Signs point toward interconference matchups for 17th game

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The NFL hasn’t provided the NFL Players Association with many/any details regarding how a 17th regular-season game would be implemented. On Monday, Packers CEO Mark Murphy shared one very important aspect of the extra game with Mark Maske of the Washington Post.

Via Maske, Murphy said that all teams in one conference would have nine home games one season and then eight home games the next season. This points directly to the 17th game pitting each of the 16 teams from one conference against the 16 teams from the other conference, pushing the total interconference games played each year by every team from four to five.

As explained in October, the league crafted the perfect formula in 2002, when the Texans joined the league and the number of teams hit an even 32. Currently, each team plays: (1) the other three teams in its own division twice; (2) all four teams from one of the other divisions in its conference, on a three-year rotating basis; (3) all four teams from one of the divisions in the other conference, on a four-year rotating basis; and (4) the teams from the other two divisions in its own conference that finished in the same position during the prior year.

Currently, schedule weighting based on the outcome from the prior season comes only from the fourth category, with the four teams in a given division having only two games tied to where each team finished in the prior season. A 17th game could inject more parity into the schedule.

With every team already playing four teams from one division in the other conference, the 17th game would entail facing a team from one of the other three divisions in the other conference, based on where teams finished in those divisions in the prior year. It would rotate each year, allowing for example the four teams of the AFC North to play the four teams of the NFC East and then one more team from the NFC North, with the first-place AFC North team from the prior year playing the first-place NFC North team from the prior year, and so on.

While some (like Big Cat on Friday’s PFT Live) would like to see the 17th game entail an annual contest against a geographic rival, teams like the Jets and Giants already play once every four years when all teams of the AFC East play all teams of the NFC East. Would the Jets and Giants play once every year and twice every four years?

And what if, for example, the Rams and Chargers play every year but the Rams are great every year and the Chargers stink every year? That would be horribly unfair for the other three teams in the NFC West (who may be playing tougher geographi rivals from the AFC), and for the Chargers (who would be getting curb stomped by the Rams every year).

There are other problems with setting up geographic rivalries. Put simply, there will be odd teams out. (Go ahead, try to find a geographic rival from the AFC for the Cardinals after tying the Chargers to the Rams and the Raiders to the 49ers and the Broncos to the Seahawks and the Texans to the Cowboys.)

The better approach would entail an annual division-vs.-division matchup with first-place team playing first-place team from divisions in opposing conferences and second-place team playing second-place team from those same two divisions, and so on.

With the NFL also determined to add one more playoff team per conference, in turn putting even greater importance on the No. 1 seed, requiring the first-place teams from each division to play one more first-place team per year (pushing the annual total to five first-place teams in a 17-game slate) would tend to inject a little more parity into the annual scrum for that top seed.

35 responses to “Signs point toward interconference matchups for 17th game

  1. I’m not a huge fan of the move to 17 games as I think the current format is nice and symmetrical, but if they are gonna do it, I think this is the best possible way. It provides for some possible interconference rivalries and also not having to wait 4 years for 2 great teams to play each other

  2. I heard a caller on the radio who had a pretty good idea. Week 17 should be flexible. The top 2 in a division play each other, so that game would be a playoff tie breaking scenario. The bottom 2 in the division would play I guess for draft position.

  3. NFL should incentivize the pro bowl by awarding the winning conference the additional home game.

  4. Create a rival interconference game each season based on location where possible. Texans vs Cowboys, Steelers vs Eagles, Ravens vs Skins, Bucs vs Dolphins, etc.

  5. What if the parity of the 17th game was based on conference position and not just division position? That would ensure greater parity in the case where one or two teams win their division at 8-8 or worse.

  6. I am not sure if you can find 16 stadiums that are not already in NFL markets, but maybe make game 17 (and maybe not necessarily in week 18) a neutral site game. For places like Mexico, London, St. Louis, San Antonio, etc. That way everyone plays 8 home, 8 away and a neutral site. Assign Heads to one team and Tails to another (by standings and/or team name) and whoever wins the toss get’s to choose the kickoff.

    With that being said, can we stop with the coin flip in the regular season please?! Each team (for now) gets 8 home and 8 away games. Just let the home team pick what the coin flip does now and be done with it.

  7. The 17th game wll be used for international games, where a team like the Eagles or Steelers being designated the home team. Because as it stands now, good luck getting a team like those, or the Packers, Giants, Cowboys, Broncos, etc to give up a home game for an international game.

    The 17th game has incredible opportunities for neutral site games in the US. Can you imagine how nice it would be to have Eagles-Steelers at Happy Valley, Lions-Colts at Notre Dame, or Falcons-Titans at Tuscaloosa.

  8. The NFL’S schedule for each team since going to 8 divisions in 2002 for the 2 non divisional games is very random (teams play 6 games of inter divisional opponents, 4 games of same conference different divisions, 4 interconference/divisional games, and then 2 random same conference games). You’d think after 18 years of play with 15 other teams in conference teams would have played each other at least a couple of times. Not so. Imagine not having to go east to west in travel? In these two bonus games, for example, New England has never played Oakland. So no east to west.

  9. As much as I hate saying this. These would be perfect games for international and neutral site games. So no one gains or loses home games. Spread them out thru the year, but everyone has 8 home 8 away and 1 of these special site games.

