NFL moves toward 17 regular-season games, three preseason games

USA TODAY Sports

Last year, the NFL secured the ability to expand the regular season to 17 games. The league is moving closer to officially implementing a 17-game schedule for 2021.

Via Mark Maske of the Washington Post, expansion of the regular season is “not yet certain,” but it’s currently believed that the league will adjust the annual 20-game slate from 16 regular-season games and four preseason games to 17 and three.

Owners previously had been debating whether to move the preseason to three or to two games. Last year, the NFL had no preseason games, due to the pandemic. This year, the pandemic once again could limit or eliminate the slate of exhibition games.

As one source with knowledge of the dynamics recently explained it to PFT, the push to complete new TV deals has more to do with officially expanding the regular season to 17 games and less to do with potentially borrowing against future revenues to increase the 2021 salary cap.

The NFL has staged a total of 20-game preseason/regular season for decades. Before the regular season moved to 16 games in 1978, the NFL played 14 regular-season games and six preseason games. Keeping the preseason at three games keeps the total slate at 20.

Perhaps more importantly, a 17-and-three approach also ensures that teams will host 10 total games per year. The 17-game regular season will result in half of the teams having nine home games and the other half having eight. In turn, the half that has nine regular-season home games will have one preseason home game. The half that has eight regular-season homes games will have two preseason home games.

It’s also impossible to completely rule out what would be a sudden and largely unexpected push for 18 regular-season games and two preseason games. The league could, in theory, make that request to the NFL Players Association as part of the negotiations that will culminate in the setting of the 2021 salary cap. Likewise, the union could suggest a move to 18 in order to capture enhanced revenues, in 2021 and beyond.

55 responses to “NFL moves toward 17 regular-season games, three preseason games

  1. One major negative impact of the 17 game regular season will be its inflationary effect on the numbers of the game and the degrading of historical records.

    At a single season level, we will have bigger numbers all round and it will be easier for players to reach the traditional benchmarks of success such as 1000 yards rushing, or 4000 yards passing.

    At a multi-season level, it will result in bigger career numbers which could mean players whose careers start post-17 games to challenge all-time records like Rice’s receiving yards.

    It will essentially devalue the achievements of all the players who achieved greatness with 16 games and create a new “post-17” asterisk to be added to new records achieved.

    It will create inconsistencies in career numbers for players whose careers span both 16 and 17 games. For example, if Michael Thomas exceeds his record number of catches in a 17 game regular season by a small margin, is that a greater or lesser achievement than his current record?

    If a future post-17 game season DE breaks Strahan’s record by a single sack, does it really count? After all, if Strahan had had 17 games he likely would have added to his record.

  2. As a season ticket holder, I am really hoping for 9 regular-season home games, and 1 preseason home game.

    Then again, these are Jets tickets we are talking about.

  3. So the team that gets 8 home regular season games gets shafted with two garbage pre season games at full price….got it! πŸ‘ŒπŸΌπŸ‘ŽπŸΌ

  4. If the union lobbies for an 18 game season in order to “capture enhanced revenues, in 2021 and beyond” they can never again cite player safety as their top priority. Anyone that ever believed that in the first place is naive but this would leave no doubt.

  5. Let me just say, as a soon-to-be former PSL owner, I have always despised the preseason. In my case the team charges the exact same price for tickets, parking pass, etc, but can’t be bothered to properly paint the field and they cut other corners which make the experience cheap.

    Preseason is garbage.

  6. Steelers already have No. 1 toughest schedule for ’21. What a year to add another NFC division winner which is one of the proposed ideas!

  7. And players will still think they’ve done something special because they’ve averaged 58yds a game rushing or receiving. The 1000yd bench mark should of changed years ago.

  8. The NFL should increase the Game Day Roster as well. This would help in preventing injuries by Teams having the option to more Players on deck.

  9. I’m kind of neutral on the 17 game season. However, I wish they would play a game at a neutral site if they go to it. How cool would it be to see a game at Notre Dame stadium? San Antonio? Oklahoma? This would also erase the detriment to playing international games as the “home” team.

    Preseason? It has been awful for years. The fewer games the better. Two seems about right.

