Remember back just over a year ago when the NFL and NFL Players’ Association ratified a new Collective Bargaining Agreement? The largest change from the previous agreement was the addition of a 17th game to the NFL schedule beginning in 2021. This week’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Washington Football Team, friends, is that 17th game for both teams.
In previous years, your schedule was set on a rotation with the rest of your division. You play your divisional opponents in a home-and-home (6 games), you play one entire AFC division (4 games), one entire NFC division (4 games), and then the same-placed team from the other two AFC divisions (2 games) to form your 16-game schedule. The AFC East plays the entire NFC South this year as their inter-conference opponent.
The new 17th game pits same-placed teams from one NFC division against their AFC counterpart. For the AFC East, that’s the NFC East in 2021. The first-place Bills are facing the first-place WFT and it marks the first time ever the two teams have faced each other twice in a three-season span (excluding Super Bowl XXVI). And that’s the point; to get more games against teams fans don’t normally get to see.
It also means the game is worth way less in terms of tiebreakers. While the inter-conference games featuring whole divisions works toward record vs common opponents, this game won’t have that commonality.
These opponents are going to be much more random than even the AFC same-placed opponents have been in the past. It should spice up the schedules a bit for the future.