The NFL isn’t set to release its 2010 schedule until 6:00 p.m. CT this evening, but there’s already an interesting nugget that’s emerged from league commissioner Roger Goodell.
Appearing on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike In The Morning,” Goodell said the NFL wanted to push as many divisional games as possible into the last 3 weeks of the season and that every game in Week 17 of the 2010 season will be a division game.
“We actually have 28 divisional games in those last three weeks, as opposed to 15 for the 2009 season, and all 16 of the final Week 17 games will be divisional games,” Goodell said, per espn.com. “We’ll see what the impact is as we go through the next season, but we think that’s a positive development in keeping the integrity of the game in those late-season games.”
The “integrity of the game” issue that Goodell mentioned is a reference to concerns the NFL has about teams who’ve already clinched playoff positioning resting their players in the final weeks of the regular season. With the philosophy of scheduling division games late in the season, there’s a higher probability that playoff spots won’t be determined until the last couple weeks of the season.
This seems like a good move for the NFL and yet another example of how this league continues to find ways to improve its product. Having division games late in the season will add intrigue to the playoff race and will intensify division rivalries.
Last season, the Vikings had just 1 division game in the final 5 weeks – against Chicago in Week 16 – and they were done playing the Packers before their Week 9 bye. With the emphasis of division games late in the season, one might expect a couple more Vikings-Bears or Vikings-Packers matchups in the season’s final month.
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