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The NFL’s Alternate (Uni-verse) Week

The NFL pulled out all the stops this week when it comes to on-field looks we don’t normally see. It started with Thanksgiving, continued on Black Friday, and will be out in full force today, tonight and Monday night. That’s right. Just in time for the Holiday shopping season, NFL teams busted (or will bust) out throwbacks, color rush and alternates in spades.

There are 16 games this week: Three on Thanksgiving, one on Black Friday, 11 games today, and one tomorrow night. Of the 32 teams involved, a whopping FIFTEEN teams will be wearing either a CR, throwback or alternate. Included in this will also be a (potentially terrible looking) color-vs-color game, and a uniform combination which has never been worn.

Obviously, the proliferation of alternate looks is partially attributable to the NFL lifting the single shell restriction last year. But I can’t think of a week (except possibly when teams wore throwbacks for the NFL’s 75th anny in 1994, and the AFL’s 60th season celebration in 2009) when this many teams wore alternates in the same week.

Paul already covered the Thanksgiving Day uni matchups, and in every game there was at least one alternate/CR or throwback worn. Let’s run them all down quickly.

Thanksgiving Thursday, November 23

1. Lions (vs. Packers)

Glorious-looking game to kick the week off! If you’re saying “The Lions should always wear throwbacks on Thanksgiving,” you’re not alone.

2. Cowboys (vs. Commanders)

This game would have looked better if the Commanders hadn’t gone mono-white. If you’re saying “The Cowboys should always wear throwbacks on Thanksgiving,” you’re not alone.

3. and 4. Forty-Niners vs. Seahawks

The Niners also threw back, in Seattle — where they have a tendency to go with their white “1955->1994” fauxback (the true throwback would have red socks) — against the “Action” green-clad Seahawks. I don’t actually hate the neon jersey, but it’s much better when they don’t go full-neon.

Black Friday, November 24

5. Jets (vs. Dolphins)

The Jets dressed appropriately for the death of their season, which took another blow Friday when the Dolphins took them out behind the woodshed. Paul has noted that the Jets lobbied the NFL to create a Black Friday game, and apparently have requested it be an annual thing with New York playing every year (the same way Dallas and Detroit always play on Thanksgiving). Hopefully they’re rethinking that now.

Sunday, November 26

There will be lots of different looks on the gridiron today, after the first four games of the week set the stage. Not every game will involve an alternate jersey, uniform or helmet, but there are a few.

6. Texans (vs. Jaguars)

For the third time this season, the Texans will be wearing their alternate red helmet. But this will be the first time ever they’re pairing it with their mono-red alternate. Earlier this season they paired the red helmet with their red jerseys and white pants, and also broke out a never-before-worn combo last week, pairing their red helmet with their CR alternates. Houston seems to be making good use of the alternate shell rule, which only permits the second helmet to be worn with a throwback (“Classic” in NFL parlance), CR or third jersey.

7. and 8. Falcons vs. Saints

Two specialty unis in this one: The Saints introduced their new black helmet last year, and are pairing it with their CR/fauxback. The Falcons counter with their 1966 throwbacks. This should be a pretty good looking game, although I’d rather see the Saints wear the black helmets with their all-black primaries (which I’m sure they will once the current restriction to alt/CR/throwback is lifted). If you’re saying “The Falcons should make these permanent,” you’re not alone.

9. Bengals (vs. Steelers)

Nothing major here, but the Bengals will wear their alternate orange jerseys — pairing them with black pants and orange socks (a look they’ve worn previously).

10. Buccaneers (vs. Colts)

The Buccaneers will be wearing their dreadful mono-pewter alternates. They might not look so bad if Nike could actually produce, ya know, actual pewter, but what the Bucs wear is more of an anthracite/brown. Not only are the Bucs going mono-pewter, the Colts are scheduled to wear their blue jerseys, so this will end up being a color-vs-color game (and not the good kind). This isn’t even the first time the Bucs have gone mono-pewter-vs-color. Back in 2020, they wore it against the orange-shirted Broncos. Let’s hope this is the last time they do that.

11. and 12. Rams vs. Cardinals

The Cardinals got new uniforms for 2023, one of which included an alternate black helmet and an all-black alternate uniform. They’ll be wearing that today against the Rams, who for some reason still have their dishwater alternate in their lineup. The team hasn’t announced which pants they’ll pair with the “bone” jerseys, but they’ve worn all sorts of combos. None of them look good, and this game will look terrible.

13. Eagles (vs. Bills)

The Eagles (finally) added Kelly green throwbacks this year. They’ll wear them for the second time this season when they host the mono-white Bills. If you’re saying “The Eagles should make these permanent,” you’re not alone.

14. Chargers (vs. Ravens)

The Sunday Night Football matchup between Baltimore and LA will feature the Chargers wearing their dark blue alternates. When the Chargers redesigned for the 2020 season, most of us felt it was the best modern set ever introduced. Well, except for the dark blue alternates. They’ll be dressed in their Sunday worst tonight.

Monday, November 27

15. Vikings (vs. Bears)

Another team to introduce a new throwback for 2023 were the Vikings, and they wore those in an opening weekend game against Tampa Bay. They’ll break them out again for the second time this season tomorrow night vs. Chicago. If you’re saying “The Vikings should make these permanent,” you’re not alone.

