SBD/Issue 152/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NFL Schedule: League Focusing On Division Games Late In Season

Week 17 Of NFL Schedule Will
Feature All Divisional Games

The NFL last night unveiled the '10 regular-season schedule, and the "biggest change in this season's schedule was the NFL's attempt to make late-season games more meaningful," according to Michael Wursthorn of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The NFL in the final three weeks of the season "will have a total of 28 division matchups, up from just 15 in 2009, in order to boost interest in playoff ramifications" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/21). NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "One of the objectives we wanted to get into was putting more divisional games in the last few weeks. In fact, Week 17, the last week of our regular season, all 16 of those games are going to be divisional games. ... We think that's a healthy improvement from a competitive standpoint to address the issue of teams playing all of the way through the season to put the best product on the field" (NFL Network, 4/20). ESPN.com's John Clayton wrote by "moving so many of those matchups to the final three weeks," Goodell is "gambling that divisional races will be close enough at the end of the season to keep fans excited and network ratings high" (ESPN.com, 4/20). However, when asked about Goodell "wanting teams to close with division games," Bengals RB Cedric Benson said, "Whatever, he doesn't play football. They're always trying to find ways to make it harder on yourself. Nobody wants a division team as the last game of the season" (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 4/21).

COMING OFF THE BENCH: The October 31 Steelers-Saints "SNF" game could be played opposite Game Four of the World Series. The league in the past has not scheduled a Sunday night game against the World Series, but Goodell said, "The rationale was that 'Sunday Night Football' has become a staple and that people want to watch football for the entire season, and we didn't feel it was appropriate to take it off anymore. We had obligations to NBC from a programming standpoint and we felt it was best to continue on with that great franchise every night of the season and allow the consumer to be able to choose whether they want to watch 'Sunday Night Football' or the World Series" (NFL Network, 4/20).

Saints' Thanksgiving Matchup Against Cowboys
Part Of Holiday Schedule With More Glamour

GOBBLE, GOBBLE: SI.com's Don Banks wrote it "looks like Thanksgiving Day might actually be worth some couch time for the first time in what seems like quite a while." The NFL "obviously prioritized getting more of its glamour teams to play on the holiday," with Patriots-Lions, Saints-Cowboys and Bengals-Jets. The games will feature QBs Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez, which is "not a bad quarterbacking lineup for Turkey Day" (SI.com, 4/20). ESPN's Adam Schefter said Goodell and league officials "heeded the words of various people and owners around the league, they put their marquee teams on Thanksgiving this year. ... That's a different approach then there's been in other years." He added of the Saints-Cowboys matchup, "In previous years we've had matchups that had not been as appetizing as you'd like. But this year, (Cowboys Owner) Jerry Jones pushed for an attractive opponent." ESPN's Tedy Bruschi: "That turns into some tasty turkey" (ESPN2, 4/20).

A SIGN ABOUT THE GUNSLINGER'S FUTURE? The NFL is opening the season with Vikings-Saints, a rematch of the NFC Championship Game, on Thursday, September 9. In N.Y., Judy Battista writes, "Wondering if Brett Favre is going to play next season? Apparently, the NFL thinks he will" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/21). ESPN's Trey Wingo said of the game and Favre, "I think the NFL has given us a big clue as to what they think is going happen" (ESPN2, 4/20). Schefter: "Doesn't it always come back to Brett Favre?" ("SportsCenter Special," ESPN, 4/20).

OPENING PANDORA'S BOX: SPORTINGNEWS.com's Mike Florio wrote the NFL for weeks "kept a tight lid on the 256-game slate, releasing only scant details." But Goodell's "decision to go rogue during an NFL.com live chat on Tuesday afternoon opened the floodgates." He announced that the season "would begin on September 9 with the Saints hosting the Vikings," while later in the day the "entire schedules of the Steelers, Saints, Giants, and Lions were leaked." The NFL "can't be happy about the development." Though schedule leaks are "not uncommon, the league seemed to be intent on holding back as much as possible until the official announcement of the schedule" last night (SPORTINGNEWS.com, 4/20). Meanwhile, YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole offers his "best and worst games of the upcoming season" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 4/21).

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