Could 17-and-3 be the future NFL schedule structure?

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With Commissioner Roger Goodell once again criticizing the quality of preseason play, expressly citing three preseason games as the possibly ideal balance, and citing the league’s collective bargaining obligations when adjusting the structure of the season, it could be that the league currently is hoping for an expansion of the regular season, by only one game.

For decades, the league has played 20 total games. Before 1978, the league applied a 14-and-6 split. The peg then slid to 16 and four. More recently, the league seemed to be posturing for a move to 18 and two.

The magic number may indeed be 17 and three. The removal of a week of meaningless games would be met with the addition of a weekend of games that count, along with the opportunity for all teams to play eight games at home, eight games on the road, and one neutral-site game. The end result would be 16 games that could be played in England, Mexico, China, wherever without any team losing a home game.

Also, with legalized gambling looming and with the NFL surely making plans for finding a way to capture some of that revenue (by among other things facilitating bets through the placement of links on and team-owned websites), another week of regular-season games means an expansion from 256 opportunities to place wagers to 272.

If the NFL wants to cut the preseason from four games to three, it can do so without collective bargaining. But if the league wants to simply slide the peg to the 17-and-3 position, the union needs to buy in. The union, ideally, needs to offer the possibility without the league even asking, because the league now knows that whenever it mentions the possibility of expanding the regular season, it gets shouted down by players, media, and fans.

Legalized gambling, which the NFL has long opposed, is the key. The end result could be that the league goes kicking and screaming toward billions more in revenue, with some of that money being spent to make even more money through another weekend of games, maybe two more wild-card games, and eventually a Super Bowl played on President’s Day weekend.

23 responses to “Could 17-and-3 be the future NFL schedule structure?

  1. With Commissioner Roger Goodell once again criticizing the quality of preseason play.
    Well I guess I won’t watch then.

    If you cut the preseason down to two games and extend the regular season people will still see 4 or 5 sloppy games until the teams start to gel. It will just make the first few games of the regular season less meaningful than they currently are. Short cutting preparation is never going to get you better end results.

  2. The schedule balance works very well with 16 games

    Home and Road in your division 6
    All teams in a division from the other conference 4
    All teams from a division in your conference 4
    The two teams who finished the same place last year
    from the other divisions of your conference 2

    Total: 16

    How that 17th game is scheduled could cause imbalance

  3. Heck, they expand it any more and we could have the combine the week after the Super Bowl, and the draft the week after that….

  4. If that is how it will be make the extra game a neutral site game. Teams can play in a regional venue that doesn’t have a team or a ridiculous international game. Throw in another bye week just to ease the travel, drop the Thursday night slopfest and bump the roster limit up.

  5. Ugh just please don’t. The only change should be to add a bye week, one for every team on the same day, mid-season, and the other as usual.

    If you want to add a playoff game, make it a play-in game with #s 6 and 7, giving the good teams an extra week to get healthy before playoffs.

    Make changes to make progress, not money.

  6. Sounds like a very good change. That 4th and final preseason game is not used as a tune-up for the players anyway, the starters are all resting, it’s an evaluation game for a few fringe players. Expand the practice squad by 2 more players if you need more evaluation time. Make the Hall of Fame game one of the 3 preseason games too so no teams play that 4th game at all.

  7. Sounds good to me. I’m all for having 16 international games a year (one a week), if they agree to get rid of Thursday night football games.

    On another note, how would that 17th opponent be chosen? Right now, a team plays at least one team from each of their divisions in its conference. Would that extra opponent be from the other conference?

  8. They can play in so many cities, without NFL. I bet Boise, Omaha, Fargo, San Antonio, Albuquerque, Moblie, Columbia, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Rome, Madrid, Frankfurt, Mexico City would love o host a game. Have every team play at these neutral sites same week and then every team get same bye week.

  9. Rather than have two teams travel abroad to play a neutral venue, a better idea would be a separate “International Division” (i.e. the best 5 supported of the old World League towns of London, Frankfurt, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Montreal – plus recently bereft San Diego and St Louis, plus one more). These 8 teams would play once every two weeks (to allow for travel) from late July, the best 4 playing semis & final in Dec (i.e. 14 games, and 16 games for the eventual winner), with that winner then given a qualifier game – a visit to the weakest NFL wildcard candidate for that last NFL playoff spot (being the lowest seed this means existing NFL teams would never be traveling abroad for a playoff, if the “World Division” team wins they’d have to travel throughout the postseason).

    We’d then get to see meaningful games from July with a sort-of “feeder” lower division whose games still meant something for the NFL season, the league gets to expand proper games across the globe, and the NFL and its existing fans don’t have to lose a home game to Mexico etc.

  10. Only if the 17th game would mean the Giants and Jets play every thanksgiving, or Eagles vs. Steelers, or Ravens vs. Redskins or Panthers vs Titans.

  11. No no no. I don’t want to see records broken because of an extra game. I don’t want some teams to have more home games than others. I don’t want playoff tie-breakers to get weird. It works great – don’t change anything – except maybe a couple more roster spots.

  12. As noted above, the schedule balance works very well with 16 games:
    Home and Road in your division 6
    All teams in a division from the other conference 4
    All teams from a division in your conference 4
    The two teams who finished the same place last year
    from the other divisions of your conference 2
    Total: 16

    The 17th game could be equitably distributed.

    It could be against one of the three teams in the OTHER CONFERENCE who finished in the same place as you did in your division, but that you you are not playing anyway as a result of playing that whole division. It would rotate among the divisions, just like the rotation for other nonconference foes.

    For example, you might play the equally-placed team in a division in the other conference, specifically in the division that you faced in its entirety two years ago.

    This would fix a 17-game schedule for everyone, fairly and equitably.

  13. I’d appreciate if there was a league-wide bye week. All teams rest at the same time. With some teams having a week 5 bye, and others week 12 – that’s a competitive imbalance, particularly for those teams with early bye weeks. Anyone would agree that success in the NFL has a strong correlation to health. Bye weeks allow precious time for players to rest and recover for a late season push. Make a league wide week 8 or 9 bye week, and level the playing field.

  14. It would just be a money move. The league makes more money on regular season than on preseason games. Injuries to marquee players would grow, including concussions as marquee players skip most of the pre season, but must play during games that count. Sixteen is probably too many regular season games. Don’t let greed ruin the game.

  15. Game 17 at a neutral site, no problem. That’s 16 games to be spread around England, Mexico, Canada, Jabip, wherever. Then add a second bye week, and we are in business. Only problem is you have to go back to Labor Day weekend to start season. You can’t have the Super Bowl fall on Valentine’s Day, that would cause too many problems.

  16. They need to make the jump to a 17-2 format and increase the final roster size from 54 to 65….If they eliminate the final cuts, they can eliminate the perceived need for the third preseason game….If the schedule makers can organize themselves adequately, they can run a 19 week season that the league has wanted, having 2 byes per team. The seventeenth game for each team can be on neutral ground.

  17. Get rid of one preseason game and add a second bye. Each team get and early season bye and a late mid bye. Then league then get to sell a 18th week of games to the tv stations. Each team should have one scrimmage against a another team at camp to help the fringe roster guys.

  18. I always thought 18 and 2 made a lot of sense. The gate revenues would appease the owners, fans get extra entertainment, and the players hate the extra pre-season games as well. Not against 17 and 3, just prefer the extra “for real” game for my entertainment (and fantasy football interests).

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