The NFL news cycle has been dominated by the idea of adding a couple extra teams to the playoffs, but Adam Schefter dropped an interesting note about another potential change:
More details: Under the current CBA proposal that NFL owners are pushing for, the playoff field would be expanded to seven teams, while the regular season would be increased to 17 games per team, and the preseason shortened to three games per team, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 19, 2020
Adding a 17th game to the schedule would disrupt a lot of balance. For one, most players are already worried about additional injury risk, and fans wonder if an extra game is really worth it. It also complicates the eight home/eight away game split and could necessitate more neutral site contests.
However, the most interesting factor to me is how the NFL will determine which teams play which. Right now the 16-game schedule is fairly straightforward, with teams playing six games against their division, four games against another division in conference, four games against a division out of conference, and two games against same-place finishers in the other two intra-conference divisions.
Today’s question of the day is:
How should the NFL handle Game 17?
My answer: There are a lot of ways to get creative here, but my favorite would be adding another game against the other conference. Since this blog is dedicated to the Detroit Lions, we can use them as an example. Under an increased NFL schedule, the Lions would play their 17th game against a team who finished in the same place as them in a corresponding AFC division.
Which division would this be? A simple answer would be the AFC North. Pairing divisions by geography could form some recurring rivalries, as opposed to the once-every-four-years setup that currently exists. This could result in playing the same team twice in one year, but I think this would only go to help these rivalries grow.
The other idea would be to alternate AFC divisions. If the Lions are playing the whole AFC North, for example, then they could be matched up against a team in the AFC South. This extra game could then just cycle between divisions every four years like the rest of the inter-conference games.