The NFL’s two leading contenders for the 2020 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year, Justin Herbert and Justin Jefferson, could be on course to play against each other next season. Per reports, a 17 game season is expected to be ratified by the owners in an upcoming vote.
It seems like the 17th game will likely be an interconference matchup that rotates every year based on division and placement.
The first year of the divisional matchups for AFC West could be against the NFC North. Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reported this back in December. It would be based on where the teams finished in the division.
The Chiefs would play the Packers as the division winners under this scenario. Based on their third-place finishes in the division, Minnesota would have a date with Los Angeles.
What we don’t know about the hypothetical game is home field. No details have come out on how that will be decided. Perhaps it would be based on who had the better home record in the previous season? That’s purely speculation on my part, but the Chargers were 4-4 at home in 2020 while the Vikings were 3-5.
The main attraction of this game would obviously be Justin Jefferson and Justin Herbert.
They won’t technically play against each other on the field, but both will want to ball out anyways. Jefferson did congratulate Herbert on the Pepsi Zero Sugar Rookie of the Year award, but also tweeted this when the AP OROY was awarded:
??see ya next season
— JJETS✈️ (@JJettas2) February 7, 2021
A 17th game will also be huge from a standings perspective. It completely changes the previous wild card and division standings math. Could the game end up being a tiebreaker criteria if the Bolts and another team are tied in some other categories? It’s not impossible.
As I said, the potential playoff math changes drastically. Instead of 9-7 or 8-8 for the average wild card placement, those numbers could bump up to 10-7 or 9-8 with an extra game to separate teams.
Both teams could also be fast risers up the power rankings and standings next season. The Chargers will have another offseason to build around Herbert with more talent and a new coaching staff. If Minnesota continues to build out their defense, it’s not too hard to see them surpassing Chicago for second place in the NFC North.
While Herbert deserved rookie of the year in the eyes of the voters, Jefferson will be looking to put 200 yards up on the board in that game. It will also be exciting to see how the new 17th game wrinkle affects the league next season.