How the NFL Could Use a 17th Game
As many of us are aware, the annual owners' meeting in March included serious discussion on increasing the regular season schedule from 16 to 17 games. They plan on doing so by reducing the number of preseason games from four to three.
Regardless of the opinions from fans, writers, and players, it’s more than likely that the owners will agree to do so.
This would mark the first time in NFL history that the season would have an odd number of games—previously going from 12, to 14, to 16. So I got to thinking that this would be a perfect situation to give the fans and teams some type of legitimate benefit out of it.
I’ve always believed one of the few things the NFL has lacked in comparison to college football is rivalries.
Sure, rivalries exist in the NFL (and some very heated ones), but as a whole they are not nearly as intense or widespread as they are in college football, especially since the realignment, which moved some franchises into completely different divisions and conferences.
In college football, every team has a rival that they square off against year after year. Moreover, the majority of their rivalries are based on simple geography.
What the NFL lacks are the great intrastate or border-state rivalries that the NCAA has produced. Therefore, I thought that the 17th game would be the perfect situation for the NFL to create some.
My idea is that the NFL should use the 17th game (or the first, however they want to do it) for non-conference rivalry games, with the home team alternating every year. Thus, I’ve created what I believe would be the best matchups.
For the very select few that don’t seem to share any geographic or historic commonalities, well, tough luck; over time, after playing year in and year out, they would develop their own.
So without further ado, here are the matchups I believe would work best.
Texans vs. Cowboys
It's perhaps the greatest franchise in NFL history, complete with a storied past and legion of fans—a team that has become a staple of not only the NFL but sports as a whole.
Match that against the NFL's newest franchise, whose history is anything but storied (they've failed to post a winning season thus far), and you've got a dynamic of two completely different teams.
However, the Texans do have the honor of delivering Dallas their most regrettable defeat and embarrassing moment, with a 19-10 win in their first game.
Moreover, it does have hallmarks of a good ol' fashioned rivalry, as there's no love lost between Dallas and Houston.
As it stands, the series is 1-1.
Eagles vs. Steelers
The “Steagles” Game.
Not only do these teams share an intrastate rivalry, but they also have more in common than any other teams in the league. I say this because they were actually the same team during the 1943 season.
The Eagles and Steelers were forced to merge during the 1943 season because both teams had lost so many players to military service during World War II.
Officially the team was known simply as the Eagles (without a city designation), the Eagles-Steelers, or the Steelers-Eagles. The official NFL record book refers to the team as "Phil-Pitt."
Although the NFL never registered "Steagles" as a trademark, that's how the fans referred to the hybrid team.
As of now, the matchup stands at 46-27-3 in favor of the Eagles.
49ers vs. Raiders
The Battle for the Bay Area.
Class, Grace, and Civility vs. Fanaticism, Borderline Thuggery, and Just-Win-Baby Mentality.
The very difference between the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, along with the difference in the history of their respective teams, makes this worth watching.
The series currently stands at 6-5 in favor of the Raaaaaiidas.
Giants vs. Jets
The Battle for the Big Apple.
This one is obvious; the only hard part is whose fans get the tickets. But given that my scenario has the teams alternating the home game each year, it won’t be a problem.
The Giants currently own the series at 7-4.
Jaguars vs. Panthers
It's a battle between the expansion teams of 1995. Both teams enjoyed remarkable success early on for expansion teams, as both teams reached the 1996 conference championships.
While they’ve each had their down years since then, they've remained solid and competitive NFL franchises, highlighted by the Panthers' run to the Super Bowl in 2003.
Moreover, the foundations of these teams are built on defense and a run-first offensive attack. You could be sure this game would be a throwback with plenty of hard hits.
As it stands, the Jaguars hold the series lead at 3-1.
Ravens vs. Redskins
Simple geography, as the two cities are a mere 38.6 miles away from each other.
As for subplots between these teams, they boast a total of nine former Miami Hurricane players.
The Ravens hold the series lead at 3-1.
