NFL finally gets 17 games; when will the league get 18?

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The NFL always gets what it wants, even if it takes a little time.

As it relates to the expansion of the season, it took more than a little time. Still, the NFL eventually got what it wanted.

The league wanted more regular-season games for well over a decade, but the push was derailed by the incongruity of its Congressionally-induced sensitivity to brain health in October 2009. The notion that the league was simply sliding the dividing line between preseason and regular-season from four and 16 to somewhere else simply didn’t fly — especially as concussion lawsuits began to pile up in 2011 and 2012.

Commissioner Roger Goodell tried to make his case for an 18-and-two structure indirectly, by repeatedly questioning the quality of preseason games. That never really gained any footing.

Then came the 2020 labor deal. As talks commenced, the league made it clear to the NFL Players Association that the next Collective Bargaining Agreement would be based on a 17-game regular season. Sensing the league’s resolve, the union opted to negotiate the deal on that basis. Otherwise, 2021 would have featured another offseason lockout and another deadline-driven early-August deal in which the players, unwilling to miss games and forego game checks, would have given the owners what they wanted all along, an extra game.

Actually, the players should regard their longstanding resistance to expansion of the season as a partial, albeit temporary, success. The league didn’t want 17 games; it wanted 18. And it still does.

As recently as July 2019, Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about the “push” for 18 games. In response, he didn’t say, “We don’t want 18 games. We only want 17.” Instead, he explained that the league was talking to the union about restructuring the season.

Around that same time, 17 games first emerged as a viable compromise. That quickly gained traction.

This doesn’t mean the league has abandoned the desire to play 18 games. It means that the league has tabled it, waiting for the right time to renew the effort to slide the needle again, from three and 17 to two and 18. (That’s surely one of the reasons why the NFL has kept the preseason at three games; if they move to two now, they sacrifice part of their future leverage to get to 18.)

The question becomes when will the league get to 18? The next CBA, a decade from now, presents the next cleary opportunity to take an easy-way-or-hard-way stance with the union on 18 games.

But any terms between the parties can be changed at any time. As gambling becomes legalized in more and more states, the extra money to be earned by the league and players will mushroom. It will create the impetus to generate more inventory, for example, in the form of another slate of 16 regular-season games.

So if the league already wanted 18 games before the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for legalized gambling on May 14, 2018, it definitely will want 18 games once the green water begins to cascade.

Whether that happens when the NFL can exercise its right to short-circuit all of the new TV deals at or near the end of the decade or when the next CBA is being hammered out, likely between a new Commissioner and a new NFLPA executive director, it’s coming.

Mark Cuban once said of the NFL, “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.” But here’s the third part, thanks to this age of legal sports betting: “Boars run wild.”

With 17 games, the rampage begins. It will not stop there.

42 responses to “NFL finally gets 17 games; when will the league get 18?

  1. I think they should have just fast tracked it to 18 and 2. We all know that is where it is going.

  2. I am OK with keeping it at 17. But would like to see 8 teams from each conference make the playoffs. No need to go past February 15.

  3. By giving half the teams an extra home game, 17 is not fair. Either make the extra game played at a neutral site or 18 is inevitable

  4. I stopped watching the NBA 20 years ago when every round of the playoff series went from 5-7 games and every team made the playoffs.

  5. They would need 20 games to even come close to replacing the amount of eyes that used to be on the sport when there were 16 games. Fans are walking away and it is only a matter of time before gambling controls the sports world and all outcomes. It is what it is and the nfl doesn’t care. Fans shouldn’t care either. The players definitely don’t care.

  6. When the Super Bowl in mid-February creates an uproar (collision with Olympics?) they’ll decide to drop another preseason game, start league play BEFORE Labor Day, add an 18th game AND add a 2nd bye. Should’ve done that from the beginning.

  7. I think the 17th game strategy is brilliant. Even the scheduling of it is exceptional. The increase in revenue will benefit not only the owners but the players, and the cities who have teams. It will benefit all the state run casinos that use the betting public to reduce taxes, while helping schools and roads. We seldom remember the little guys who work the games or the city and state tax payers who pay for the stadiums.. Extra games creates more revenue for everyone. I am sure many here will troll the owners and say they are selfish. No, what they really are is capitalist who are benefiting far more than themselves.

  8. They used to play 6 preseason games and 14 regular season games. They have been playing 16 regular season games for a long time now, and it will take a long time for the change to 18 regular season games. May be 20 years, or more? Who knows.

  9. Would a 19 week season provide 2 bye weeks? I’m also curious as to how this will affect the draft (will we see an increase in rounds?) and the prioritization of the back up QB spot. Interesting stuff for sure.

  10. Long time before they 18. I can’t imagine it happening until at least 2022.

  11. For all the players complaining , there is another option .. QUIT. I don’t believe your being forced to play a game , go get you a 9-5 job. Live a reasonable life … why put your body through such rigorous torture for the amusement for others , I wonder if it would be anyone’s dream to play professional football if the pay was more on level for the kid that dreamed to be a Police Officer , Fireman , Paramedic … etc.

  12. Now that the league is going to 18 games its only fair that they increase the roster size for every team.injuries are a certainty and will increase with one more game plus playoffs.hire more players in the NFL.