And there you have it. 16 games, 15 alternates. Other than maybe Week 3 of 1994, I’m thinking this might be the most alternate uniforms ever worn during a single NFL week (if someone wants to try to check that, please be my guest). By my count we have:

5 Throwbacks: Lions, Cowboys, Falcons, Eagles, Vikings

5 Color Rush: 49ers, Seahawks, Saints, Buccaneers, Chargers

5 Alternates: Jets, Texans, Bengals, Rams, Cardinals

Enjoy the games today — if you like alternate looks, this is definitely the week for you.

Comments (26)

    (the true throwback would have red socks)
    *picture shows 49ers player wearing red socks*
    Yes, I know there were players wearing white socks, but I just find it funny that the comment doesn’t quite match the picture chosen. And, it’s really the league’s fault for allowing socks to be essentially downgraded from “part of the uniform” to “miscellaneous equipment”.

    Hah! Yeah, that kinda defeats my own argument, but the SF player isn’t even wearing socks OR compression pants. Those are essentially tubes or compression sleeves. And when I was writing that, I was looking at a different photo from that game where a player was wearing white socks.

    Not only is the NFL not enforcing sock wearing for regular unis (as Paul has lamented, it’s a total shit show), but *technically* the 49ers white throwback is classified as their CR uniform, which is supposed to require mono-white from shoulder to toe (their red throwback is classified as their “Classic” uniform). So by wearing the historically “correct” hosiery, he’s actually breaking CR rules!

    Fight the power!

    You’re preaching to the choir!

    But untucked undershirts, the yoga-pants look, sock shenanigans…

    it’s all the rage (for now, hopefully). I’ve given up screaming at clouds on this stuff anymore…I just hope this particular trend ends sooner rather than later.

    If you want to look at a genesis for this, blame Nike — when they introduced CR back in 2015, the NFL lifted the “low white” sock rule. Once teams were allowed to wear solid color socks, that’s when this really began to take off.

    Falcons and Saints should return to those looks. Or at least have NO put stripes down their pants sides. Their unitard look is awful.

    Yep, the Saints just need the Gold helmet with these….
    Black pants need stripes to match helmet, then black helmet, jersey, pants…
    Throwbacks from 94 very sweet…a lotta bad teams wore those

    The field looks weird in that game.
    Just saw the halftime highlights, and you know how some fields alternate light and dark green turf every five yards? The yard numbers are light and dark white.
    It’s as if they painted over the numbers as well as the turf on the darker sections.

    So many little rules…how many times you can wear this, and with what…it’s a sport within a sport.

    As far as “X team” should go back to this full time, there is no full time anymore. If you like a classic look, throwbacks are as good as it’s going to get. There’s real money to be made in having a LOT of retail jerseys available.

    Except when you saturate your own market with an entire closet’s worth of options for an 18-week season. Authentic jerseys sell for almost $400; multiply that by 3 or more jerseys, you’re trying to tak fans into spending over a thousand dollars on just jerseys. Unlimited options is fun for Madden but they’re approaching critical mass. The NBA is already there and they play nearly 5 times as many games.

    Not a throwback but the TItans are wearing their navy jerseys over their white pants at home for the first time with these uniforms in a regular season home game.

    I don’t like the Texans in red, but maybe the mono-red look is better than the red/red/white? To me it’s the navy accents on the white pants that distract me. And seems better than red/navy/navy. Just go all in on red.

    Quick: name an NFL team that looks good in all-red. Chiefs? Nope. Cardinals? Nein. We call it “blood clots” for a reason and it isn’t complementary.

    The fact that the Falcons’ throwbacks are universally favored as their permanent uniforms is precisely why it will never happen.

    The Atlanta Falcons organization has such a long, rich history of giving it’s fans the finger, that at this point they could probably be clinically diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder.

    Respectfully, Nathan, I’m afraid it’s simpler than that. The young fans that the Falcons are mostly marketing to–the ones who they hope will still be buying tickets & merch a generation from now–simply don’t value the same things that older fans and visitors to this site value. As you’ve no doubt gathered from young players who insist on a certain degree of “swagginess” in their approach to gear, deliberate philistinism is all the current rage and can’t be wished away.

    If an NFL franchise feels it can’t afford to look good usually, it’s the market equivalent of the politician who once observed “The people have spoken … the bastards.”

    I posted before I finished, was going to say: Good thing there’s some interesting uniforms out there since not a single game is on grass (early window), looks depressing.

    The Black Friday game should not be the same team every year. Also Thanksgiving game should not be Dallas and Detroit every year.

    The Black Friday Game (a contest that has no reason to exist) need not be taken literally. But if it remains a thing, it should pit 2 black-clad teams against each other – think Raiders/Steelers, Saints/Falcons(though they ‘should’ be a red team!), Ravens/Jags or some such combination.
    As for Thanksgiving – it’s Detroit and Dallas’ day- and should always play a division rival… the 3rd game can take a hike.

    Am I alone in thinking the Chargers would look good in royal blue jersey and yellow pants?

    Not in the least. Wait for my 2/3/2/3 project for the AFC West…I think you’ll enjoy what I’ve come up with!

    Yellow pants have been needed to be added to the royal top since the debut of the CR. Was that like 2016 or so? Harken back to the olden Chargers Fouts/Winslow days.

    I love the dark blue Chargers alternates….not sure what people don’t like?? It is good counter programming to the light blue

    Am I the only one who saw that the Eagles helmets did not match the jerseys or was it just on my TV? I don’t remember it looking that way back in the day.

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