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Ask Sam Farmer: What can be done about NFL's Thursday night blowouts?

Ask Sam Farmer: What can be done about NFL's Thursday night blowouts?
Green Bay's Eddie Lacy runs for a touchdown during the Packers' 42-10 trouncing of Minnesota on Thursday night. (Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images)

Have a question about the NFL? Ask Times NFL writer Sam Farmer, and he will answer as many as he can online and in the Sunday editions of the newspaper throughout the season. Email questions to: sam.farmer@latimes.com

Question: What can the NFL do about all the Thursday night blowouts?
Jim Perry
Santa Monica

Farmer:  It’s definitely a problem, with the average margin of victory in this season’s four Thursday games at 31.3 points. What’s more, they’re all division matchups this season, so they’re that much more important.

Rick Neuheisel suggests arranging the schedule so a team has its bye the week before it plays on a Thursday, giving players 11 days to prepare instead of the current four. Before he was UCLA's coach, Neuheisel was offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, and he said that because there isn't time to practice a new game plan for a midweek game, teams typically use the same one from the game four days earlier. It's like serving leftovers.

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Not only that, but players are still sore, so the tackling tends to be sloppier. The visiting teams are at a particular disadvantage, because they lose precious time in transit, time that could be spent on the practice field or in the ice tub.

If the pattern we’ve seen so far continues, the league is going to have to tweak its system of scheduling. Otherwise, millions of viewers will be channel surfing by halftime.

Question: The Chargers have so many running backs hurt. How long can they keep winning that way?
Matt Hubbard
Rancho Palos Verdes

Farmer: The Chargers are 31st in rushing, and that’s partly a reflection of lousy run blocking. The team was smart to pick up Donald Brown in the off-season, because with Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead hurt, Brown can do some of the things that those two diverse players do.

San Diego wants to be balanced, and should be more so as the season goes on. Mathews should be back this month. As for the run blocking, it's got to get better. Hard to get worse.

The Chargers do have the benefit of a somewhat favorable schedule during the next three weeks. They are home against the Jets, at Oakland and back home against Kansas City.

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