The 2022 postseason has featured plenty of talk about the possibility of neutral-site conference championship games. Even though plenty of fans — and at least one owner — hate the idea, it’s definitely in play for the future.
There’s another idea that definitely has some traction among the NFL’s power brokers. In lieu of jamming both conference championship games into one day, the two games could be spread between two days, Sunday and Monday.
Fans who responded to a Twitter poll on the possibility overwhelmingly dislike it. But, again, that won’t stop the league from doing it, if the league sees value in it.
And there could indeed be value in it. Currently, one game ends and the next one starts. By Monday morning, one of the two games dominates the conversation. By splitting them into two days, full focus could be placed on one game, before attention shifts to the next one. The NFL would dominate the sports conversation all day Sunday, all day Monday, all day Tuesday.
With a two-week break before the Super Bowl, the team that wins on Monday night would experience no disadvantage when it comes to preparing for the game. And it would give the two teams that play on Monday an extra day to prepare.
It’s something the league would have to do, if the Chargers and Rams or the Jets and Giants ever host a conference championship in the same playoff cycle. The league may decide not to wait for those planets to align; it may decide to give it a try.
Again, fans wouldn’t like it. But what would they do about it? Not watch? Not wait?
I’d assumed it would be a Sunday night and Monday night arrangement. A source with a finger squarely on the pulse of the league, when asked about the possibility, quickly responded by saying the Sunday game could be played at 4:00 pm ET, with the Monday game starting at in the range of a normal Monday night game — 8:00 pm to 8:15 pm ET time frame.
The reply made it clear that folks in the league office have considered the possibility.
Frankly, this year’s game are too good to play consecutively. I’d like a full day to prepare for, to watch, and to process 49ers-Eagles before doing the same for Bengals-Chiefs. As it stands, once the NFC Championship ends, it’ll be time to pivot immediately to the AFC game. And, again, one of the two will dominate the conversation on Monday, while the other gets short shrift.
As it was (and is) with the possibility of neutral-site championship games, splitting them between two days becomes a simple way to enhance the overall experience without increasing expenses by a penny. And it would provide more value to the network that televises each game, especially on Sunday — when a major audience can be delivered to the subsequent programming when, under the current schedule, the channels immediately change to the network carrying the second game.
For both games, there would be a longer pregame, and a longer post-game. Pay more attention. More discussion. More everything. Two days to become immersed in football, rather than one.
Typically, we don’t like change. But some changes end up being for the better.
Over the years, the NFL has shifted the times of playoff games. In 2002, the conference championships moved to later in the day. In 2021, the NFL added a Monday night wild-card game.
As Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said when asked about the inherent disadvantage to playing in Tampa on Monday and playing in California on Sunday when the 49ers had two extra days to prepare, “TV is king.”
King TV would likely be in favor of this. This year in particular, I definitely would be.