17 Games is Coming … And So Should Playoff Changes

The proverbial other shoe dropped on Sunday morning when the NFL owners announced that not only will the 17-game schedule make its debut in 2021, but also, what form the 17th games for each team will take.

As predicted here on multiple occasions, the extra game will be an inter-conference game matching up teams that had the same finish in their respective divisions the year before. Thus, henceforth, a first-place team will play five games against other first-place teams the following season, with four games each against second, third, and fourth-place teams — while a fourth-place team will play four games against first-place teams, with four second, four third, and five fourth.

Also, as predicted here, one year the AFC will host all 16 of the new games, then the following year, the NFC will host all 16 of them (it has not yet been determined which conference will host all of them in 2021) — the idea being that all teams battling for division titles, playoff berths, or playoff seeds will have played the same number of home games, and the same number of away games.

So far the owners are hemming and hawing as to whether the exhibition — excuse me, the preseason — will be cut to two games, or merely to three, or whether there will be a second bye week for each team during the regular season.

One would think that there will be a second bye week, for three reasons: first, it would enable the league to give all teams playing a Thursday game an automatic bye the week before; second, it would add another week's worth of televised games, and the, to say the least, considerable amount of additional revenue that would come bundled with that (and the networks, which have yet to weigh in on the extended schedule, will likely all but demand that this be done); and third, it would push the Super Bowl back two weeks, to the Presidents' Day weekend, thus making "Super Bowl Monday" a de-facto holiday for scores of millions of Americans.

(President-elect Joe Biden could give his approval rating a major shot in the arm right off the bat by issuing an executive order placing Presidents' Day on an equal footing with New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas as full-blown national holidays, meaning that essentially everyone would get the day off.)

So we should all get our Andrea True Connection CDs out and sing along: "More, more, more/How do you like it, how do you like it?"

Except for one thing: now each team will play only six out of 17, or 35.3%, of their games within their own division, down from six out of 16, or 37.5% — making a repeat of this year's "NFC Least" situation that much more likely.

The owners need to nip this in the bud by changing the seeding format as soon as possible: from 2021 onward, all playoff teams need to be seeded strictly by record, with division finish being used only as the first tie-breaker — a safe and sane compromise that is observed by the NBA (actually in the NBA, division finish is the second tie-breaker, after head-to-head — the more division-obsessed NFL would probably prefer that it be the first instead).

A division winner with a sub-.500 record — and there will also be more of those due to the odd number of games going forward — would still get an "automatic bid" into the playoffs, just like the "champion" of some cow conference gets an automatic bid into the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

But the latter is not guaranteed a higher seed than every single at-large team — and neither should the former be guaranteed a higher seed than every wild-card team.

The new schedule will not only be longer, but also fairer.

Awesome job, Roger — something he has seldom heard anyone say to him during his stint as commissioner.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site