  10. Aaaaand you can rest assured that not only will Patriots, Cowboys and Bucs not only have 9 home games they will also be home before the 9th game as well

  11. If they’re lengthening the season like this they should incorporate another bye week into the schedule. You can’t equate preseason and regular season games – veterans and established players hardly play in preseason, but those games offer a valuable opportunity for bubble players trying to make a team.

  12. Keep it as is and add another bye week. That would give the league an 18 week regular season while playing 16 games.
    And 2 preseason games would seem to be enough.

  13. The problem with an 18-game season is injuries become a serious problem. the playoffs will be determined by who does not have missing players due to injury. 18 games is a long time for a star player to avoid an injury.
    will rosters be expanded and will players begin to get games off or at least certain plays off so as to protect them from injury risk.

  14. Go to 18 regular season games, increase roster flexibility, limit all non-QBs & kickers to playing 16 games, add an extra bye week, give the 1-5 seeds a playoff bye, make the 6 & 7 seeds play on “Play-In Weekend.” Everyone makes more money, there are more players on rosters and the SB is then played on Presidents’ Day Weekend.

  15. Then 18 games, then 18 teams in the playoffs. I would watch basketball again if they played defense and the season was 40 games.

  16. This is a mistake.
    A 16 game season is already too long for most players, adding another one is simply asking for more injuries and a lesser product in the post season. But nobody cares about player safety when there’s more money to be made.

  17. HUGE mistake! Injuries are perhaps the biggest threat the NFL faces. They are an unfortunate reality because of intense contact but any increase of regular season games will make it even worse. It may be only one more game but at the end of an already long season players are playing hurt and somewhat worn down. When key players get injured , let alone super stars, the game is greatly diminished and some contenders become pretenders.

    In theory everyone loves more games – more chances to watch. But this decision is corrupt and driven by greed. The NFL will throw the players some crumbs but the next move will be 18 games . Won’t it be thrilling when your favorite team loses their star QB in game 17 or 18 and goes into the playoffs with their scrub backup?

  18. Are the going to keep the week of the start of the season the same. I think that would be a great idea because that will rectify the national tragedy that the Super Bowl is not on President’s Day Weekend and, thus, not allowing up the opportunity to have a day off after the Super Bowl like god intended.

  19. Why not go to 18 regular season games and 2 preseason games and add an additional bye week for each team.

    You would almost certainly need to move up the start of the regular season as well as expand the active rosters.

    For competitive balance, divide the league into four groups of teams so that all teams will have their bye weeks in weeks 5/6/7/8 and again in weeks 13/14/15/16. That would mean each team would play a minimum of 4 games before their first bye and play a minimum of 4 games following their 2nd bye.

    It would also give you 4 weeks in the middle of the season where all teams would be playing (weeks 9-12).

  20. portis26 says:
    February 23, 2021 at 7:46 am
    One major negative impact of the 17 game regular season will be its inflationary effect on the numbers of the game and the degrading of historical records.

    It will essentially devalue the achievements of all the players who achieved greatness with 16 games and create a new β€œpost-17” asterisk to be added to new records achieved.
    β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”
    The same could be said of the 16 game season devaluing the greatness of what players achieved in a 14 game season. I do recall at the time, it was sometimes talked about how a 1000 yard rushing season was not so impressive in a 16 game season, but beyond that, nobody seemed to really think much of records, nor do I recall people asking for 16 games season records to be marked with an asterisk.

  21. Remember when they reviewed pi calls… I wish they would just leave it alone the product is good we don’t need another regular season game. The season is already grueling enough.

  22. Who cares about hosting an extra pre season game?

    Owners would much rather have the home game in the regular season and the players/coaches would rather play the extra home game in the regular season.

    It’s stupid to make the playing field “uneven” ny making half the teams travel more than the other half.

    Leave things alone.

  23. Just keep it at 16 games and give each team an additional bye week. That would expand the season for the fans and networks, yet still keep player safety in mind. Like most fans, I still watch the NFL even on the week’s when my favorite team is on bye.

  24. 1) Records are meant to be broken. From 12 to 14 to 16 games. No record is meant to be unbroken. Deal with it.

