17 could be the NFL’s magic number, eventually

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As the NFL wrestles with the ever-present pressure to expand the financial pie and the ongoing growth of international games, there’s a looming solution to multiple concerns that involves an expansion of the regular season by less than two games.

The regular season eventually could be expanded by one game.

Eventually, the league could nudge the inventory from 16 to 17 regular-season games. It’s a way-down-the-road possibility that has yet to even land on the fringes of the league’s radar. But there are plenty of reasons to take this possibility seriously.

First, the NFL needs to increase the number of games that can be exported to other countries. While there always will be a handful of teams happy to give up a home game, some franchises (like the Cowboys, Steelers, and Patriots) will never do it. By adding a 17th game, every team would play once at a neutral site — creating a total of 16 games that could be played in Europe or Mexico City or wherever.

Extra games beyond the 16 neutral-site games could be played in other countries if teams are willing to give up one of their eight homes games.

Second, the NFL could start most if not all Europeans games at 9:30 a.m. ET. Apart from the wisdom of carving out a game that otherwise would be caught in the 1:00 p.m. ET scrum, starting a game at 9:30 a.m. ET allows games to be shown on TV (or the Internet) in or close to prime time in Asia.

Third, the health and safety concerns arising from adding one regular-season game could be balanced out by the reduction of the preseason from four games to two. Adding a second bye week would give the players extra rest — and it would nudge the Super Bowl to Presidents’ Day Weekend.

Fourth, and as one league source put it, the money coming from adding two weeks to the regular season would be “enormous.”

Again, it’s not anything that will happen soon, if at all. But as the NFL looks for more games to play in other countries and more ways to grow the pie, it’s a possibility that eventually will land on the table for discussion between the league and the NFL Players Association.

38 responses to “17 could be the NFL’s magic number, eventually

  1. won’t happen. the owners will want the lion share of the extended pie. more players will break down and the play will be awful when more starting QB’s go down. Unless the owners agree to reduce preseason by 2 games AND add 5 more roster spots per team this will not happen.

  2. Interesting idea and analysis. There are many different ways that the NFL could substantially increase the revenue pie beyond adding a game to the schedule. It would be truly fascinating to know what hypothetical ideas exist that the owners have inquired about and/or what the league is considering to understand what they might be reviewing and what they might be missing along with the reasons as to why for each theoretical idea.

    If there are no sources to provide that kind of report or analysis, then it would be a neat project for this site to create some conceptual ideas and analysis of those ideas for speculative pondering purposes.

  3. If they want to extend the season, they should just give each team an additional bye and have an 18 week regular season. They could make more money by having an extra week of regular season football, and the players don’t have the added risk of an extra game.

  4. This sounds fascinating as a way to send more teams to more “neutral” venues while ensuring everyone still gets 8 home and 8 away games. Really, if they’re going to be serious about expanding the game beyond America’s shores, they need to compel the Patriots, Cowboys, Steelers, and every other team that thinks they’re too good to participate in the program, to participate. That’s only fair.

    If it comes to a 1-to-2 ratio of Games Added to Games Reduced, if that were to be the sticking point in, say, a new labor deal, I think the players would be wise to take that.

    I’ve always been on the side of more football, because it’s the only sport I actually follow. But it does have to make sense in context.

  5. “As the NFL wrestles with the ever-present pressure to expand the financial pie”

    Pressure from who? 32 billionaires?

    Millions of fans want to keep 16 games. Pretty simple math, NFL.

  6. A change like this would require expanded rosters and active game day rosters. That might help get some buy in from the NFPLA if they increase the salary cap to match the changes.

  7. Like I’ve said repeatedly, unless every team plays at least 1 game in London, Mexico City, Mars, or wherever, the season’s integrity is shot.

  8. I hope someone in the NFL office is considering the implications of a Super Bowl on Valentine’s Day. Any expansion of the schedule would have to start the season on Labor Day weekend or sooner. Or if it has to go to that second weekend in February, time to experiment with a Saturday night Super Bowl if that Sunday is Valentine’s Day.

  9. phinsfanjoz says:
    Really, if they’re going to be serious about expanding the game beyond America’s shores, they need to compel the Patriots, Cowboys, Steelers, and every other team that thinks they’re too good to participate in the program, to participate. That’s only fair.
    ______________

    You misread the article. The Pats, Boys and Steelers were mentioned as organizations that would be unhappy foregoing a home game not as non participants, in fact the Patriots have played there twice. The teams that have not played in London at all are: Eagles, Washington, Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Colts, Texans, Titans, Packers, Panthers, Cardinals, Seahawks.