  13. Why stop at 18? Think of all the money a 20 game season might bring. Especially if the NFL adds a couple non-American franchises in Europe, Mexico, or South America. European teams open a new early morning time slot as well! More teams equals more playoff games too! And we know what that means…more television revenue! The NFL can start in early August and run through February. But let’s be honest, never mind the money, football is all about the fans. We can’t do it without the fans. We LOVE the fans. This is all for the fans! The fans are getting everything they want because NFL fans are the best. More football is for the fans!

  14. This will end up like watching NBA regular season games. Where the guy trying hard will be easy to spot on the screen. Or, for better reference, the Pro Bowl🤔

  15. You get most of this by adding a 2nd bye week. You also get more rest for players you only don’t gain the extra 16 games you would have but you get the extra TV week and all the other things with a extra week-long season. I dont want 18 games and more weeks that don’t matter to over 1/2 the teams.

  16. 18 games with 2 bye weeks, gives 20 weeks of football.
    Compare that with 16 games and one bye week.
    That’s almost 20% more TV revenue, plus 12.5% more attendance revenue.

    The problem with an 18 game schedule is there are more opportunities for players to get injured. The implication is come playoff time there will be more vatriation (luck) due to injuries.
    Team A lost it’s QB.
    Team B lost 2 Olinemen.
    Team C lost its star WR and pass rusher.
    Team D didn’t lose any stars.

    Now with 16 teams making the playoffs there will be more luck involved in who goes far.
    Having a good team is devalued, and I don’t like that.

  17. Should just be 19. Then you basically keep the same scheduling as you do now, but now you play the opposing conference divisions that finished in the same spot as you as well.

  18. 18 games will be here in a couple of years.

    Maybe it took 40+ years to expand 1 game.

  19. The NFL did 12 billion in revenue in a Covid restricted year. The normal revenue for the prior year was 16 billion. You only need simple math to see that 16 regular season games equal 16 billion in revenue. The pre-season games charged to season ticket holders is really irrelevant. As much as I hate the extra games if 17 games and the TV contracts results in similar or greater proportional revenue growth, game 18 will be inevitable. The players will also see the benefit of the increased growth but the NFL and NFLPA must protect the quality of the product. Increasing the roster size, liberalize practice squad and injured reserve policy and spacing play dates to protect players. Finally direct revenue towards the accurate and professional application of the rules by professional referees with state of the art technology.

  20. And then 19, then 20. What a joke.

    And the fact that a team cannot finish .500 this coming year is a joke as well.

  21. The future of this league: 22 game schedules, 7000 yard passers, 75 TDs by a QB, nothing but 3rd stringers playing by Week 21, and automatic ejections for any defensive penalty. Average game score will be 68-64.

  22. Historical Records out the window. The NFL is determined to tinker with their Golden Goose until it’s broke.

  23. Less is more for the NFL.
    Thursday night football stinks.
    Sunday night football stinks.
    Nowadays Monday night football stinks.
    16 games was fine, I certainly don’t want 18 games, I’d rather 14.
    Now get off my lawn…

  24. scguy2011 says:
    March 31, 2021 at 6:53 am
    17, 18, 19, 20 games – when will it stop and reach market saturation?

    The NFL will find out(but all too late) that they’ve already passed the saturation number, but there’s no going back now, they’ll NEVER, NEVER take games away, in 5yrs(or less) when they finally figure it out they’ll think that even more games is the answer…….. again!

  25. Here is how the NFL can make the most money:

    1) no more playoffs, instead there is a 52 week schedule, one game per week, whoever has the most wins gets the Lombardy.

    2) unlimited roster size

    3) when it gets too cold to play here move the games to other warmer parts of the world. Then other teams can “own” their team for several months. Maybe Buenos Aires will get the Chiefs. Maybe Botswana will get the Jets.

    4) no need for training cam with unlimited rosters.

    5) best of all – play a game every day, teams will play on different schedules

    Think of it – you can watch football every night of the year, with maybe a few days off for a holiday.

  26. Id rather have 14 games played over 17 weeks and games scheduled more variably so we can bag Sunday Ticket for out of market games. But, everyone has a preference for what they care and dont care about, I guess.

  27. The weird thing about the vote is that most of the players voting don’t impact themselves, and most of the players impacted did not get to vote. What is the average career in the NFL? 3 years max? so most of the “voters” are out by the time the CBA takes hold, while the CBA will be the rule for all the future NFL players who are now 11-20 years old. It’s like if the US had an election for a president knowing that half the voters were moving to another country within 2 years, while the US became populated by a totally new set of constituents.

  28. mortyglickstein says:
    March 31, 2021 at 6:58 am
    I stopped watching the NBA 20 years ago when every round of the playoff series went from 5-7 games and every team made the playoffs


    As a Timberwolves fan, I unfortunately have to inform you that every team does NOT make the playoffs…😕😂

  29. Nothing Goodell does makes sense until you realize he hates the NFL and wants to destroy it. Remember, these are the same geniuses that didn’t know footballs deflate if you take them outside on a cold day, and tried to destroy the career of the best QB in the last 100 years over literally nothing. Brady has won 4 more rings since that stunt and yet somehow Goodell still has a job, what more needs be said at this point.

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