As the NFL closes in on a new slate of TV deals so that it can officially expand the regular season to 17 games, the formula that will be used to determine each team’s seventeenth game will pay immediate dividends for the league, the networks (or at least one of them), and anyone interested in watching compelling football games.
The extra game, as explained here when the league first moved toward officially adopting it, will pit the teams of a division from one conference against the teams of a division from the other conference, first place against first place from the prior year, and so on. King believes that the extra game in 2021 for AFC West teams will come against NFC North teams, given that the AFC West did a round-robin against the NFC North in 2019. This would mean the first-place Packers will face the first-place Chiefs.
But don’t get too excited about a first-ever visit to Lambeau Field by Patrick Mahomes. King also writes that the lopsided reality of half the league hosting nine games and the other half hosting eight games means that all teams from one conference will have the extra home game in a given year, starting with all AFC teams in 2021. Thus, the next slate of games will include Packers at Chiefs, Bears at Raiders, Vikings at Chargers, Lions at Broncos.
Of course, an injury to one of the two quarterbacks could derail the long-awaited Rodgers-Mahomes matchup, like it did in 2019 during Mahomes’ absence arising from a knee injury. Also, if the folks at Jeopardy decide to offer the full-time hosting gig to Rodgers and if it starts in September, well, there’s a chance (remote as it may be) that he’ll choose the full-time TV gig that could last for decades.
Otherwise, it’ll be Rodgers facing Mahomes for the first time ever. The question then becomes when it will be played: Late Sunday afternoon, Sunday night, Monday night, Thanksgiving night, Christmas (which lands on a Saturday this year), or maybe even New Year’s Day (which also lands on a Saturday).
Finally, if the 2019 interconference slate indeed determines the extra game in 2021, the slate of extra games would include, among others: Buccaneers at Colts; Cowboys at Patriots; Seahawks at Steelers; Rams at Ravens; and Saints at Titans.