Browns vs. Packers
Old school football at it’s best.
These are two of the staple franchises for the early part of the NFL. Green Bay and Cleveland own a combined 17 league championships. The Packers hold nine NFL Championships, and the Browns garnered four NFL championships and four AAFC Championships.
Furthermore, they were the former homes of the two most influential coaches in NFL history in Vince Lombardi and Paul Brown.
Last but not least, they each boast a large die-hard fan-base that rivals the best the NFL has to offer.
The series lead currently rests with the Packers at 9-7.
Chiefs vs. Rams
The winner of this matchup can be crowned the holder of the gateway to the west. Plus, after every game we could get a teary-eyed speech from Dick Vermeil.
The Chiefs currently hold the series lead at 5-4.
Lions vs. Bengals
As terrible as this game might look at first glance, I believe this is perhaps the most interesting of the matchups.
First and foremost, we already know the bad blood that exists between Ohio and Michigan. But the other dynamic these two teams share is their equally putrid records in the last 20 years.
It's the worst team of the '90s versus the worst team of this decade.
It's a case study in futility, as the Bengals managed a 52-108 mark (.325 win percentage) during the '90s, only to be outdone by the Lions boasting a 40-104 record (.277) since 2000.
Furthermore, given their recent track records, this game could every well determine who holds the No. 1 pick in the following draft. From there, we can watch both of them waste their hard-earned draft picks.
For another nugget of information, in the last 20 years, one (if not both) of these teams has occupied a top five pick a remarkable 12 times (60 percent).
Currently the Bengals own the matchup at 6-3.
Dolphins vs. Bucs
The Fight for Florida? Simple logistics, really.
As it stands, the series is tied at four games apiece.
Colts vs. Saints
The Manning Bowl.
Peyton’s team vs. Archie’s old team. Peyton’s old home vs. his new one.
Besides, who wouldn’t want to see Drew Brees and Peyton Manning duel it out once a year inside the comforts of a dome? This game would surely set some NFL passing records, especially with the Saints' seemingly never-ending secondary woes.
As of now, the series stands at 5-5.
Vikings vs. Patriots
While these two teams don't share a lot in common, there are some similarities, as they were both expansion teams of the '60s, joining the league just a year apart. They also have a combined 10 Super Bowl appearances.
As for a current dynamic, we would get to witness the NFL's best running back versus its best quarterback. And how can we forget Randy "Cash Money" Moss versus his old team?
Other than that, I got nothing, and I’ll admit these two teams would kind of get screwed. But you gotta take one for the team, and over time some sort of rivalry would develop.
The Patriots hold the series lead at 6-4.
Seahawks vs. Broncos
Well...they used to be in the same division. That’s really all I have, and I think that’s more than enough.
The Broncos own the series at 33-18.
Falcons vs. Titans
The Country Music Capital vs. Rap Music Capital.
This would have been more fun had Michael Vick and Vince Young been still playing. Can you just imagine Vick vs. Young: a lot of INTs, overthrown balls, and quarterback scrambles. Lovers of the Wildcat offense would have been drooling.
But no worries—watching Matt Ryan and the Titans' Smash and Dash backfield should be serve as more than enough compensation. Besides, they both reside in the South (technically), so it works for me.
The Titans (including when they were the Oilers) hold the series lead at 7-5.
Bears vs. Bills
A battle between two blue-collar towns.
It seems odd, but who wouldn’t love to hear Chris Berman say DA BEARS versus DA BILLS once a year?
As it stands, the Bears hold the series lead at 6-4.
Chargers vs. Cardinals
Only a five to six-hour drive either way, so they are relatively close.
I’m basing this matchup strictly off the fact that when San Diego had to move their home game due to the fires a few years back, they played in Sun Devil Stadium (former home of the Cardinals).
Plus, these two cities have absolutely gorgeous weather, so none of their fans could complain about having to travel to this game.
The series currently stands in favor of the Chargers at 8-3.