How would the schedule reflect a 17th game?

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With the NFL currently moving toward the potential addition of a 17th regular-season game, a question inevitably will arise for the league (if it hasn’t already) regarding the manner in which the league would identify one extra opponent for every team. A loyal PFT Live viewer from the UK has posed the question directly to us via email, and we’ve decided to take a crack at solving the looming problem.

Based on the current scheduling formula, there’s really only one fair way to do it.

The league crafted a perfect formula in 2002, when the Texans joined the league and the number of teams hit an even number of 32. Two conferences, four divisions each, four teams each. Each team plays: (1) the other three teams in its division twice; (2) all four teams from one of the other divisions in its conference, on a three-year rotating basis; (3) all four teams from one of the divisions in the other conference, on a four-year rotating basis; and (4) the teams from the other two divisions in its own conference that finished in the same position during the prior year.

This results in only two games per year being weighted to reflect the outcome of the prior season. In the AFC East, for example, the Patriots (first place in the AFC East last year) and the Jets (fourth place) play the same slate of games with the exception of two: the Patriots play the AFC South and AFC West champions from 2018, and the Jets play the last-place team from those two divisions.

The 17th game provides another opportunity to inject more parity into the schedule. With every team already playing all four teams from one division in the other conference, the 17th game would involve a team from one of the other three divisions in the other conference, based on where the teams finished in those divisions in the prior year.

For example, the four AFC East teams play the four NFC East teams this year. In a 17th game, the Patriots would play a team like the Rams (first place in the NFC West) and the Jets would play the Cardinals (fourth place).

Next year, when the four teams of the AFC East play the four teams of the NFC West, the 17th game would come from the NFC North. The next year, when the four AFC East teams play the four NFC South teams, the 17th game would come from the NFC East.

And with a 17-game schedule allowing teams to play eight true home games, eight true road games, and one neutral-site game, that 17th game that breaks from the current formula also should be the neutral-site game.

There’s another important business reason to make the 17th game an extra interconference matchup: With the first-place team in each division playing not one but two first-place teams from the other conference each year, the chances of a Super Bowl rematch in any given year would increase significantly.

In some years, the Super Bowl rematch would be played at a neutral site. Like Patriots-Rams could have been this year, if the NFL already had a 17-game season with the formula we’ve proposed. And that would be a great way to generate interest and excitement in other countries.

60 responses to “How would the schedule reflect a 17th game?

  1. DO NOT add another game, just give every team TWO BYE weeks.

    This would increase the season by a week and give players more rest which is in line with the talk about “player safety.”

  2. I’m sure it would have something to do with adding
    one or two more HOME night game for any of the nfl’s
    favorite teams (pittsburgh/new england).

  3. It would also allow the league to rely less on tie breakers to decide wild card teams and seating given the odd number games. The NFL HOF voters should really start to look more at efficiency stats over bulk stats because it will be easier for players like QBs to start making 4500 to 5000 yards a norm rather than an exception. The sack record will fall within the first 5 years of making this transition.

  4. One place the CFL has the right idea is how they do their 18 game schedule. Since there are 9 teams, they spread the season out over 22 weeks. Thus every team gets 4 bye weeks.

    The playoffs would be deeper in the year, TV would be maximized over more weeks, etc. And players would be better rested late in the year.

  5. It would also thin out the talent for the playoffs as more players will be hurt. Keep it how it is.

  6. I dont like the idea of the neutral site game

    Just alternate 1 year you have 9 home games next year 9 road games

  7. There is another question to consider. Which teams will get an extra home game and which teams will get the extra road game in a given season. Because home field advantage is so important, that means the team that plays 9 games at home and 8 games on the road will have an advantage over the team that plays 9 games on the road that season. The difference may mean making the playoffs because of an extra home game (e.g. Seattle) or missing the playoffs because of playing an extra road game.

  8. The Patriots play exactly the same number of #1 teams as the Jets do. Same number of #4 teams, too. Every year.

  9. The 17th game is likely a backhanded way of imposing more neutral/foreign games. Get ready for Pats-Rams in Moscow or Seahawks-Cowboys in Shanghai.

  10. This is only going to hurt the bottom feeding franchises who are used to being on the couch the first week of January. The Patriots, however, have been on a 18-19 game schedule for some time now and will already have the advantage.

  11. Logical solution is NFC teams get the extra home game in odd numbered seasons and AFC teams in even. But the NFL appears hell bent on more foreign games. #FireGoddell

  12. The league schedule is designed to determine division champions. Currently everyone in a division plays 14 common opponents with 6 division games; 4 common games against an AFC division and 4 against an NFC division. The 2 non-common opponents come from the same-place finishers in the other 2 intra-conference divisions for “parity” purposes.

    I propose a 17 game schedule that looks like this:

    4 games versus NFC division rotated every year(same as now)
    4 games versus AFC division rotated every year(same as now)
    9 divisional games (3 games each).

