Every game on the league's Week 17 schedule will be a divisional matchup, Roger Goodell said Tuesday morning. The move had long been rumored and is intended to prevent situations in which playoff teams will rest players during the final weeks of the season. The Week 16 slate will feature 12 such games as well.
On the surface it seems like a fine move. The NFL is trying to address the issue of benching stars in the final weeks and teams who are out of the playoffs not trying. But is it really necessary? No. How much more will this add to the NFL season? Not much. More importantly, will it detract from the rest of it? Probably.
The NFL solved a problem nobody except Peter King was really complaining about. Sure, we'd all like Week 17 to be as great at Week 10 or the divisional playoffs, but it never is. Forcing it won't make it so either.
Here are four reasons:
1. This still won't solve the so-called problem of teams resting starters.Peyton Manning(notes) is only starting Week 17 if there is a playoff berth, bye or home-field advantage on the line. It doesn't matter whether that game is against division rival Tennessee or, say, St. Louis.
2. Having 28 divisional games in the final two weeks means the rest of the season is diluted of the rivalries. There are 256 NFL games per year, 96 of which are intradivisional matchups. Instead of spreading those 96 games out over 17 weeks, as usual, almost 30 percent of them will be compressed into the final 11 percent of the schedule. Why do you think the NFL schedule took so long to come out? Getting all division games in Week 17 was a huge task, but making sure there were enough division games during Weeks 1-15 was also probably an enormous undertaking.
3. Players don't care about rivalries any more: You think guys playing in the Chiefs-Raiders game are going to care any more about a January game against another 4-11 team? Fans might, but they'd probably rather see that game in November when at least there's a semblance of hope for salvaging a season.
4. When it works (Dallas-Philadelphia last year) it will be great. When it doesn't (Atlanta-Tampa Bay last year), who cares? This one is pretty self-explanatory. Like I said earlier, Week 17 won't be worse because of this move, but it's hard to see how it becomes much better. Goodell and the NFL saw a problem that wasn't really fixable and decided to throw something against the wall to see if it sticks.