Did you ever get offered to play the card game 52 pick up?
It is a game you probably only agreed to once. The game, of course, when accepted is played with someone throwing all the cards up in the air and the agreeable victim forced to pick them all up.
As the Wild Card weekend opens for the National Football League, they played a similar game this year with their odd number of games schedule. It is as awkward of a strategy as one can imagine. First, it means half the teams will have more home games than 16 other clubs. Second, and this was projected as a possibility before the season started by one-time Buffalo Bills General Manager Bill Polian, the setup could wreak havoc with who makes the playoffs and who doesn’t based on the now importance of a tie.
There was only one tie in the NFL this season, the Detroit Lions and Pittsburgh Steleers ended 70 minutes of game clock knotted at 16. But, for all of us paying attention, we and the teams knew that a Sunday night tie between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers would have sent both teams into the playoffs.
If the Raiders had not gained ten yards on their last offensive play before the winning field goal, Los Angeles and Las Vegas would have ended the game with 32 points each. That result would have had Pittsburgh Steelers fans crying foul a half century after they “stole” a postseason victory over the Oakland Raiders with the Immaculate reception.
The Raiders admitted that a 53-yard field goal would not have been attempted on the games final play, the chance of a blocked kick or return by the Chargers, making such an attempt not in the best interest of Las Vegas. But, with Josh Jacobs ten yard dent in the Los Angeles defense, kicking the 43-yard game winner was a more makeable and honorable thing to do.
As a kid, you probably only agreed to 52 pick up once, and I think this odd game season for the NFL is a one and done proposition too. Now, I am old enough to remember that the New York Giants and Chicago Bears played the NFL Championship Game in 1963 on December 29. The first Super Bowl, between the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs, was played on January 15, 1967.
This year, the Super Bowl will be played on February 13.
I recall as a member of the Raiders front office in the 1970’s that I thought it fair that most of the teams front offices and players had the Christmas holidays off because the playoffs started before Christmas. I was always working on those holidays, but with the benefit of being in the playoffs. Why would a team that struggled all season also have to work through the holidays?
I know, that is a little pollyannaish for the business of football, but it was how I saw it then and I still think it’s ridiculous that team personnel with a losing record are forced to work through New Year’s.
The 17 game schedule is an unnecessary problem and playing a Super Bowl on Valentine’s Day is in the cards as we can all agree that the NFL powers will resist going back to fewer games. It is more likely they will cut the preseason down to two games and add an 18th regular season contest. Which, by the way, will generate a strong negative reaction from the players association and athletes forced to submit their bodies to more pain and punishment.
This week, the league has expanded the Wild Card Weekend to three days with two games played on Saturday, three contests on Sunday, and a Monday night playoff game for the first time in league history.
We’ve got some solid opinions on these matchups, beginning with a look at another NFL decision that leaves many scratching their heads. They have decided to stage the Saturday contest between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots in the night slot. Boston is sure to be frigid at night in January … while Buffalo is akin to playing this game at the North Pole.
Santa Claus has already made his rounds for the season, but the NFL is just beginning with their surprises.