We’ve been pondering all week our feelings regarding the league’s plan to “enhance” the regular season by increasing the number of games from 16 to 18. We hadn’t previously expressed a firm opinion on the move, in large part because it seems to be inevitable that two regular-season games will be added. Thus, nothing we have to say will really make much of a difference.
But since that has never stopped us in the past, let’s take a crack at it.
We could live with an 18-week game regular season. But we prefer 17. Our reasoning and our concerns appear after the jump.
And feel free to drop your comments below.
First, though the shift in the 20-game schedule from 16 regular-season
games and four preseason contests to 18 and two will not result in a
higher number of injuries per se, since the total number of live reps in a
game setting won’t change, starters would see their exposure to
regular-season injuries increase by more than 10 percent, since they’d
be playing the bulk of the two extra regular-season season games. Though a
50-percent reduction in total preseason snaps would likewise reduce the
number of preseason snaps taken by starters, the net result would be more
opportunities for wear, tear, bruising, and breakage for the key players
on each team.
Over a period of multiple years, the extra exposure would shorten
careers. And given the importance of the quarterback position, the
increased risk of injury gives us considerable pause, given that there
currently aren’t 32 quality quarterbacks to go around, much less 64 of
Second, the owners apparently believe that increasing the regular season
by more than 10 percent will provide a silver-bullet solution for the ongoing
labor morass. If the extra two games will trigger linear growth in gate
and television revenue, the pie will grow — and the players could take
a smaller piece of the bigger pie and still end up ahead of the game.
But the players simply won’t want to be where they are in a 16-game
season; they’ll want more. And they’ll want other stuff, like a reduced
offseason schedule, improved health care benefits, expanded rosters,
and other considerations and concessions. In the end, adding two games
could simply make a complex labor negotiation even more complicated.
Third, adding games would potentially result in more meaningless games
late in the season. With no good solution on the horizon to the problem
of playoff teams treating the latter weeks of the regular season
like a preseason for the postseason, more games would mean that dominant teams
could clinch home-field advantage even earlier, resulting in more
frustrating moments for the league office (and the rest of us) in
December and January.
Fourth, an expanded regular season surely would result in more neutral-site
games. But with an 18-game season, some teams would have nine home
games and those “hosting” international games would have only eight. In
this regard, 17 games provides the best compromise; every team would
have eight home games, eight road games, and one neutral-site game.
That’s a total of 16 total neutral-site games, which could be played in England and
Mexico and Canada and in domestic locations where pro football isn’t
With a move to 17 games, the preseason would in theory shrink to three
games. But we think that a drop to two preseason games even with only 17 regular-season games would score
major points with the players and the fans. While the total length of
the season, preseason and regular season, would then fall to 19 games, the less-is-more approach could
yield significant long-term dividends.
We’d also support a return of two bye weeks, a concept that was used on a
limited basis in the early 1990s. This would result in 19 weekends of
regular-season football, with 19 Sunday night games, 19 Monday night
games, and various other revenue-generating prime-time contests. For fans who like to
watch NFL action on their 3D/HD televisions, 19 weekends of regular-season football and
eight home games per team would equate to 11 weekends per season during
which season-ticket holders would still be able to hunker down in their
Finally, we like the idea of 17 regular-season games because we prefer an uneven number of games. The 8-8 record is the equivalent of a full-season tie. Teams need to have a winning season or a losing season. So out with the 8-8s and 9-9s and let’s have 9-8 or 8-9 as a way of knowing whether, over the course of a full season, the team was a winner or a loser.
As we recently noted in the first-ever PFT mailbag, we had believed for
months that the NFL was pushing for 18 games with an actual goal of
increasing to 17. For now, it appears that 18 is the target. In the
end, however, the best move could be to move to the middle ground of 17.