    The more you know…

  10. I said this when they were wrestling over the LA market 3 or 4 years ago on this very website. Eighteen weeks, 2 byes, and you can play games in LA, London, Mexico City, Toronto, etc. Plus, you can ditch the Thursday games because they’re a bad product and also I’m pretty sure expanding the product into other markets is far more valuable than the Thursday night package will ever be monetarily.

  11. From a scheduling standpoint, I’m curious how this would balance out. Currently, each team plays 6 division, 6 same conference (4 in the same division), and one whole division (4 games) in the opposing conference. It’s all nice and even, so I’m wondering where the 17th game would come from.

  12. The 17th Game would be kind of cool if they made it like The Winter Classic- Lions vs Bears at the Big House, Browns vs Bengals in Columbus, Eagles vs Steelers at Penn State. Teams wouldn’t really lose that ‘home’ game if you broker out 100k seats to each team. The crowds would be incredible (just don’t scalp on the wrong side of the stadium!).

  13. From a scheduling standpoint, I’m curious how this would balance out. Currently, each team plays 6 division, 6 same conference (4 in the same division), and one whole division (4 games) in the opposing conference. It’s all nice and even, so I’m wondering where the 17th game would come from.
    ==============================
    If it were up to me, the 17th game would come from the nearest geographical rival in the other conference. Most teams already have one (New York vs. New York, Baltimore vs. Washington, Miami vs. Tampa, San Francisco vs. Oakland (?), Houston vs. Dallas, etc…). This could be done on a home and home basis (AFC team hosts in even years, NFC team in odd years). For the teams that do not have a rival in the other division, they could just throw names in a hat and pick them out.

  14. Decrease the preseason to two games immediately. When the team of Donald Trump and Gordon Gecko win the White House next November, they will fire Goodell and have a new franchise at Trump’s new place in England. Greed will than increase the amount of games to 17, with two bye weeks, so that all teams can play overseas.

  15. I’ve always felt the NFL should get rid of 2 of the pre-season games. Then add one regular season game and another bye week for each team. The result in 18 weeks of football and the players play 1 less game (2 less meaningless games). With two bye weeks it would help players recover and should lead to better football all around.

  16. Just have two eight-game seasons per year. Plus two sets of playoffs and two Super Bowls, of course. So many teams are out of the running after eight games anyway that it’d give them something to look forward to.

  17. Yes the money from two more games would be enormous. It used to be 12 games, and that was fine. Then it was 14 games. Then 16 games. Now 17? It’s funny to listen to all the theories about why there are so many injuries nowadays. Personally, I love all the extra games. The injuries don’t bother me either. But let’s stop kidding ourselves. Why don’t we just make it 20 games. Cha Ching.

  18. How about this idea:
    Drop 2 preseason games, no one cares about them anyway. Add 3 regular season games and a second bye week for each team. The additional games would be based on previous season’s final standings, just like current schedule but adding 3 teams from other conference, i.e. division winners all play each other, 2s play 2s and so on. To restore the home and away balance, the new games would be 1 of each, leaving 1 game per team that could be played at a neutral site. That way no loses a home game, the NFL has 16 games to export, and the regular season is only extended by 2 weeks.
    Now let the screeching begin…

  19. Expand the season, dissolve the Jags, browns, titans and bolts to add to the talent depth n play the consolation bracket. These teams have no history. No tradition. There aren’t enough qbs as it is anyhow.

  20. I love these people that keep saying “Drop 2 preseason games. No one cares about them anyway.” You know who DOES care about them? The coaches that use them to evaluate players to decide their rosters and the 2nd and 3rd tier players who, with out the extended look, may not get on their team or any other team’s roster.
    I do say they need to stop charging full price for games that are for evaluation like that. Maybe more like 1/2 price.
    The reason we see more injuries since the last CBA is they gutted the training camp routines. Players don’t come out of training camps as conditioned and ready to play the regular season as they once did, so injuries are the result.

  21. PS: Thanks for finally discussing this option. I don’t know if it is the right choice, but I have been wanting to see this option at least discussed in a major media outlet forever.

  22. I like the idea, haven’t read every post but it seems this is a minority opinion. Try it, if it isn’t good, change it back.

    As far as guys getting hurt the net is one less game (+1 regular season, -2 preseason). Suppose the preseason stays the same, one more game, that’s a deal breaker? And expanding a world presence is good. Have that second bye week cover the teams with overseas games.

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