NFL's scheduling process ignores competitive balance

The NFL's justification for giving the Jets seven standalone games in 11 weeks — they "kind of owe us one" — was ill-advised. It also obscures a deeper issue with giving a third-place, non-playoff team so many non-Sunday-afternoon games.

The league loves competitive balance. That's why the worst team gets the first pick in the draft, why teams have three games tied to where they finished in their division.

That's not how the NFL schedules games. It does a projection based on which teams will generate the biggest ratings, regardless of what they did in the prior season. This year, the NFL's projection regarding the Jets includes getting them in primetime early, before the wheels come off. Or before Aaron Rodgers blows another tire.

Of course, that approach won't help keep Rodgers healthy. He has played four total snaps since his last game with the Packers in January 2023. Come September, he'll play three games in 10 days to start the season. Twice in the first nine weeks, the Jets will play with only three days off in between games.

The league has resolved, for itself, the question of whether short-week football is a bad idea by hand-picking a statistic based on in-game injury rate with six days between games versus three. That ignores the question of how players' bodies feel on Thursday, after playing on Sunday. (The NFL uses the same blinders as to the grass vs. turf issue; the injury rate is the same, so who cares if they have to crawl out of bed the morning after playing on turf?)

"Ask the players," a head coach recently observed on the question of whether there's a difference between Sunday-to-Sunday and Sunday-to-Thursday football.

The same source, who received anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, added this: "Another example of how player health and safety is talked about but easily compromised for money."

In this specific case, it's both health and safety AND competitive balance that are being compromised. Given the reasoning for the draft order and the determination of opponents, taking a third-place team and giving them seven standalone games in 11 weeks ignores the issue of competitive balance. It adds an undue burden to a non-playoff team from 2023.

Right or wrong, the league loves to level things out. It wants fans of all non-playoff teams to believe their team can get to the playoffs. But it also wants the highest possible ratings for every standalone window.

So to hell with competitive balance, as to the Jets. Because the Jets: (1) are in New York; (2) have Aaron Rodgers; and (3) tend to morph into a slow-speed train wreck, every year. Let's load them up in national windows early — even if that greases the skids for the skid marks to come.

Jets fans should be upset. The Jets should be upset. Rodgers should be upset. They're being victimized by the fact that people will want to watch them for the same reason they watch car racing.

For the inevitable crash.