The NFL wants an 18-game season. It may end up settling for 17.
Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed for reporters on Wednesday that talks between the NFL and NFL Players Association have occurred regarding an expansion of the regular season from 16 games to 17. And, to no surprise, Goodell is justifying the expanded regular season by pointing to steps over the past decade to make the game safer.
“We’ve had very fruitful discussion on it, discussing the positives and negatives, and the changes to the game that we’ve made over the last 10 years, which I think are really important as it relates to the safety of the game and how we’re preparing and practicing, and training our players,” Goodell said, via Ben Fischer of Sports Business Daily. “I think those changes have made a significant impact in a positive way, and so that is something we’ll continue to discuss.”
Amid renewed talk of 18 games in July, including reports that management actually had broached the concept of 18 games with a limit of 16 games per player, Packers CEO Mark Murphy advocated for 17 games as a compromise, with the preseason dropping to either three or two games.
A seventh regular-season game gives the NFL a whopping 16 games that would be played in London and other non-NFL cities, with every team having eight true home games, eight true road games, and one neutral-site game.
Goodell also said that the season would continue to start the weekend after Labor Day, which means that 17 games would push completion of the season one week deeper into February, which in turn could make for some awkward scheduling for future Super Bowls with firm dates for the game and associated activites in the week preceding it, if the change comes before the 2023 season. Indeed, each of the next five Super Bowls has a firm date associated with it.
But, as usual, listen to the money talk. The NFL will take the extra week of regular-season games as soon as it can, and it probably already has contingency plans in place for Super Bowl LV and beyond, in the event the money talks a 17-game season into existence.