There are times when the NFL makes decisions which irk many fans. Some of these decisions may include the rule changes which have created a more passer-friendly league and deprives defenses of the right to breathe on wideouts. Other decisions include the manner in which troublemakers (Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress and Ben Roethlisberger come to mind) are disciplined. But there is one decision the NFL has made a good move on: scheduling.
Let’s observe the 2010 schedule of the New York Jets (a potential Super Bowl contender in the AFC). With all due respect to the Jets, they were lucky to make the playoffs last season. If the Colts – who had already clinched home field advantage – hadn’t benched Peyton Manning and the rest of their starters, I believe the Jets would have been defeated and another AFC team would have snuck in to the playoffs.
This season, the likelihood of NFL teams getting virtually free victories to achieve the playoffs is much less, due to the new scheduling format. The NFL has teams playing many of their division rivals at the end of the season. From weeks 13 to 17, the Jets will play three division rivals: New England in week 13, Miami in week 14 and Buffalo in week 17. Last season, the Jets’ final two division games were in week 11 against New England and week 13 against Buffalo.
Due to the new format, there will be more division title races at the end of the season, as opposed to just paying attention to the wild card. Unless teams clinch their divisions early with nearly unblemished records, their final games will carry plenty of importance as they battle division rivals at the end of their schedule for the division title.
Kudos to the NFL for doing something right. With many division games played at the end of the season, the divisions and wild card races become all the more interesting. Fewer teams will be inclined to rest on their laurels and bench their starters in the final weeks.