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NFL mulls season-ending divisional games so teams will use starters

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- In an effort to have teams use their top players through the final games of the season, the NFL is considering making the last week -- and possibly weeks -- consist of all divisional matchups.

"Potentially, Week 17 will all be divisional games," commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday during his closing remarks at the NFL Annual Meeting. "That will address this to some extent. It will not necessarily eliminate the issue."

Goodell said the league actually is considering pairing division rivals in the final two weeks of the season. Last season, just 11 of the 32 games played in the last two weeks were divisional matchups.

While teams that clinch playoff berths routinely rest key players late in the season, an uproar of sorts erupted last season when the unbeaten Indianapolis Colts sat many starters in the second half of a Week 16 game that they eventually lost to the New York Jets.

The rationale for sitting players is to minimize injury risks and have key starters as healthy as possible for postseason play. But by scheduling teams against division opponents in the final week (or weeks), it could force teams to use those key starters because a division title -- and a playoff berth -- might hang in the balance.

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