Scientests, researchers and other bright minds around the world are working to figure ways to make NFL late-season-playoff-deciding-games more meaningful.
Every year, the NFL plays two sets of exhibition games. The first, called pre-season games, are played in the summer and help teams determine rosters and get ready for the regular season.
The second set of exhibitions, unfortunately for the NFL, happens at the end of the season, oftentimes in key match-ups for playoff spots, when games should mean the most.
These are the games where playoff-bound teams start resting or sitting regulars. They’ve earned that right. Other teams can whine, but no one is listening.
It goes back to that old adage about controlling your own destiny and not depending on outside factors to make the playoffs.
Players are rested all the time in sports. Everyone wants to avoid injuries. Baseball teams, for instance, give pitchers and other regulars a break as they prepare for the post-season.
But major league baseball teams play 162 games, NFL teams 16. A single NFL game carries 10X the weight of a baseball game.
Which means, the NFL and its fans really suffer from these late-season-playoff-deciding-exhibition-games.
Here’s a Solution
It doesn’t seem fair for the league to force teams to play their regulars. Or to penalize them be taking away draft choices as some have suggested.
And trust me, teams aren’t going to start refunding gate receipts for games in which teams don’t really try. Heck, teams charge fans for exhibition games as part of their season-ticket package.
But there is something the NFL could do to at least make late-season games more compelling. Set up the schedule, so that the final two games for all 32 teams are played within divisions.
Certainly, the natural rivalries within divisions and the fact that the teams play each other twice per season always fires up the competitive juices.
For instance, have the Giants and Cowboys ever played a meaningless Giants-Cowboys game? Those two teams hate each, as do many other divisional rivals. . Familiarity, after all, breeds contempt.
And then there’s the added possibility the teams could be fighting one another for either first place or a wild-card spot within the division.
The final games of any season in any league should count for something.