    8 home, 8 road, and 1 neutral-site.

    Everyone in the division would have all-common opponents. A majority of games would be division games. No more complaints about “easier schedule” for divisional rivals.

    For the 3 divisional games per year, the third game would be rotated every year among home, road, and neutral site games. For example, the Bears division schedule against the NFC North would look like this:

    2020: 2 at GB, 1 vs. GB; 2 vs. Det, 1 @ Det.; 1 vs. Minn, 1 @ Minn, 1 neutral vs. Min.
    2021: 2 vs GB, 1 at GB, 1 vs. Det, 1 @ Det., 1 neutral vs. Det; 2 @ Minn., 1 vs. Min.
    2022: at GB, vs. GB, neutral site vs. GB, 2 @ Det, 1 vs Det. 2 vs. Min., 1@ Min.

    16 neutral site games for the NFL (all divisional match-ups) to scatter across the world.

  13. Now they will have to add another wild card team in each conference to try to make up for the potential slow starts that some worthy teams might experience because of the elimination of the preseason.

  14. Rank the conferences 1-16. Each team in conference plays its opposite. This guarantees a superbowl rematch. It also guarantees the worst tankers from each conference squared-off and inflict a “win” on one of them

  15. I’m confused! I have a headache! De Mo is already threatening a work stoppage! He’ll never agree to this.

  16. How bout market it as the AFC vs NFC in the 17th game. Have it in the middle of the season over a 2 week stretch giving half the league a bye in this 14 day period. Schedule the games in college towns somewhat neutral as you can get and really advertise it as the mid season classic!

  17. 1. Expand game day rosters to 50 , team rosters to 57 and practice squad to 10

    2. Stop testing for marijuana

    3. Suspensions only take place AFTER a conviction (unless there is video)

    4. 18 game seasons with two bye weeks and with Thursday night games after one of the bye weeks

    5. Contract amnesty. A team can cut a player with no salary cap implications if they pay out 1/2 of the remaining value of the contract to the player

    6. Two preseason games

  18. It reflect one more loss for the Lions and more turnovers for Stafford.

  19. Can someone please explain to me the preoccupation with this reasoning that 18 games means more injuries?

    Where is the data that states unequivocally that there are more injuries later in the Season?

    Also, it is been said that the reason there are more injuries in the game is because of the speed and power of the game today vs yesteryear…if that is the case then, does that not mean that iif the players are tired, they play slower?

    Also, giving them more rest, does that not contribute to speed?

    This argument that the game needs to remain at 16 is a fallacy bourne from people with agendas to detract from their agenda.

    18 games does not mean any moral or medical breach of players right nor is it a definitive line that will result in the destruction of the human body!

    Not too long ago t was said that football past 32 is impossible.

    Enough with the nonsense….Bring on the 18 games.

    Remember when it was crazy to ask players to play on 3 days rest andthe national emergency it wrought? Yeah…These are now some of the best games!

  20. Am so tired of people and their reasoning borne from overeactive reasoning.

    As a young man i worked in construction and was pretty reckless with my body.

    At 45 am already needing knee replacement. Is it because of my genes? My habits? My job?

    Or a combination of all 3?

    Not everyone is built the same…the game is physical and some suffer dearly from various factors….these people need to be weeded out of the game and live it for those whose bodies can stand the rigors….

    Have you noticed how the same players seem to be in the concussion protocol each year and multiple times a year?

    You want player safety? Three concussions in 21 game period and you are out. Or the inability to recover in three weeks from symptoms accompanied by multiple occurences? You are out.

  21. “18 game seasons with two bye weeks and with Thursday night games after one of the bye weeks.”

    So two teams get a Week 1 bye in order to have a Week 2 Thursday game? That doesn’t make sense.

  22. No more additional game. I am convinced adding an extra bye week will help the season. Players get more rest and fewer games on Sunday so the prime time games are more highlighted. And the schedule will shift the Super Bowl to Presidents Day weekend so fans can drink all the beers they want without worry about going to work the next day! Win win!

  23. I suppose all AFC teams will get one extra home game for one season, and the next season all NFC teams will get an extra home game. That way all teams within a conference will get the same number of home games and road games so that there is fair competition for playoff spots.

  24. And just where is this neutral site all these 17th games will be played? London? Mexico City? Tokyo? Bejing? Where?

  25. edtiley says: “One place the CFL has the right idea is how they do their 18 game schedule.”

    Wait, everyone here is whining about “player safety” going to just 17 games – how is it possible that Canadians can play more games? Guess they’re a lot tougher than Americans…

  26. the extra game would be played week 7 or 8 and eveyone and next week every team would have same bye week off. Put in cities like San Antonio, Omaha, Boise, Birmingham, Portland, Vancouver, Montreal, Mexico City, Toronto.

