NFL carefully plans a compelling Week 17

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As you take a breath following a riveting regular-season finale between the Packers and Vikings and wait for what necessarily will be the first game of the 2012 postseason, take a look at this item from Judy Battista of the New York Times regarding the manner in which the NFL planned the final course of a 17-week meal.

The seeds were planted several years ago, when the NFL decided to go with intra-division games for the last week of the season.  More recently, the NFL began to pay attention to the scheduling of the games played on the final Sunday of the season.

That Cowboys-Redskins game, with the winner capturing the NFC East and the loser heading home, nearly couldn’t have happened because the NFL and NBC considered placing the Week 16 game between the Saints and Cowboys on NBC.  Doing so would have maxed out the Cowboys’ national-TV allotment for the year, preventing the Cowboys from appearing in prime time in Week 17.

In all, 10 of the 16 games from the final week of the season had playoff implications, and the NFL deliberately selected games like the Packers and Vikings for a 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff and not for prime time because there’s no guarantee that the outcome would have changed playoff scenarios.  The Packers could have sewn up the No. 2 seed before 8:30 p.m. ET, and the Vikings could have nailed down a playoff berth before playing their final game of the year.

And so the NFL chose to go with Cowboys-Redskins, even though FOX didn’t want to give up that game.

“FOX wasn’t thrilled, but we have constant dialogue with them,” Howard Katz, NFL senior V.P. of broadcasting and media operations told Battista.  “They let us know they’d like to keep the Dallas game if at all possible. It could have been Green Bay going for the 1 seed, Minnesota having to win to get the 6 seed and Adrian Peterson going for the rushing record. But in the end, there were things that could have negated it all. We had to go with the sure thing.”

The only sure thing was Cowboys at Redskins, which became even more of a sure thing once the Bears won, preventing the Redskins from backing in to the postseason with a loss.

The message is that, while the Week 17 slate already featured plenty of compelling games with playoff implications, the NFL specifically configured the day to maximize the drama inherent to the effort both to qualify for the playoffs and to capture the highest possible seed.

For Sunday night, the drama will be high.  Cowboys vs. Redskins, in the biggest installment of the rivalry since they squared off in the 1982 NFC title game.

9 responses to “NFL carefully plans a compelling Week 17

  1. The GB-Minn game should have been the one flexed to prime time anyway. In order for the game to have meant nothing Seattle, SF, Chicago, Dallas, and Chicago, and NYG all would have had to lose. Very unlikely, especially when considering their opponents. You would have most likely had GB playing for the bye, Minn playing for their playoff lives, and Adrian playing for the rushing record. Much more intriguing than just the NFC East title.

    But I understand the national “love” for the NFC East.

  2. @cromartie, Dal-Was is a win or go home game. How is it any less compelling than GB-Min, seeing as GB had already wrapped up the North.

  3. Fox still whining after one of the best games of the season ?

    Rodgers/Peterson in a slug fest … That was a fun game to watch – hate the result thou (smh at the run defense).

  4. Had there not been replacement refs, the Green Bay Packers would have a 1st round bye and the game vs. the Vikings wouldn’t matter (not that it mattered much for the Packers anyway).

    I’m not ready to crown anyone a genius for making games matter the last week by pitting intra-conference games.

  5. I hate the all-division thing. For one, it eliminates the possibility of any wild-card play-in games (think Vikings-Giants, for example), takes some of the intrigue out of the final week because it’s same-old same-old with a team you see every year, and lastly you have so many mismatches, like New England facing a patsy like Miami or Buffalo or Pittsburgh playing Cleveland rather than New England playing a team like Denver or Houston (a game for homefield perhaps?). Typical Goodell fixing something that wasn’t broken. He was just crying because the Colts didn’t go for 16-0 and he didn’t get to merchandise the “Perfect Season” memorabilia for more money in his already-bloated wallet.

  6. I also hate the way the wild card is conducted. My sweet Eli Manning got 5TD passes in one game and the Giants beat the Eagles 42 to 7. Subsequently, they had a record of 9 and 7, the same year the giants won the superboal. Yet this year, they did not make the playoffs because the Lions lost to the Bears. It is so unjust. I think this needs to change. I feel so awful for Eli Manning.

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