NFL knows how to schedule
Don’t tell anybody you know — no, forget that, anybody I know — but I like what the NFL is doing with its scheduling in the aftermath of the Damar Hamlin serious injury and cancellation of the Buffalo at Cincinnati game on Monday night.
First off, the league canceled the game rather than trying to find a place to fit it in and finish it.
As much as it sucks having teams with differing numbers of games vying for the same playoff spot, nothing short of delaying the start of the playoffs a week could’ve really fit that game in it once it got past replaying it on Wednesday of this week.
If you didn’t delay the playoffs and tried to fit this game in, would you play it in the middle of next week with three days off after this weekend’s games and another three or four days off before the playoffs begin? Uh-uh. Teams don’t like it when they have to play ONCE on four days rest as it is, and I don’t blame them.
Delaying the playoffs a week would throw everything out of whack for the other 12 playoff teams. Oops!
The only reason that was considered is that this season, there’s currently two weeks between the conference championships on Jan. 29 and the Super Bowl on Feb. 12. They’ve would’ve turned that time off into just one week.
With not playing out of the way, the league could simply go to winning percentages to determine playoff seeding.
I believe the NBA and NHL had to do that when the coronavirus pandemic interrupted their regular seasons now almost three years ago.
And I remember WAY back when, when I first started paying attention to sports, in the early 1970s when Major League Baseball had its first strike that interrupted the season.
It was 1972 and the strike was over about a week into the regular season in April. Rather than squeeze the lost games into the middle of the season or at the end (“A World Series in November? That’s sacrilegious!” would’ve been the slogan then), they just canceled them.
And it didn’t matter that some teams ended up playing more games than others, which is what happened in the American League East. I went back and looked up those standings online, and it was exactly as I remembered — Detroit finished 86-70 and beat Boston by a half-game with the Red Sox’s 85-70 mark.
Back to the NFL, though. The league knew there’d be loud complaints if a 13-3 team beat out a 13-4 team. So they said if teams involved in those situations play each other, they would either play at a neutral site, or in the case of a Cincinnati-Baltimore first-round playoff game, flip a coin to determine the home team.
There’s a little more involved to it than just that, but that seems to be the gist of it.
There was talk of only going with six teams or expanding the field to eight teams in each conference. It’s one thing if that had been proposed in the off-season or even near the beginning of this season, but to do it heading into the final week of the regular season — that would be ridiculous!
Imagine if the NFL had come along and said, sorry, Green Bay, Detroit and Seattle, we’re only taking six teams in the NFC and the best any of you can do is seventh place.
See ya’ next year!
Talk about a storming of the Capitol.
On that somewhat controversial-sounding note, let’s look at the final slate of games this NFL regular season:
Saturday, 4:30 p.m.
Kansas City at Las Vegas — The Chiefs can end some of this talk of playing at a neutral site by winning. Enough of an incentive for me. Chiefs, 33-29.
Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
Tennessee at Jacksonville — I’m surprised this didn’t become the Sunday night game, because for BOTH teams, it’s win and you’re in and lose and you’re done. Unless Jacksonville loses, they could try to sneak out a wild card, but only if Miami, New England and Pittsburgh also lose. Maybe. Aaargh! To make it simple, Jaguars, 27-20.
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta — The Bucs have nothing to play for, and despite Tom Brady’s protestations, I would hope the 45-year-old quarterback would be sent to Miami Beach to rest with the other people from his retirement community this weekend. Falcons, 30-23.
New England at Buffalo — With Hamlin’s recovery looking good, their downed comrade ought to inspire Buffalo this week. Bills, 41-28.
Minnesota at Chicago — I don’t know if Minnesota can get the No. 1 seed by winning, but they certainly could fall to No. 3 by not. Plus with QB Justin Fields out, I believe the Bears are only allowed to put 10 players on the field. Or at least that’s what it’ll look like. Vikings, 35-22.
Baltimore at Cincinnati — Cincy can end talk of a coin flip for home field in their possible first-round playoff game by winning. Good enough for me. Bengals, 28-24.
Houston at Indianapolis — Which team is backing up faster? Certainly looks like the Colts after Houston nearly pulled out wins recently vs. KC and Dallas. Texans, 23-17.
New York Jets at Miami — Miami’s has something to play for, which is enough to go with playing at home in January. Dolphins, 24-16.
Carolina at New Orleans — Two also-rans in an also-ran division. On a hunch, Panthers, 26-22.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh — The Browns’ Deshaun Watson has shown nothing since he returned (shucks!), while the 8-8 Steelers want to win one for The Gipper, aka Mike Tomlin, who’s never had a losing season. And the playoffs are still at stake in Pittsburgh. Steelers, 27-23.
Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
New York Giants at Philadelphia — The Giants have nothing to play for and Philly does — maybe. Maybe is enough to take the Eagles, 34-24.
Dallas at Washington — Dallas can win the NFC East, but only if Philly loses. What are the odds? Not enough, so I’ll take the Commanders, 25-19.
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver — The Broncos have looked better since Jerry Rosburg took over as interim coach. Not surprising, considering he was a graduate assistant coach at Northern Michigan University from 1981-87.
But the Chargers can take the coveted No. 5 seed in the AFC, meaning they get to play the around-.500 winner of the AFC South to start the playoffs. Chargers, 23-17.
Arizona at San Francisco — I’m thinking a win at least gives San Fran a shot at the No. 1 seed in the NFC. That should be enough to pick the 49ers, 37-24.
Los Angeles Rams at Seattle — As much as it makes sense to take the Seahawks, as they still have a shot at the playoffs, I sense Baker Mayfield and the Rams having too much pride to just take this lying down. Rams, 27-21.
Sunday, 8:20 p.m.
Detroit at Green Bay — Even though a Seattle loss at 4 p.m. opens the door for the Lions to step into the playoffs, there’s a little matter of their defense slowing down Packers receiver Christian Watson and the special teams corralling Green Bay’s Keisean Nixon, all while it’s something like 15 or 20 degrees in the Lambeau Field night air. Packers, 34-27.
Last week — 9-6, 60 percent. Season — 152-101-2, 60 percent.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is email@example.com.