17th game will give each team a fifth interconference matchup
Commissioner Roger Goodell said on Wednesday that, although the NFL has not approved an expansion to 17 regular-season games, the owners have approved a formula for playing 17 games.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the extra game will be, for every team, an extra interconference game.
Currently, every team from a given division in one conference plays every team from another division in the other conference, on a four-year rotating basis. The teams of the AFC East, for example, play all teams of the NFC East one year, all teams of the NFC North another year, all teams of the NFC South another year, all teams of the NFC West another year. (Probably not in that order, but you get the point. Hopefully.) It then starts all over again, after a given division cycles through all four divisions from the other conference.
The fifth interconference game will involve a team from one of the other three divisions, based on where the teams finished the prior year. That, too, will rotate.
Thus, for example, the teams of the AFC East will, in a given year, play all teams from one of the NFC divisions, and then the first-place team in the AFC East will play the first-place team from another NFC division, the second-place team will play a second-place team, and so on.
For the 17th game, the four teams of a given division will play the four corresponding teams from the same division in the other conference.
So there it is. Simple, clean, equitable. At a time when schedule strength in a given division becomes reflected only in two games per year, this approach will expand the notion of good teams from the prior year playing good teams from the prior year, and bad teams from the prior year playing bad teams from the prior year, from two to three.