By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
With the new CBA passing Sunday morning, the NFL will expand to an 18-week, 17-game season as early as 2021.
How should the NFL go about scheduling this extra game? The current schedule formula seems to perfect, it feels like a shame to change it.
Incase you didn’t know, every team’s schedule is predetermined using the same criteria. Here’s a nifty graphic that explains what the process has looked like since the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002.
It seems the best course of action would be to just tack an extra game on to the existing formula. But where is there room to add in something so structured? I’d love to see the NFL take a page from college football and institute ‘protected rivalries,’ or yearly games between teams that otherwise wouldn’t be on the schedule.
This would be a yearly game played between and AFC and NFC team, to avoid overlap (in years where they are scheduled to play regardless, they’d meet twice). Each team would alternate as the home team, with the remaining 16 games staying eight at home and eight on the road. The game could be placed anywhere in the schedule, it wouldn’t have to be the final week of the season.
Yes, there’s definitely not enough cross-conference rivalries alive in the NFL right now to go around. But imagine if these teams played every single year. With time, the blood would boil. You’d have juice. It might be tough to start, but I’d imagine most of these games would end up with some kind of heat within five or so years.
So who would be playing? Here’s my proposal for all 16 NFL ‘protected rivalries.’
New York Giants vs. New York Jets (Battle For New York)
This could be a true yearly neutral-site game. Half of MetLife could be done up like a Jets game, the other half for the Giants. Split the whole stadium at the 50.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Houston Texans (Texas Governor’s Cup)
Everything is bigger in Texas. I’m sure fans from both sides would find a way to turn this one game into a huge weekend Texas State Fair style.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Philadelphia Eagles (Steagles Bowl)
The name comes from the joined team formed by the two cities during World War II. This is already a pretty big deal in the state of Pennsylvania, and this game would be one of the quickest to catch on.
Miami Dolphins vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Sunshine Showdown)
Yes, Florida has three teams, but the Dolphins and Bucs were there first. Surprisingly, they’ve had a heck of a history against one another. Tampa leads the all-time series 6-5, with nine of the 11 games have been decided by 10 points or less, six by only a field goal.
Los Angeles Chargers vs. Los Angeles Rams (Freeway Bowl)
Borrowing the name for the town’s baseball rivalry, the Chargers and Rams will be sharing a stadium, so they might as well share a yearly game. It would help boost the popularity of both teams who are relatively new to the area.
San Francisco 49ers vs. Las Vegas Raiders (Battle of the Bay)
The Raiders may have moved, but this will always be the Battle of the Bay. Already a headed rivalry, this game could provide a lot of fun down the road with Kyle Shanahan against Jon Gruden.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Washington Redskins (Beltway Brawl)
Both teams technically play in the same state, with FedEx field being located in Landover, Maryland. Each team traditionally has played smash mouth football, so these games could get nasty.
Former Super Bowl Matchups
New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks (I-90 Bowl)
An obvious matchup. On the surface, it’s a rematch of the Super Bowl XLIX, the greatest Super Bowl ever played. Beyond that, you have two similar cities that are highly involved in the tech industry, have terrific seafood, and most importantly some of the most passionate fans in the league.
Green Bay Packers vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Super Bowl I Rematch)
I tried not to create rivalries solely on specific Super Bowl meetings, but this one would be too great to avoid. The games just look classic when these two teams meet.
Denver Broncos vs. Atlanta Falcons (Shanahan Family Bowl)
Mike Shanahan led the Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl wins in the late 90’s, including their XXXIII win over the Atlanta Falcons. Meanwhile, his son Kyle was at the center of perhaps the Falcons most notable moment in NFL history as the offensive coordinator in their 28-3 collapse. I’ll admit it’s one of the weaker games on this list, but I never said they’d all be gems.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Chicago Bears (I-65 Bowl)
The two cities are separated by less than 200 miles, and just a two and a half hour drive apart on Interstate 65. It’s also a matchup of two of the NFL’s oldest franchises.
Cleveland Browns vs. Detroit Lions (Why Us? Bowl)
These teams deserve each other. These cities deserve each other. These fans deserve each other. There’s also a ton of history here, with each team pre-dating the merger.
Buffalo Bills vs. Minnesota Vikings (Cursed Cup)
Two of the most snakebitten franchises in the NFL, especially when it comes to field goals. Bills fans had to endure Scott Norwood and ‘Wide Right’ in Super Bowl XXV, while Vikings fans have Gary Anderson’s miss in the NFC Championship. You just know this game would come down to a field goal more often than not.
Tennessee Titans vs. New Orleans Saints (Party Bowl)
When you think of either of these cities, music and partying are the first things that come to mind. They’re also the two franchises who were coached by legendary defensive mind Bum Phillips, who worked for the Houston Oilers (the Titans predecessor) from 1975-1980 and New Orleans from 1981-1985.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Carolina Panthers (Expansion ’95)
These two teams are relatively close geographically, but the real link here is they both joined the NFL in 1995, expanding the league from 28 to 30 teams.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Arizona Cardinals (By Default Bowl)
I’ll be honest, these were just the last two teams left when I was putting together the list. With the Raiders move to Vegas, a Cardinals/Raiders Battle of the Desert could be cool, and geographically the Bengals could fit with any team in the NFC North, but they all had better matchups. Maybe Joe Burrow against Kyler Murray, back-to-back top overall picks becomes something?
More Patriots Possibilities
Since most of the people reading this will be Patriots fans, I wanted to share some of my other potential Patriots rivalries…
Patriots vs. Washington Football Team (Fenway Park Bowl)
Boston’s current NFL team versus its first, and the only two current NFL teams to ever call Fenway Park home. They could even play the game at Fenway the years the Patriots are the home team.
Patriots vs. San Francisco 49ers (GOAT Game)
Play this game every year as an excuse to celebrate Joe Montana and Tom Brady. Shouldn’t be awkward for Jimmy Garoppolo at all.
Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons (28-3 Bowl)
Patriots vs. New York Giants (Belichick Bowl)
Bill Belichick’s two teams. 18-1. Boston and New York. There’s a ton of history here, and they always play close games.
Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles (American History Clash)
The two cities at the center of the history of our country. Oh yeah, and they’ve played a couple of pretty memorable Super Bowls.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.