It’s sounding more and more like an 18-game season could soon be a reality with the new CBA which means one thing: MORE FOOTBALL.Of course there will be concessions to the players if/when the 18-game season is introduced, but two extra regular season games are on the horizon. The NFL schedule is currently constructed quite logically: each team plays its divisional opponents twice, then one whole division from each conference on a rotating yearly basis, and then the teams that finished in the same place as said team within their division in the same conference.
So what to do with those two extra games? It’s going to be very difficult for the league to schedule those games on a fair competitive basis. The league could draw names from a hat, or simply rotate through the 18 other teams not included on the schedule, but where’s the fun in that?
Our proposal: those extra two games should be permanently scheduled between two cross-conference teams as Rivalry Games. They could be set across two October weekends, similar to the “Rivalry Week” you see advertised on ESPN for college basketball every year. That’s right, every year the Jets would play the Giants, the 49ers would play the Raiders, the Ravens would play the Redskins, and the Texans would play the Cowboys. One game in each stadium, just like it would be if the teams were divisional opponents.
Sure, not all of those are established as intense rivalries yet, but geographical proximity and history could easily be used to create two ideal match ups. Momentum for the rivalry games might start slow, but after teams play each other for the third straight season, anticipation and hatred between teams and fan bases would certainly ensue.
Detractors for this idea will say that by having two games set between teams each year, certain teams will have huge competitive advantages over others — whoever is lucky enough to face off against the four NFC West teams annually would get a free win each year. That could be true, but the schedule will never be a perfect science. Rosters and coaches change so much from year to year that the idea of creating fair schedules is really a pipe dream.
Schedule strength is tremendously random, and having rivalry games wouldn’t change that. But it would add even more intrigue and excitement to the middle of the football season, and if the goal of the NFL and NFLPA is to make the game better “for the fans” then here’s one way to do it.
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