It's a dream scenario for the NFL, Sunday night's matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions will be a "win or go home" clash--with the NFC North Division title on the line. Imagine two teams battling for their playoff lives--all in prime time on NBC. Except it doesn't have to be a winner-take-all game. You see, if the two teams tie--they will both make the playoffs anyway--and if I was both coaches, that is exactly what I would do.
A tie would give the Packers the division title--which is what Head Coach Mike McCarthy said the team was going to Detroit to win. A tie also saves Jim Caldwell from the embarrassment of a total collapse that the Lions have been heading for the second half of the season. And to accomplish that tie, both teams should do nothing but kneel down on the ball 75-times each.
That strategy also serves both teams well. No need to worry about Aaron Rodgers aggravating one of his leg injuries the week before the playoffs start. Clay Matthews gets a week to let his shoulder heal more. Matthew Stafford doesn't have to worry about banging the broken finger on his throwing hand on a helmet and making it impossible to throw. And since the game would only take about an hour and a half to play, you can be back home sooner and getting ready for that playoff opener.
Would a double-kneel-down game make the NFL look bad? Sure. But what are they going to do about it? You think Commissioner Roger Goodell is going to suspend two head coaches for playoff games? At worst, he might arbitrarily take away draft picks next year--but as the legendary George Allen used to say, a draft pick next year isn't getting you in the playoffs this year.
NBC might be angry that their prime time game is turned into a sham-mockery. But millions of Americans will still tune in just to see if both teams do actually make no effort to run plays for an entire game--that is until they tire of Chris Collinsworth repeatedly saying "This is unbelievable. This is unbelievable." Maybe Al Michaels could kill time telling great stories about the 1980 Olympic Hockey Miracle on Ice team to keep us all entertained. The TV execs should also keep in mind that a tie still delivers them another ratings bonanza: a playoff game Saturday night at Lambeau Field--where a foot of snow or -20 degree temperatures are always a possibility.
The fans at the game itself might feel like they got ripped off--since they didn't pay big bucks to watch backup QB's kneel on the ball all night. But your team is making the playoffs--so what are you really complaining about? Plus, if both teams actually tried, the Packers would kill the Lions, so Detroit fans should be happy they don't have to witness that. Besides, you can always say that you were at the "Kneel Down Game"--which will someday grow in stature to match the Ice Bowl (which was miraculously attended by 4.5-MILLION Packers Fans).
Now before you tell me "no professional athletes would ever just play for a tie" allow me to direct your attention to international soccer--where many a nil-nil draw with no real effort to attack either goal have been played when both teams knew that ties would advance them out of pool play and into the knockout round.
So what do you say, Coach McCarthy and Coach Caldwell--how about a little "gentlemen's agreement" that no one will try to win--and both punch your tickets to the post-season?