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The NFL could go to a 17-game season, but where is this extra opponent going to come from?

More football is great, but who will teams be playing this extra game against?

Dallas Cowboys v Houston Texans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

A new collective bargaining agreement could be on the way, but the NFL is still working through some of the details. One topic that remains up in the air is the possibility of going to a 17-game schedule as ESPN reported on Sunday:

NFL player leadership is still majorly divided over the thought of a 17-game season.

Player reps fell into three categories when discussing the proposed new collective bargaining agreement, sources told ESPN: those who do not want 17 games, those who will accept it with tweaks to the deal, and those who accept it as-is.

Those reps held a conference call Friday and were set to vote on the deal, but getting a two-thirds majority was far from a slam dunk, a source said. The NFL Players Association decided to postpone voting, giving all parties involved a few days to sleep on the proposal and meet at this week’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.

For some fans, an extra game would be great news as it would provide an extra week of football. It’s also great for revenue as more games equals more money, but one thing nobody seems to be talking much about is where that extra opponent would come from.

Currently, each team plays teams within their division twice ( six games total). Tacking on four games from their rotating AFC divisional opponents brings them to 10 games. Add four more games from a rotating NFC divisional opponent, and that puts them at 14 games. As of now, those final two games consists of one game each from the other two NFC divisions based on where teams finished the previous season. It’s those two games and only those two games that have any play in the whole “first place/last place schedule” difference.

While that format has been easy to manage, how would the league handle an additional opponent? Back in 2010, Houston Texans owner at the time, Bob McNair, came up with this idea:

For the 17th game, the league could go to “regional rivalries” no matter the conference. An example would be the Eagles play the Steelers, the Jets play the Giants, and the Ravens play the Redskins every season instead of once every four years.

That’s an interesting idea on the surface, but there could be a couple problems. For starters, not every team has a regional rival, so some of those yearly matchups will end up being head-scratchers that are put together from all the leftover teams that don’t have a partner. Also, what happens when those regional rivals are already slated to play each other as that will occur every four years. Our own Tom Ryle had a quick fix for that one:

“It would mean playing them twice every four years, which might require a tweak, or they could just roll with that.”

Maybe the league adds a second rotating conference division to the mix, only one team is left out. That team could be based off of divisional positioning the previous season, but in reverse order (the top seed would play everyone except the worst seed from this second division). This approach means they wouldn’t play anyone from one of the conference divisions each year, but that’s not a big deal.

Or what if they had a within-the-conference Week 17 game that was flexed based on record. This could essentially serve as a mini-playoff game that pits teams against each other who are fighting for those final playoff spots, allowing them to control their own fate at the end of the regular season.

Our own OCC determined the NFL could get a little creative and throw a little randomness into the mix.

Most likely, it’s going to be a rotating cross-conference game. And knowing the propensity of the NFL to monetize everything, that opponent could be determined in a made-for-TV lottery that would add another offseason TV highlight next to the draft and free agency.

Would you watch a show that determined the outcome of the Cowboys bonus opponent?

There are a lot of different ways to approach this, but what do you think would be the best solution to this mysterious 17th game?

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