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  1. Bucs

Thursday night games prove to be duds

If you've been unhappy with the quality of the NFL's Thursday night games this year, you're in good company.

Packers guard Josh Sitton agrees with you.

"I hate it," Sitton told ESPN on Tuesday, two days before his Packers dismantled the Vikings in a 42-10 blowout at Lambeau Field.

Sitton's reasons are personal, but they speak to the problem that has plagued the NFL's latest marquee stage. Thursday night games — once televised by the NFL Network but now shown nationally on CBS — have been lopsided duds through the first five weeks.

None of the games has been closer than 20 points. Only four NFL games all season have been decided by at least 31 points. Three of them happened on the past three Thursday nights.

The sample size is small and riddled with caveats. Friday morning the NFL took to Twitter to remind fans that this year's results don't match data from previous seasons.

According to the league, the average margin of victory in Thursday night games since 2006 is 13.6 points. That's only slightly higher than the 12-point difference every other day.

"Most of these games that I've been in have ended up being pretty good football games," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said before last month's 56-14 blowout loss on a Thursday night in Atlanta. "It's not like they're sloppy games based on not having the normal allotted amount of time between the games. A lot of times, you can't put an awful lot in and guys are excited about getting out there right away."

So why have the games been so bad? Start with injuries.

The quick turnaround didn't give All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy's broken hand enough time to heal, forcing the Bucs to compete without their best player.

Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater told reporters he probably could have started if the game were today, but his sprained ankle kept him out of the 32-point loss at Green Bay. Third-string quarterback Christian Ponder started for Bridgewater and finished 22-for-44 passing with two interceptions and no touchdowns.

"You don't have that many days to recover," Bucs offensive tackle Anthony Collins said.

Teams also don't have much time to prepare, so they have to change their schedules accordingly.

Normally the Packers have Tuesday off, but they couldn't afford that luxury this week.

"Tuesday is typically the day that your body feels the worst," Sitton told reporters. "I know for us in the offensive line room, that's what we always talk about. The second day, you always feel" terrible.

Road teams also have even less time to prepare, because they usually travel the day before the game. Not surprisingly, home teams have won four of the five Thursday night games — the Giants' 45-14 win at Washington is the exception.

Regardless of why Thursday night games have been lopsided, teams haven't let the big losses linger. Teams that dropped a game the previous Thursday are undefeated in their next Sunday game; the Packers and Bucs both rallied from second-half deficits for one-score victories.

Contact Matt Baker at mbaker@tampabay.com. Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

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