Weeks 16, 17 could feature division games only

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has consistently stated that he’s troubled by late-season games in which teams that have already clinched a playoff seed decide to rest their top players rather than play to win.

As a result, Goodell said today at the annual league meetings, he’s hoping to arrange the schedule so that the last two weeks of the season are heavy on games featuring divisional opponents playing each other.

“It is still an issue and I spoke to the Competition Committee about it on Sunday,” Goodell said. “One of the key things we’re doing in the short term is in our scheduling. We’re trying to schedule, potentially, Week Seventeen will be all division opponents. And maybe even a large part of Week Sixteen.

“So we think that will address this to some extent. It will not necessarily eliminate the issue but the Competition Committee — and I’ve stressed to them — we need to continue to look at this because it’s important to the quality of what we do, the integrity of our game.”

Goodell is right that this proposal wouldn’t eliminate the problem of Week Seventeen becoming irrelevant to most teams. Re-arranging the Colts’ schedule, for instance, wouldn’t have done anything to change the fact that they benched Peyton Manning during Week 16 and sacrificed the chance at a perfect season.

But it’s a step in the right direction. A final Sunday in which all 32 teams are playing divisional opponents sounds like a more exciting day of football than the NFL has given its fans in Week Seventeen the last few years.

46 responses to “Weeks 16, 17 could feature division games only

  1. The first intelligent idea to come out of the owners’ meetings this year! I love it!

  2. Wouldn’t it change things if indoor teams like the vikings had to play at Chicago and at Green Bay the last 2 weeks of the season?
    Miami going to New England and New York the final 2 weeks.
    Let’s here from the whiners that this scheduling will favor cold weather teams instead of warmer teams and harm those with fake indoor arenas.

  3. Or this will make a rivalry game irrelevant because it doesn’t prevent a team benching its players. Let’s Dallas has it wrapped up and they’re playing Philly. Your still not going to see Romo.

  4. Finally Goodell is going to change something that will actually make the sport better

  5. No one gives a poop about the significance, or lack thereof of week 17 games.
    The point of the NFL is to win the SuperBowl..period. Every decision a team makes during the season is designed to maximize the chances of making the playoffs, and then hopefully leading to a SB ring.
    If a team believes resting its starters in week 17, after theyve already clinched a playoff spot, gives them the best chance of winning the SB, then that is the decision/risk they should take.
    Arguing that this is somehow bad for the NFL is downright ludicrous

  6. Has absolutely nothing to do with situation that teams PURPOSELY tank games in the last couple of weeks whether it was Tennessee vs. Indy 2 seasons ago and 3 seasons ago when it was done TWICE, once by each of those teams in a DIVISION SEASON ENDING GAME!

  7. Not a bad idea at all. While no one can really legislate having people start in late season games, surely there will be heavy public criticism if a team mails it in against a divisional foe.

  8. I don’t think it’ll help very much. If one team is two games up, they’ll still have nothing to play for. So not only is a regular season game ruined, a division game is ruined as well.

  9. Why not go further and bookend the season with divisional games? Weeks 1-3 and weeks 15-17 are all divisional rivalries with the remaining middle weeks devoted to the byes and other games. That waym the last 3 weeks can have a drastic influence on the playoff picture with many tie-breakers being settled by a win or loss. Start the season with the familiar rivalries and end it with a bang! Of course that gives the league and networks less backroom dealing space to arrange schedules to the network’s choosing…

  10. @ Florio
    You love to suggest the hypothetical “worst case scenario” when you try to convince us that your point is correct.
    Well, why do you not have any good response to the following:
    Let’s say the Colts clinch a playoff spot in week 14. Why in the hell is it better for the NFL to force Payton Manning to play all 60 mins of game 17, and risk blowing out his knee, or some other season ending injury vs having a healthy Manning for the playoffs?
    No one cares about week 17. Everyone cares about the playoffs. Protecting/preventing injuries, in a sport where they are extraordinarily common, is a necessary requirement for improving your chance of winning.

  11. That’s an excellent solution.
    It’s amazing that this is the same guy who let the pansies in the media change the OT rules.

  12. Great let’s see divisional rivals duke it out. your first team against my second team
    WAKE UP GOODELL your over-officious jerk. A 2 or 3 game lead in the division is secure with 2 games left. The Division champ will not play the first team no matter who they play.
    the only way to get starters to compete in the final games after they have the division locked up is to motivate both the players and the owners… if you have a way to do both things you are smarter than I am.

  13. I think that this idea makes sence, however I think that division games in the last two weeks have been a pretty common trend anyways.

  14. Obviously, the Colts are much less likely to mail it in against the likes of the Texans and Jags they they were against the Jets and Bills.

  15. Didnt the Colts lay down to the Titans and let them into the playoffs in week 17 before?
    This does nothing, the colts will still rest there best if they have it clinched.
    This will only work in AFC and NFC East where the divisions are tough and rivalries are fierce then in the NFC west where everyone sucks and backs into the playoffs anyways…..

  16. Now they need to address the games that are played after a bye week. They need to start scheduling the byes by division. The AFC North and NFC North are off week 8 and then in Week 9 the AFC North plays the NFC North.
    Or they can just schedule a division for a bye week and then when they come back from bye week they play an intra division game.

  17. Expanding the playoffs by one more wild card per conference would help too. More teams would have more to play for, only the top conference seed would get the first round bye.

  18. They need to do something and this is a good step in that direction. One of the strengths of football compared to other sports that the public is always sold is the importance of each game. Instead of 100 or more games in the season (too lazy to look up basketball and baseball counts), each game itself is so important to the football season because there is only 16, so each becomes an epic struggle.
    Instead of these epic struggles that give football a strong point over other sports, you have teams that are basically making over 12% of their season worthless and a joke. The more games they play half ass or with starters sitting, the higher that % jumps (at a high rate) because there are so few games.

