By Jim Roach

One element that might have gone little-noticed when the NFL released the 2018 schedule the other night was:

The new look and importance of Thursday Night Football.

Lots of fans and players complain about having to play on Thursdays because there is little rest for the weary and injuries do follow.

But the league has doubled down:

The NFL took care of its newest prime-time partner with a Thursday night schedule that looks awfully competitive on paper.

Fox will simulcast 11 Thursday games with the NFL Network, beginning with a sharp Week 4 matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams.

Eight of the 11 games feature at least one 2017 playoff team, including both Super Bowl LII teams.

Rivalry games include San Francisco 49ers-Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers-Seattle Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts-New England Patriots and the Eagles-New York Giants.

According to an NFL.com report, Fox asked the league to shift some of its premier Sunday afternoon games to Thursday night to boost the package. The league appears to have obliged.

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