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Ask Farmer: Why doesn’t the NFL add a bye week and give every team another week off before its Thursday night game?

Ask Farmer: Why doesn’t the NFL add a bye week and give every team another week off before its Thursday night game?
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) runs past Jacksonville Jaguars outside linebacker Leon Jacobs (48) for a touchdown during the first half. (Mark Zaleski / Associated Press)

Have a question about the NFL? Ask Times NFL writer Sam Farmer, and he will answer as many as he can online and in the Sunday editions of the newspaper throughout the season. Email questions to: sam.farmer@latimes.com

Thursday night football is kind of a joke. Teams can’t be at their best after only a few days’ rest, and players are more exposed to injuries. I have a solution. Why doesn’t the NFL add a bye week and give every team another week off right before its Thursday night game? That would give teams more time to prepare, and give players more time to recover.

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James Ramsdell

Sacramento

Farmer: There’s no question that teams are rushed in having to prepare for Thursday night games, but whether that results in more injuries is up for debate. According to the NFL, teams sustained an average of 6.9 injuries per Thursday night game in 2017, compared to 6.3 in games played on other days. So that represents a small uptick, but it was the first time since the league began releasing such data in 2014 that the Thursday night injury rate was higher. In fact, over the last four years, the injury rate was 5.7 for Thursday night games, and 6.7 for all other days.

Now, about adding a bye week. There are several reasons why this would be impractical, and most of them have to do with TV networks and the inventory of compelling games. As it is, there are some pretty lean weeks now when four to six teams are on their bye, weeks when really attractive games are few and far between. If the NFL were to add a week to the season but not add any more games, the cupboard would be pretty picked over for the TV partners.

And there are other issues. Do you give byes to teams that play Thursday night games in Weeks 2 to 4? Would a team really want to play its opener, then get 10 days off before it plays again?

What about those teams that got an extra bye in Weeks 14 and 15? A breather like that wouldn’t be fair if one of those teams were bound for the playoffs.

Just tossing in an extra week is easier said than done.

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With the playoffs approaching, could you explain how wild-card games are determined?

Rob Parra

Rowland Heights

Twelve teams qualify for the postseason, six each from the NFC and AFC. In each conference, the six playoff teams are composed of the four division winners and two wild cards, which are the non-division winners with the best records. Based on their regular-season record, the division winners are seeded 1-4, and the wild cards are seeded 5-6.

Whereas the top two seeds from each conference get a bye, the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds play host to first-round (wild-card) games. The No. 3 seed hosts the No. 6 seed, and No. 4 hosts No. 5.

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