  10. Can’t say as though I really mind a 17th game, as long as it decided before the season starts. Would be a scheduling nightmare if it were decided after the season started. The extra playoff team doesn’t sit well though. It would be watering down the playoffs. The extra 17th game would go a long way in deciding deserving playoff teams. Leave the playoffs alone!

  11. Andrew Christian says:
    February 24, 2020 at 7:44 pm
    What if the parity of the 17th game was based on conference position and not just division position? That would ensure greater parity in the case where one or two teams win their division at 8-8 or worse.
    Well, that would be good, but it would be a scheduling nightmare. Imagine if you are the Seahawks, gearing up to play the Broncos in Denver, but in Week 16 the Ravens overtake them! Now, you have to make an adjustment to the schedule, and is that the new SNF Game? How would you sell tickets on such short notice?

    Having said that, I believe the final opponent should be based on the previous year’s standings.

  12. errwhatever says:
    February 24, 2020 at 8:52 pm
    Or..just keep it as is. That seems to work pretty well.

    64 2 Rate This

  13. Rivals for each team:
    Seahawks vs. Raiders
    49ers vs. Chargers
    Rams vs. Chiefs
    Cardinals vs. Broncos
    Cowboys vs. Texans
    Giants vs. Jets
    Redskins vs. Ravens
    Eagles vs. Steelers
    Packers vs. Patriots
    Vikings vs. Bills
    Bears vs. Colts
    Lions vs. Browns
    Saints vs. Jaguars
    Bucs vs. Dolphins
    Panthers vs. Bengals
    Falcons vs. Titans
    This is my honest opinion, have any other suggestions

  14. Just go to 19 games. Then you can play the corresponding interconference rank in each division just like they do now in their own conference. Only way to keep the math easy

  15. The NFL had a perfect formula with an even 32 teams and a perfect playoff arrangement. Is one division now going to have an uneven five teams?
    The money hungry NFL screwed that up! I was once a big fan of NFL football. I watched every game every week. I kept track of all teams and where the stood every week. I will always love my Steelers but I loose more interest in the league every year.

  16. I like the idea of more geographical rivals, though this is tougher for some teams than others. For example, Cleveland and Detroit or Cleveland and Indy make sense.

    Or how about the 17th game is a team playing the team from the other conference that finished in the same rank the previous season?

    I don’t know. Ultimately I think the NFL wants to use the 17th game for international expansion as much as possible. Remember, they’re shooting for $25 billion by 2025.

  17. The schedule should remain 16 games. However, each team should have 2 bye weeks. This would still allow the NFL to have an extra week of regular season games without risking increase player fatigue and injury.

  18. There isn’t enough natural rivalries for all 32 teams.besides,why should one team in a division play a powerhouse every year and another play a patsy.makes no sense to me.

  19. Just add another bye week !!! WAKE UP !!!
    Give the entire AFC a bye in week 8 and the entire NFC a bye in week 8. Then next year switch it !
    Just make sure no team has 2 bye weeks together !

  20. I like the idea of making game 17 be used to create a new rivalry. You don’t have to be geographically close to be a long-term rival. Look at USC and Notre Dame.

  21. Robert Zak says: “Just add another bye week !!! WAKE UP !!!”

    Right. Please explain why a network would pay an extra $600 million just because you stretched out the schedule without adding any new content…

  22. Give the entire AFC a bye in week 8 and the entire NFC a bye in week

    No way this will happen. A week without football. The NFL would loose money.

  23. I appreciate the idea behind making the 17th game at a neutral site, but the purpose of a 17th game isn’t to make things more interesting. It’s for the owners to rake in more money, so they’ll probably want the extra game to be at their home stadiums every other year.

  24. I already came up with the formula for the 17th game. And yes, it’s an interconference matchup against the team in the same position in the divison the team didn’t play last year, this year or next year. So, for instance, the NFC North teams faced the AFC West last year, the AFC South this year, and the AFC North next year. Therefore, their 17th game would be vs the team in the same position last season from the AFC East, so it’d be Packers-Patriots, Vikings-Bills, Bears-Jets and Lions-Dolphins.

  25. I don’t know any Lions fans that were clamoring to watch David Blough start another game last year.

  26. I would love to see the Patriots and the Giants play more. Just a fun matchup and historically entertaining games. I could do Patriots/Eagles too. That whole Revolutionary War, Bastion of Liberty thing presents an interesting backdrop.

  27. If the NFLPA agrees to add a 17th game, I don’t want hear anything more about player safety.

  28. Luck of the draw…from a hat, that is. Example: since the AFC East plays the NFC West, let’s say when the Jets draw for example and they draw from the hat,say, the Niners, since they already play the Niners they draw again and get the Bucs. that takes the Bucs out of the equation. And then the Bills draw from the hat and they draw the Cardinals, well since they play the Cardinals already they draw again and draw the Bears…and on and on.

    OR…when the Jets draw since they finished in third place in the AFC East they can draw the 3 third places teams from not-the-NFC West, and they draw from the hat the Redskins, and when another third place team draws the Skins are out of the mix. And so on.

    Really, they should keep it at 16 games. But money first, player safety second, right?

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