Imagine you’re taking part in an annual contest at your workplace to determine the finalists for a coveted prize. Everybody wants this prize. People have cheated, backstabbed, and played dirty in the past in order to win this prize. It’s that great. As the time period for determining who the finalists will be closes in, you notice a loophole in the competition’s rulebook that would allow you as well as another coworker to both be finalists.
Would you pull the dirty trick in order to get a shot at the prize? It’s a moral dilemma that even Aristotle would be forced to ponder over. Well, guess what? If the Colts lose to the Jaguars this Sunday, the Raiders and Chargers will find themselves in this exact scenario.
Basically, if the Colts lose, the winner of Chargers-Raiders is in the playoffs. However, if both teams tie…then both the Chargers and Raiders get into the playoffs. Furthermore, the Colts play at 1 pm ET. The Raiders and Chargers play at 8:20 pm ET. Essentially, both teams would know whether or not this situation would come up hours before they play. That’d give both teams plenty of time to discuss the details, forge out a plan, and pinky swear that they will each kneel the ball on every single play for 70 minutes.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “There’s no way the NFL would allow this to happen, right?”
I mean, sure, they could fine both teams for damaging the integrity of the sport, but what are they going to do in the middle of the game? Call up Buffalo Wild Wings and get a sprinkler to nudge the ball slowly down the field into the endzone? Zero chance. That’s not happening.
“OK, but surely the players involved wouldn’t want to be involved with something as ‘bush league’ as this.”
Really? The NFL has a system in place that gives players $19,000 for losing a playoff game. If they win, their bonuses go way up. There are incentives in place for players to want to reach the playoffs, and it also comes with the opportunity to play for a Super Bowl. Would you really be willing to give that bonus money and championship opportunity up for the integrity of a single regular season game?
Even if the NFL fines every player, the current fine for unsportsmanlike conduct is just $12,875 for first-time offenders and $18,025 for second-time offenders — both lower than the bonuses the players would receive for making the playoffs.
“Alright. Well, the Chargers and Raiders are division rivals. They probably don’t want to see the other make the playoffs at all.”
Are they though? I’d argue that the relationship between the Raiders and Chargers is one of mutual respect, rather than disdain. If you Google “Raiders’ biggest rivals” right now. It’s pretty much agreed that the team’s biggest rival is either Denver or Kansas City, followed in a distant third by the Chargers. There are even some who believe the Steelers, Patriots, and 49ers to be bigger rivals to the Raiders than the Chargers are.
Now, the Chargers are a different story. The Raiders are clearly their biggest rival, but it’s not some huge rivalry that shapes the NFL landscape. If anything, the Chargers should see a bit of themselves in the Raiders — a team that has struggled to stay relevant in recent years and was forced to leave their hometown for a bigger market, and hasn’t really lived up to the hype. They have some common ground to come together on, and reaching the playoffs should be a goal that both teams can agree upon, even if it means the Raiders have to play the Chiefs in the Wild Card Round.
“OK, but there’s no way the Colts lose to the Jaguars, so this is all just a pipe dream.”
Well, I’d hate to break it to you, but the Colts haven’t won a game in Jacksonville since 2014. The Jags have the Colts’ number when they play in Florida. Yes, the circumstances are different this time around. The Colts are in a “win-and-in” situation. They might drop a 50-bomb on the Jaguars just to make sure they walk away with the dub. Still, Jacksonville gave Indy a run for their money in their first meeting of the year and the Jaguars have the history. There’s reason for the Jaguars to feel confident in their ability to win, but maybe they don’t want to win in order to secure the first overall pick. That’s an option too.
What makes this situation even crazier is that the Chargers and Raiders play in primetime, on Sunday Night Football. They play the final regular season game of the season. It’s likely that millions of people will be watching. So, just imagine how awesome it would be to see both teams give a huge middle finger to the entire world as they waltz into the playoffs hand-in-hand. It most likely won’t happen. The players have too much “self-respect” and “dignity” to be involved in something as childish as this, but man, it would be quite the talking point as the NFL playoffs rolled along.