Broncos owner playing chess with Thursday Night Football vote?

Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos
Los Angeles Chargers v Denver Broncos / Justin Edmonds/GettyImages

As if NFL teams and players didn't already love Thursday Night Football enough (note the sarcasm), now the league has the option to flex games into a Thursday night slot and the teams being flexed can't do anything about it. The NFL passed a new rule that will go into effect for the 2023 season which will allow the league to decide whether or not a game will be flexed into Thursday Night Football, and the Denver Broncos are obviously impacted by this.

It's certainly not unanimous, but most teams do not like playing on Thursday Night Football. It's less time for your players' bodies to recover, it's less time to prepare for the upcoming opponent, and as we saw last season, it can be extremely dangerous for players. We saw that firsthand with Miami Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa suffering a very scary brain injury on the field.

Despite the fact that Thursday football is not the ideal scenario for teams and players, the league sees an opportunity to make more money so they are going to take it. And they now have their end of a massive TV contract to uphold as Amazon holds the rights to Thursday Night Football streaming. Amazon paid a lot of money ($1.3 billion per year for the next 11 years, to be exact) to get the rights to stream NFL football on Thursdays, so they want the best possible matchups.

The league did give them some rather good matchups this coming season, so this new "flex" rule won't be able to be implemented until later in the year when the stakes are much higher.

Let's look at some of the details of this new option at the league's disposal:

- Games can only be flexed from Week 13 - Week 17
- Decision to flex a game must be made 28 days in advance
- No team can be flexed into Thursday night more than once
- Maximum number of Thursday night games remains two per team
- Teams cannot play two road TNF games in one season

Okay, that's a lot to digest, so let's break down exactly what it means from the Denver Broncos' perspective. First and foremost, it's important to note that Broncos owner Greg Penner was one of the 24 owners who voted to pass this flex option. It is on a trial basis, so the league will decide whether or not it was worth keeping after the 2023 season, assuming they flex any games at all.

Denver Broncos not really impacted by Thursday Night Football Flex Rule

Broncos matchups in Week 13 - Week 17

Week 13: @ Houston Texans
Week 14: @ Los Angeles Chargers
Week 15: @ Detroit Lions
Week 16: vs. New England Patriots (already prime time)
Week 17: vs. Los Angeles Chargers

Because the Broncos' first three games of this particular stretch of the season are on the road, they are unaffected by this particular rule. The game against the New England Patriots is already being held in prime time, so that game cannot be flexed into the TNF slot.

The last option, then, is a home game against the Los Angeles Chargers. That game could be flexed into Thursday Night Football, but this is becoming an easier Sudoku puzzle to figure out by the second. A quick glance at the Chargers' schedule shows a Thursday Night Football matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 15 already. That means the league's rules prevent the Chargers from being flexed into TNF for that Broncos game as well.

Was Greg Penner playing chess with this vote to approve the flex option? It has no impact on the Broncos, but it could possibly impact the Raiders or other AFC foes throughout the season. Anything to gain a competitive advantage, right?

Since the Denver Broncos can't be flexed in any of these situations this rule doesn't impact them for the time being. But it could have a positive impact on the team if it trips up another AFC team on the way to the 2023-24 playoffs.