WASHINGTON–Washington’s professional football team has a bad case of stage fright.
The New York Giants defeated Washington 32-21 last Thursday night, continuing Washington’s recent trend of prime-time futility.
The burgundy and gold are just 4-18 since 2008 in prime-time games, a putrid 18 percent winning percentage, the second worst in the league in that span.
In the National Football League, a prime-time game can be played on Thursday, Sunday or Monday night.
At least Washington fans can take solace in that their team isn’t the league’s worst in terms of prime-time performance. The Saint Louis Rams have won just 13 percent of their prime-time games since 2008.
The Rams have only played eight games in prime time since 2008, including going 0-5 on Sunday and Monday nights.
Even though Washington nearly triples the Rams in terms of prime-time losses, D.C. faithful will be happy to learn that there is another team with more losses on the biggest stage. They’ll be less happy to learn that it’s the team that just sent Washington to 1-2, the New York Giants.
The Giants are 16-19 in prime-time action since 2008, and have played more prime-time games than any other team.
“We look at it as a 256-game schedule,” said Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s vice president of communications. “We try to maximize viewership for all 32 teams and their fans.”
Since 2008, the teams with the most regular season prime-time appearances are the Pittsburgh Steelers (36), New York Giants (35), Philadelphia Eagles (34), Dallas Cowboys (33), and Chicago Bears (33).
Although they have only made 16 appearances, the Seattle Seahawks have the NFL’s best prime-time record since 2008. Seattle is 13-3 (81.25 percent) in that stretch.
When making the regular season schedule every year, NFL executives have certain rules when it comes to prime-time games. For example a team can be slotted into prime time no more than five times in a given year, with a maximum of three times coming on “Sunday Night Football”. A team can make a sixth appearance in prime time if its game is moved to Sunday night due to NBC’s flex-scheduling. Full flex-scheduling rules can be found here.
McCarthy also spoke of the different factors that lead to the making of a “fair and competitive” schedule including dual-use stadiums—Oakland houses both a professional football and professional baseball team—and outside factors that would affect things like city traffic on a game day.
“When you throw in something like the pope’s visit to Philadelphia, we had to schedule the Eagles for an away game that weekend,” McCarthy said.
As the accompanying graphs show, in the majority of cases teams with better win-loss records are featured in prime-time games.
Unfortunately for D.C. fans, Washington seems to be the exception to the rule.
Washington plays in the NFC East with three other teams–the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles–all of whom have strong fan bases and above average win-loss records since 2008. If the other division teams were chosen for prime time, perhaps Washington was dragged kicking and screaming into the bright lights as well.
The next two teams to get a crack at prime time are the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, who are scheduled to play at 8:25 p.m. on Thursday. Both CBS and the NFL Network will televise the game.
Washington will get its next shot at prime time on Dec. 7, when Kirk Cousins and company will play host to their archrival, the Dallas Cowboys, on “Monday Night Football.”