    2) Injury risk. If you suit up for a preseason game, there is injury risk. Going from 4 preseason 16 regular, to 3 pre 17 regular is win win for everyone. The pool of money goes up for Onwers and players. THere’s ideally more roster spots / practice squad spots and therefore more jobs for playesr. And the injury risk is relatively the same.

    3) 17th game is a good way to fit in international / neutral site games. Maybe St. Louis or Oakland get to host a game. Etc.

  25. Heres how the NFL can maximize revenue:

    20 games, no preseason

    32 teams make the playoffs with 5 rounds of playoffs.
    The regular season means nothing except for playoff seeding.

    Thats maximal revenue, but a horrible fan experience.

  26. Another mistake. 16 games is more than enough. But always: more, more, more! It cheapens the regular season games and increases the chances of injury. The season is already far too long. Only one reason to do this: $$$$

  27. I bet everyone said the same things when the league went from 14-16 games. It’s football, of course we want more games in a season

  28. 2 byes is a no brainer. The extra bye before Thursday night games will make players mucho happy. Actually surrounding the Thursday game with two mini byes will make it something the players look forward to. The 2nd no brainer reason for 2 byes is then you add two weeks to the season (1 game and 1 bye) putting the Superbowl on (you guessed it) Presidents day weekend.

  29. 17 games = 8 homes + 8 away + 1 neutral international.

    League about to kick the traveling circus to London/Mexico/etc into high gear. You watch.

  30. @mortyglickstein says:
    February 23, 2021 at 8:50 am
    Then 18 games, then 18 teams in the playoffs. I would watch basketball again if they played defense and the season was 40 games.
    ————–
    Sounds like you haven’t watched basketball since 1958.

  31. First of all, the players agreed to this. Also, the players have a union and they negotiate all contracts. So anybody bellyaching here does not matter. Second of all, this is still 20 games. They’ve been playing 20 games for over 50 years, so your crying about too many games is over 50 years too late. But, my favorite of all the whining is; “But, now records will be smashed”. Ya. They always get smashed. Who cares?

  32. This reminds me of people whining because of an international game. So? You’re still at home on your couch, so what difference does it make to you? Just zip it and watch the game, like you always have. And no, you’re not quitting watching.

  33. OK, for those of you bellyaching about the 17th game, that’s already been decided. Can we move the hell on? I’m more concerned with what they will do with the 17th game.

    As it stands now, the 17th game will be played against a team from the other conference that finished the same place your team finished. I’ll use my team, the Ravens, as an example. The Ravens finished second in the AFC North, and I read that, under somebody’s plan, they would play the Rams next year (who finished second in the NFC West). Here’s my issue. The Steelers, who finished first, would play the Seahawks (who finished first), and so on…

    The Ravens have a geographical rival 35 miles away (The Washington Red…..err….Football Team). Would it not make sense to exploit rivalries like this? They could play in Baltimore in even-numbered years, and Washington in odd-numbered years. Most of the teams in the league have some form of geographic rivals in the other conference. Take a look…

    Baltimore – Washington
    Cleveland – Detroit
    Pittsburgh – Philadelphia
    New York Jets – New York Giants
    Miami – Tampa Bay
    Los Angeles Rams – Los Angeles Chargers
    Atlanta – Jacksonville
    Las Vegas – Arizona
    Houston – Dallas
    Chicago – Indianapolis
    Tennessee – Carolina

    That just leaves creating rivalries between some of these teams: Cincinnati, New England. Denver, Buffalo, Kansas City (AFC) and New Orleans, Green Bay, Minnesota, San Francisco and Seattle (NFC). Maybe they could rotate opponents, since they have no geographical rival.

    Imagine Pittsburgh and Philadelphia playing a game at Beaver Stadium in State College, right in the middle of Pennsylvania. Or Dallas and Houston playing in Austin or College Station. Miami and Tampa playing in Orlando.

    I just think the NFL is being very short-sighted about this.

  34. Ultimately they just want to push the Super Bowl to President’s Day weekend so people don’t have to work on Monday and drink more beer on Sunday.

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