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Archive for January 3, 2022

Jan. 3, 2022 — What the NFL needs to learn that FIFA and the English Premier League already know

This weekend, there is a potential situation which could turn the game of American professional football into an absolute farce.

Here’s the deal: if Indianapolis loses to Jacksonville in a game scheduled for Sunday afternoon, both the Las Vegas Raiders and San Diego Chargers can make the 14-team NFL playoff field if they tie. Or, agree to tie.

Remember what happened in a preliminary game between Austria and Germany in the 1982 FIFA World Cup? Austria and Germany knew they both could make the next round and shut out Algeria. That same World Cup, Spain and Northern Ireland also played to a result which saw them through to the next round at the expense of Yugoslavia.

Since then, FIFA World Cup group play, in every tournament from the U-17s to the Olympics feature the same feature for the close of group play: every game is played simultaneously so as to not allow teams to throw the game, knowing the result of another game played earlier.

For the last few years, the Football Association, the national governing body of pro soccer in England, has done exactly the same thing with what is called “Decision Sunday.” All 20 teams play their final games on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. U.K. time, which has allowed NBC to show multiple games on their networks and potentially see how the European slots, the relegation zone, and the championship race become decided at the same time.

This has led to exciting situations such as the 2012 final day, when Manchester City won their game against Queens Park Rangers in the final minutes, giving the blue half of the city their first top-flight title in decades.

Now, if you watch enough NFL programming during Super Bowl week, there’s an open press conference held by league commissioner Roger Goodell. One of the annual questions asked was what the NFL, one of the world’s richest and most powerful sports properties, could learn from other leagues and sports.

A few years ago, he posited the possibility that the final week of the regular season would become like the final day of the EPL, in that all 16 games would be played simultaneously — no team could therefore fix the result of a game to make the playoffs.

The problem is, this doesn’t exist at the moment. Instead, the final weekend’s worth of games includes a Saturday afternoon game, a Saturday evening game, 13 games on Sunday afternoon, and one on Sunday night.

Since NBC had first choice of the Week 18 games on the flex schedule, the network picked the one game which was a “win and in” game — Las Vegas vs. San Diego. Well, ostensibly. If the Colts lose their 1 p.m. game at Jacksonville, Las Vegas and San Diego could tie their game and shut Indianapolis from the postseason.

The NFL, I think, is heading towards more situations like this, especially with the obscene amounts of now-legal sports betting money floating around the sport.