut out the superfluous pregameand finish more in line with regular network prime-time viewing.The package isgood, and that's why it hasbeen around for so long. It's not lost as much as you thinkin the transition from ABC to ESPN. Getting us to bed earlier on a school night would be nice, though.Eight days a week ... is too much to show we careThe NFL is looking to dominate the entire calendar. With an endle s cycle of offseason "events" to go with the regular season and playoffs, Boomer Esiason Jersey
there's hardly an "off" month.We get the 365/24part, but we're not down with the 7.Yes, in a perfect world for football fans, there would be an eighthday created on which to play. Based onwhat actuallyconstitutes a week, however, four NFL game days areplenty ... and just right.MORE: How NFL is changing schedule proce sThisThursday-Saturday-Sunday-Monday plan provides the bestwindows to enjoy as many games as po sible without asaturation point or diminished returns.Even withTwitter and mobile-devicestreaming serving as additional screens with which to consume the NFL, it's a productstill most and best watched on a sizeable television.The volume of the games as they stand aren't the problem. With a few tweaks tospreadout the quantity and improvethe quality, the NFL wouldbe a much better TV treat for football fans.