  19. Now this makes sense. Make the late games “must wins”. And no more “resting your starters” (unless you’re already 6-0 in your division)

  20. I’m amazed! Something with some type of value finally getting through. Something to look forward too. Im tired of teams taking it easy on the Raiders come weeks 12-17!!!

  21. While it won’t stop the Colts from benching the starters(they did it 2 seasons back against the Titans), it will definitely add some spice to the games.
    I would actually love to have a look at stats on the point difference in divisional and non-divisional games.

  22. Oops, scratch that – can’t be 6-0 if the last two weeks are divisional can ya… [ brain fart ]

  23. The Saints played the Panthers in week 17 last year and it still didn’t do anything to solve this “problem”.
    I’m not convinced there really is THAT big of a “problem” at all. But considered solely on its own merits the idea does at least provide the possibility of some exciting games in week 17 to help offset the boring ones that will still exist.

  24. “The first intelligent idea to come out of the owners’ meetings this year! I love it!”

  25. I like the idea…but if a team has the division and 1st round bye wrapped up…it doesn’t matter who the game is against.
    The Colts had the division clinched this year and they were going to rest players no matter who they played.
    Just don’t think it solves the issue of teams that have clinched playing it like an exhibition.

  26. One issue – Having divisional rivalry games peppered through-out the season helps support TV revenue.
    For instance being a Chiefs fan, not in KC, about the only games I get to watch are the divisional rivalry games, because they’re the only ones that get national coverage.
    Having them all piled up in one or two weekends reduces the chance of getting to watch a couple of games every year.

  27. although last year the Packers played the Seahawks and Cardinals to finish the season, previously
    in 2008 the Pack finished @chicago, detroit – loss, win to finish 6-10
    in 2007 @chicago, detroit – loss, win to finish 13-3
    in 2006 detroit, minnesota, @chicago – all wins to finish 8-8
    proves nothing… as does trying to avoid the Pack-Cards and Eagles-Cowboys back-to-back matchups that happened last year. One matchup was inside a division, and one was outside.
    … and who’s to say that a NFC-AFC game in week 17 wouldn’t create the same interest if playoff positioning was involved for both teams.

  28. Hang on a minute. What does this have to do with the Ben Ruthlessbanger situation? That’s all we care about here on PFT, you know.

  29. Here’s the funny thing, Roger GoToHell: it doesn’t matter. Most of the divisions are wrapped up by the last couple of weeks, you dork, which is why many of these teams laid down. New Orleans played two of its division rivals in the last week and they had already clinched. What would have moving two division games to the end of the season meant to the Colts, who had clinched the diviison long before and would have done so by week 15, even if they had to play two of their rivals at the end of the year. Next to changing the OT rule, this is the second stupidest argument when you consider all the proposals to “fix” it. Hee’s mine: PLAY HARD FOR 17 WEEKS so you don’t have anything to bitch about when Indy or NO lays down.
    If playing division rivals at the end because it makes good TV then by all means, do it but don’t expect that this will change how teams lay down at the end when they’ve got nothing to play for. The Golden Weasel continues to show how much of a moron he is and how little he knows about football.

  30. I agree with others – the last 3 games should be against your 3 division rivals. It increases the chances of the games being meaningful. You can’t do anything about 2007 Pats being way ahead of rest of AFC east, but in 2008 NE, MIA and NYJ would have controled their own destiny.

  31. This raises the possibilty of major matchups at the end of the season. There’s always going to 5-8 dog shit games at week 17.

  32. Great idea.
    The games will have that added zing as well. Patriots-Jets, Giants-Cowboys, Packers-Bears, Steelers-Ravens, Chiefs-Raiders….
    Oh wait…..

  33. The only way this would prevent teams from laying down is they changed how division championships were given out.
    If they based it on division record, then it would prevent teams from laying down multiple times.
    Say if the Colts are 5-0 and the Titans are 4-1 entering a week 17 match up, then based on the tiebreakers that they could come up with for this, the Colts might be forced to play the game out.
    This would create some log jams in the division that could be settled based on head to head, and other in divisional tie breakers.
    I think this combined with the idea of playing the last two weeks as a divisional game is the only way to even attempt to force a team to play out their schedule.
    Of course if the Colts enter week 17 at 5-0, and the Titans are 3-2 and in 2nd place, then the Polian could still puss out and sit the starters.

  34. This is an interesting idea. Like everyone else said, it won’t stop teams from resting starters if it has already clinched it’s division. However, for divisions where the race is close it would give more interesting games on the last few weeks at least.

  35. jdavidk says:
    March 24, 2010 11:56 AM
    Now they need to address the games that are played after a bye week. They need to start scheduling the byes by division. The AFC North and NFC North are off week 8 and then in Week 9 the AFC North plays the NFC North.
    Or they can just schedule a division for a bye week and then when they come back from bye week they play an intra division game.
    Thank you! I thought I was the only one who thought that made complete sense and wondered why that wasn’t a given to the powers that be.

  36. Here is what I have been telling friends for years:
    -Week 3 would be Interconferance week where all teams play an interconferance game.
    -Week 4 would be dividion week
    -The 1st Sunday when the World series is played all NFL teams would have a bye so that would be week 7 or 8 and everyone can heal at the same time. That following Thursday play a game and play on on Friday also.
    – Week 16 would be divisional week
    – You woudl play everyone in your divsion weeks 1-8 once, then then lay them again weeks 9-17. So you would not have Pitt-Balt play in weeks 13 and 17. Also you could not play same team within 5 weeks of one another and must play within 12 weeks. So no Philly-Dallas in week 1 then nto play again until final week.

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