  27. There is ONE BIG factor missing from the scheme — INCREASED ROSTER SIZE.

    More games with more injuries requires a larger roster size. Period.

    A 17 game season should be supported by a 60 player active roster, with 3 inactives.

    At end of 12 game schedules in 1960, roster size was about 35.
    At end of 14 game schedule in 1977, roster size was 43. [14/12= +17%; 43/35= +23%; 23/17=1.35].
    At the end of the 16 game schedule in 2019, the size will have been 53. [16/14= +14%; 53/43= +23%; 23/14=1.64]

    Based on historical averages, the roster should be expanded to 59 players for a 17 game season. [17/16= +6%; 0.06x((1.35+1.64)x0.5)x53=12%; 1.12×53= 59]

    I think that 60 players would be appripriate, since the playoiff schedule is also likely to increase.

    — profootballarchives / nflrosterlimits

  28. DO NOT add another game, just give every team TWO BYE weeks.

    This would increase the season by a week and give players more rest which is in line with the talk about “player safety.”

    This is actually a really good idea. I know my Chargers could definitely use a second bye week this year.

  29. stairwayto7 says:

    October 19, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    the extra game would be played week 7 or 8 and eveyone and next week every team would have same bye week off. Put in cities like San Antonio, Omaha, Boise, Birmingham, Portland, Vancouver, Montreal, Mexico City, Toronto.
    Your city ideas is fine, I dont really care where their played but the idea of having every team have the same bye week the following week would never work. 1st if you were running a league why would you want to have a week where no games are played so nothing from tv etc? 2 if your a tv network exec why would you want to have to find programming for 1 random week? If you spread the byes out then it becomes with the extra game 2 extra weeks of football to sell in tv deals and then that those networks are able to sell ad time for.

  30. Florio’s idea makes a lot of sense. Which no doubt means the NFL will implement something completely different.!

  31. What is the benefit to individual clubs to move games outside of their stadiums around the Country?

    The owners want to expand the Season so that they can generate more money, not so that they can allow other cities to experience the game…or play in low level stadiums that they have to rent out while their building is sitting unoccupied.

    Amazing how some people just view things from their perspective rather than the perspective of the people making the decisions…

    Just because the season has been 16 games does not mean if it goes to 17 or 18 games then it’s a bonus that the Owners are simply going to give to others…whatever it becomes will simply be the new business module operating under the very terms that affected the previous business module….not gravy.

  32. 1. Get rid of divisions. It’s not fair that the Lions, Vikings, and Bears have to play the Zebra Riders twice.

    2. Each team plays every team in it’s conference and two in the other conference.
    This would eliminate many tie-breaking procedures.

  33. They should break down the conferences after the season into seeds 1-16 and then match up each nfc 1 with AFC 1; nfc 2 with afc 2 and down the line…. and regardless if they already have that team’s division on the schedule.

  34. oh great, maybe with a 17th game they can send the raiders to china or south aftrica for another ” home game “

  35. Lets go back 2 14 games and expand the rosters stop pimping the game for the sorry too faced media and corporate dollars! Give the game back to its real fans and roots.

  36. @Can someone please explain to me the preoccupation with this reasoning that 18 games means more injuries?
    Uummm…checkout the injury reports. Players are barely making it to week 8 of a 16 game schedule.

  37. I’m sure an extra game will be played in England too. Shad Khan has probably “volunteered” his franchise to forfeit another home game.

  38. Anything that makes life harder on the Patriots, right?

    If you do add a 17th game, why not interject a random element by having the computer pick the opponent. And are you telling me some teams will play more away than home games while others will play more home games? Not fair. Maybe everyone should play one game in London? That at least would prevent that inequity.

  39. It’s just another day I won’t be watching the terrible Chargers or Lambs. Instead of watching the national game, Raiders at Green Bay, we get a couple of 2-4 teams (Chargers v Titans) or 3-3 Rams at 1-5 Falcons. This is why LA didn’t have teams for 20 years.

  40. The other aspect to this interconference 17th game should be that in odd years all the afc teams get 9 home games and in even years all the nfc teams get 9 home games. That way the number of scheduled home games does not interfere with playoff seeding.

  41. We don’t need to see more poorly officiating games with an increase of injuries while playing a sport that has recently introduced weak rules. People will become over-saturated and watch less NFL. Why more games? The players will revolt unless they are paid more money knowing the long term effects on their bodies. Why not keep it at 16 games but make the games longer?

  42. I am not sure I support all 17th games being removed from USA, to neutral sites. That’s 16 games. 8 in London and 8 in Mexico? Thus, the increased games would be a loss for local workers as I assume the preseason will be reduced by a game.

    I’m thinking about it, but not sure……

  43. Bottom line is that the NFL is selfish and wants more money. They may as well go to an 82-game schedule like the NBA/NHL and play three to four times per week. That’s where they’ll eventually end up anyway.

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