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Multiple short weeks could create various competitive issues in the NFC

Before the schedule was released, we explored whether the league’s new ability to schedule teams for two short-week, Sunday-to-Thursday games would become an indirect parity tool, making things harder for some of the best teams and, in turn, easier for some of the bad teams.

It didn’t really happen that way. The best teams from 2022 were largely exempt from the obligation to play with three days off in between games twice this year, with the following playoff teams from 2022 getting a pass from a pair of Sunday-Thursday turnarounds: Chiefs, Bills, Bengals, Jaguars, Chargers, Ravens, Dolphins, Eagles, Vikings, Buccaneers, Cowboys, Giants, and Seahawks.

Only one 2022 playoff team — the 49ers — will play twice on Thursday after playing on Sunday. Thus, to the extent this device could have been used to level things out a bit more in 2023, the league gave 13 of 14 playoff teams from 2022 a pass.

Seven teams will still play twice on Thursday after playing on Sunday. Six of them failed to make the playoffs in 2022. And five of them come from the NFC, where the chase for most of the playoff berths should be wide open this season.

Look at the NFC North. The Vikings (the only team from the division to make the playoffs last year) will get a real boost from the short-week scheduling. The other three teams in the division each have a pair of Thursday games. The Vikings have one, and it comes in Week Two, at a time when the Vikings can be fully prepared for the Eagles — and when the quick turnaround won’t have the same physical toll on the players that it would have later in the year.

Now, slide to the NFC South. It’s arguably the biggest tossup in football. And who won the jump ball when it came to the scheduling? Well, the Saints have two Sunday-Thursday experiences. The Falcons have not even one prime-time game. (They do play in London, like the Saints did a year ago.)

The Commanders, in the NFC East, were the only team to not make the playoffs in 2022 — and the only team to get two Sunday-Thursday packages.

The Steelers, one of two teams in the AFC North to miss the playoffs last year, also have a pair of Thursday night games after playing on Sunday.

It remains one of the strangest wrinkles in this year’s schedule. The league had the ability to compel any team to play twice on Thursday after playing on Sunday. And the league used that power for only one franchise that made the playoffs in 2022.

Of course, the league would say it’s a non-issue to play on Thursday after playing on Sunday. The teams would say otherwise, especially if they’ll be doing it more times than another team locked in the same competition for division titles, wild-card berths, and/or home-field advantage in the playoffs.

Multiple short weeks could create various competitive issues in the NFC originally appeared on Pro Football Talk