National Football League

What to know about the NFL expanding to a 17-game regular season

March 30

NFL owners made a big announcement on Tuesday, revealing that they voted to expand the regular season to a 17-game schedule beginning next season.

The league has been playing 16 games in the regular season since 1978. It’s something teams, players and fans have been used to for a long time.

Naturally, the news created a strong reaction on social media, some positive and some negative.

As you consider what the expanded schedule means for your team, here are some things you need to know.

1. The players play an extra game and get a small bump in pay.

This expansion was all but certain to happen once a new collective bargaining agreement was approved last spring. As a result, the players’ share of revenue will rise from 47% in 2020 to 48.5% next season.

Will that be worth it for the players to endure an extra game of pounding on their bodies?

On the flip side, while rostered players get one extra game, prospects get one fewer chance to impress their coaches, as the preseason will be shortened to three games.

2. Everything gets pushed back one week.

The new schedule will be 18 weeks long, meaning every team still has a bye during the season.

Everything begins with a Thursday night game on Sept. 9, and Super Bowl LVI will be played Sunday, Feb. 13 in Los Angeles. This places the event right in the middle of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, which should be interesting.

3. Each team gets one extra opponent.

Every team will have one extra game against a foe from the opposite conference. So if you’re an AFC team, you draw a contest against an NFC team.

In 2021, AFC teams get the ninth regular-season home game, and NFC teams will have the usual eight. The matchups are decided by division.

Including preseason, every team will play 10 home games. Of course, most people don’t count the preseason, so that might cause some complaining among fans.

On top of all of this, all 32 teams will be required to play at least one international game over an eight-year period, and the NFL is looking to play more of those games as well.

Here’s how it breaks down in 2021:

NFC EAST at AFC EAST
Washington Football Team at Buffalo Bills
New York Giants at Miami Dolphins
Dallas Cowboys at New England Patriots
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets

NFC WEST at AFC NORTH
Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh Steelers
Los Angeles Rams at Baltimore Ravens
Arizona Cardinals at Cleveland Browns
San Francisco 49ers at Cincinnati Bengals

NFC SOUTH at AFC SOUTH
New Orleans Saints at Tennessee Titans
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Indianapolis Colts
Carolina Panthers at Houston Texans
Atlanta Falcons at Jacksonville Jaguars

NFC NORTH at AFC WEST
Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs
Chicago Bears at Las Vegas Raiders
Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers
Detroit Lions at Denver Broncos

4. The biggest winners are the fans.

Regardless of whether fans think the extra game will treat their team fairly, the biggest winners are the fans themselves.

That's because with everything pushed back a week, the Super Bowl is creeping closer and closer to President’s Day. Given that the post-Super Bowl Monday has become notorious as a sick day across the country, it might make sense for the league to nudge things one week further down the calendar so the big game is held the day before a holiday.

5. One more bit of news ...

After a year of chaos because of COVID-19, it's looking increasingly likely that the NFL, at least, will be able to move back toward a normal operation.

More games with more fans. That seems like a step in a positive direction.


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