Leagues and Governing Bodies

Some critics say NFL's expanded season headed for anticlimactic end

A second NFL season clouded by COVID "lurches to a relatively anticlimactic conclusion this weekend," and the "reality of an extra game is sinking in for players who never wanted it in the first place," according to Tim Dahlberg of the AP. A few playoff spots are still up for grabs, but mostly the games will be played with "either a look toward the postseason or a long look toward next season." If the season "seems long -- and it does -- you already know the reason why." A 17th game seems both "unnecessary and unnatural," pushing back the Super Bowl to mid-February for "no good purpose other than enriching billionaire NFL owners even more." Still, it has been a "rebound year that has been a success by almost every metric you want to measure sports by." Stadiums were "mostly full" and TV ratings were "as strong as ever" (AP, 1/5).

NOT MUCH AT STAKE: In N.Y., Mike Tanier writes Week 18 is the "superfluous coda to an already-grueling marathon that few besides the television networks and advertisers really wanted." The only Week 18 game with "true playoffs-or-bust stakes for both teams" pits the 9-7 Chargers against the 9-7 Raiders. That game has been "moved to prime time" and is being "hyped as the grand regular-season finale." The latest Covid-19 surge made the end of this NFL season "feel even longer and less relevant." But no matter how long the league draws out its season, fans are "sure to keep watching." The NFL’s audience "never tires," and "ultimately, that’s all that matters" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/5). In London, Dave Caldwell notes only three of 14 playoff spots are "still up for grabs, hardly a rousing crescendo." Caldwell: "What has the extension accomplished? Well, more all-important incoming cash for the teams, of course, but not any more drama. For this, you can partly blame the NFL’s desire to expand beyond the U.S." (London GUARDIAN, 1/5).

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