All eyes will be on Joe Burrow as the No. 1 overall pick makes his prime-time debut on Thursday Night Football versus the Cleveland Browns.
The Cincinnati Bengals quarterback could be amped up for his first professional game under the lights. But the Heisman Trophy-winning, LSU product isn't considering Thursday's divisional bout as anything more than simply the next game of the season.
"No. I think the best quarterbacks treat every game the same," Burrow said this week, via The Athletic. "So whether we're playing the only game on a Thursday night or we're playing at 1 o'clock on Sunday in the rain, it doesn't matter. That's my mindset."
It's a good mindset for any quarterback, let alone a rookie, to take. The best teams and the best players take a one-game-at-a-time approach. Still, no one would fault Burrow if he came out tonight with a tad extra juice for the in-state rivalry.
Despite the nationwide obsession with how QBs play in prime time -- and the outsized opinions performances in those situations create -- the stats match up with Burrow's mantra when it comes to veteran QBs.
According to NFL Research, since 2000, veteran quarterbacks (5-plus seasons) have nearly identical records (win percent) and passer rating in prime-time games versus non-prime-time games: Prime time: .511 win percent and 89.5 passer rating; non-prime time: .518 win percent and 86.8 passer rating.
While veteran QBs have had similar results in prime-time games and afternoon games, rookies have had a different experience. Since 2000, rookie QBs have a higher win percent (.457) and passer rating (78.0) in prime time than in all other games (.380 win percent; 74.6 passer rating). Perhaps it's a sample-size issue, or that rookies playing in prime time are usually high picks. QBs selected top-10 overall are 20-14 in their first career prime-time start (.588) since 2000.
Since 2015, however, rookie QBs selected in the Top 3 overall are just 1-3 in their first prime-time start. The lone win in Burrow's opponent tonight: Baker Mayfield.
In his first NFL game, Burrow completed 23 of 36 passes (63.9 percent) for 193 yards with no passing TDs, added a rushing score, and had one bad INT in a three-point loss to the Chargers. The rookie's assessment of his own performance in the last-second loss was blunt.
"In my eyes, I played terrible through three-and-a-half quarters and then played up to my standards in the last drive and almost won the game," Burrow said. "I know I'll be ready for it and I just have to keep that same mindset in the two-minute drill and bring that along for the rest of the season."
Tonight, he'll have a chance to rectify the mistakes in prime time.
Thursday Night Football kicks off with the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns at 8:20 p.m. ET tonight only on NFL Network.