x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Good move to pit rival teams against each other

An unintended consequence of the format is the Rivalry Week nature that will draw fans to games with little or no bearing on the post-season.

The NFL tweaked its schedule formula this season so Week 17 would consist entirely of intra-division match-ups. The goal: increase the potential number of games with something at stake to prevent teams from resting starters and relying on back-ups.

How did it work out? Half of the eight divisions are wrapped up. In two others, both sets of contenders are assured play-off berths, so the drama is limited to which teams avoid the wild card and secure first-round byes.

That leaves the AFC South with Indianapolis and Jacksonville, who face other foes, and the NFC West, which has provided the one winner-take-all game that the league envisioned with the change. Except that game is St Louis versus Seattle, the survivor gaining the distinction as the worst play-off team ever.

An unintended consequence of the format is the Rivalry Week nature that will draw fans to games with little or no bearing on the post-season.

Falling into that category are New England-Miami, Dallas-Philadelphia, San Diego-Denver and Oakland-Kansas City.

Green Bay-Chicago, Cincinnati-Baltimore, Tennessee-Indianapolis and New York Giants-Washington carry some post-season ramifications. That their pairings bring together teams that don't like each other has extra appeal.

So, good move, NFL. But do not stop here. Next season, extend the intra-division concept to Week 16, which would further ratchet up the late-season tension that accompanies games that matter.