Starting this season, the NFL will expand its regular season to 18 weeks, meaning each NFL team will play 17 games.
via Perry Knotts / AP
The owners have voted to approve the previously raised proposal that will extend the NFL regular season to 18 weeks. Each team will play 17 regular season games and three preseason games instead of four. This will be the first time the NFL has changed the number of regular season games played since the league made the jump from 14 to 16 games in 1978.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
As a fan, more football (!), which is certainly a pro from this change, or is it? The players already undergo more than enough wear and tear on their bodies, and an extra game runs the risk of more injuries. A lot of people don't realize how cumulative the season is on these guys, and the majority of them have completely different definitions of "healthy" and "pain" than you or I do. As far as the well-being of the guys who lay it all on the line each week, that's certainly a con. Even if all of the players were fine with the extra risk, or if you're a fan who is not phased by that aspect, there's still the added risk of watching more games (or key playoff games) without the league's top players.
As a player, and as discussed above, the biggest cons are the additional wear and tear on their bodies, the added two weeks with more time away from their families, and simply more work with less time to recover. A lot of guys have their recovery schedules mapped out down to the day. For instance, Christian McCaffrey skipped out on the 2019-2020 Pro Bowl because it conflicted with his recovery schedule by just a few days. Players will have to adjust their calendars and work extra hard to avoid injury and stay in playing shape.
The good news is, with more games comes more revenue, and larger TV contracts for the league. In other words, the NFL will significantly increase its annual income. More money leads to a bigger pie, which ultimately leads to larger slices for the players. The NFL seems to bring in more money each year than the last. On average, the players seem to be far more self-aware, business savvy, and honestly, more well-rounded individuals than generations of athletes in the past. As a result, the NFLPA has gained traction, and player contracts are growing with far more guaranteed money. With more work, comes more money for the players, and rightfully so.
For coaches, they will be entering uncharted waters. The additional game, and two additional weeks, can affect how they manage the season. Coaches will have to balance how hard they go in practice throughout the year. The season has turned to even more of a marathon than before. Not to mention, the loss of a week of the preseason cuts down the time coaches have to shape up their roster, evaluate rookie and depth players, and shore up their playbooks. They'll have to be ready to start playing with live rounds at a point in the year they've all been accustomed to making final roster cuts and completing their depth charts.
It's worth raising the point that an extra regular season game will have a long-lasting effect on regular season records and career milestones. We already see records broken left and right each season due to the ever-increasing talent levels that seem to come with each generation. We'll have to adjust our lenses when discussing single season accomplishments, and I would imagine statistical categories such as per game averages (i.e. as yards per game, receptions per game, and things like touchdown to interception ratios), will be considered more than ever, especially when comparing players across different seasons and generations.
All in all, we'll all be glued to the TV for two extra Sundays this year, and TRO will be here covering and reporting on the action each step of the way.