Those of you that have followed the PiRate Ratings for more than a year may remember that we had a novel idea about how to add one regular season NFL game to the schedule while removing one preseason game. Today, we refine that idea just a tad and re-issue it so that the newcomers to this site can read it and pass it along to the sports talk shows in their markets. Last year, when this article first ran, we had responses from several dozen readers telling us (through the contact page at http://www.piratings.webs.com) they loved this idea and planned to share it on their local sports talk radio programs.
The problem with the NFL preseason is that it is one week too long. That is the opinion of many involved in the league, be it players, coaches, front office personnel, the media, the league office, and especially the fans. Paying for 10 games on a season ticket package when 20% of those games are virtually worthless is a major rip-off.
The catch to removing a preseason game is that the owners will not give up revenue. Something has to replace it. Obviously, since there have been 20 total guaranteed games for every NFL team for more than 45 years, the owners are not going to sacrifice 5% of their gate just to do the right thing. No, that 20th game would have to continue to be a part of the schedule. The only logical thing to do would be to add a 17th regular season game.
This, of course, brings up a concern. With 17 regular season games, the schedule would then become unfair to the 16 teams that would face a slate of eight home games and nine away games. Certainly, this would not work, because it would skew the schedule in favor of the 16 teams with the nine home games, while forcing the unlucky 16 teams to continue to play two preseason games at home.
What if the NFL decided to take that 17th regular season game and make it a neutral site game? There are several large venues throughout the United States, as well as in other countries, where fans would pack the house to see any two NFL teams square off in a game that counts. How would a game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tampa Bay Buccaneers do at the Swamp at the University of Florida in Gainesville? Or, how about a Philadelphia-Pittsburgh game at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium? What about a game in Vancouver? How about one in football crazy Birmingham, or Austin, Texas?
There are more than enough large venues to rotate a regular season game with a preseason game so that owners could keep those 20 dates while eliminating one preseason home game that fans would not be forced to buy to keep their season ticket. The 17th regular season neutral site games would make more money for the owners than the 4th preseason game, and by holding the game in a city without an NFL team, the NFL brand expands and becomes even more popular than it is now.
We believe there are two excellent options to implement this 17th regular season game. Option one would be to pair off teams from opposite conferences and make them permanent rivalry games. For instance, you would pair the Jets with the Giants, the Texans with the Cowboys, the Eagles with the Steelers, the Raiders with the 49ers, the Chiefs with the Rams, and so on. However, this brings up two issues. First, there are teams with no legitimate rivals in the opposing conference. Second, in every four year period, all AFC teams will have played all NFC teams due to the schedule. So, every fourth year, the natural rivals are going to play. It would be foolish for the Eagles and Steelers to play twice in the same season with one game being a neutral site game.
Our other option, and the one we prefer is for this game to be an interconference game set in the same manner that the extra two intraconference games are decided today–by the standings. Take the interconference divisional matchups for two years in advance and then pair the teams off by how they finished in the standings the previous season. For instance, this year the AFC East plays the AFC South, while there is one game against the AFC North and one game against the AFC West determined by last year’s standings. Since New England finished first last year, the Patriots play the teams that finished first in the North (Pittsburgh) and in the West (Denver).
The AFC East also plays the NFC East this year. Two years down the road, the AFC East plays the NFC South. So, for the Patriots, their 17th game opponent would have been the first place team from last year’s NFC South, the Carolina Panthers. This 17th game would be played on a neutral site.
Here is a theoretical look at how that 17th game would look if it had been implemented this season. First, we kept three games in London. We added a game back to Toronto, but not with Buffalo. We then added games to Montreal, Vancouver, Mexico City, Paris, Rome, Munich, Madrid, Tokyo, and Melbourne. Of course, there are two fantastic venues in Los Angeles that are not adequate for regular use, but fantastic for one game.
Remember that these game number 17’s are not scheduled on the same week. Just like now, when three games are played in London, they are not played in London on the same week. Take a look at this schedule of extra games.
|New England||Carolina||Mexico City|
|New York Jets||Tampa Bay||Rome|
|Baltimore||New York Giants||Toronto|
|Pittsburgh||Dallas||Ann Arbor, MI|
|Denver||Seattle||Rose Bowl–Pasadena, CA|
|San Diego||San Francisco||Los Angeles Coliseum|