The NFL has been approved to expand their schedule from the 16-game format that has been in place since 1978. The new schedule would include a 17th regular season game, and the schedule would be played over 18 weeks. This is something that fans have been wanting for years, and it looks like 2021 could be the year that it finally happens. Not to be a downer, but this may be a bad plan. Of course, details still need to be worked out, but the NFL may be jumping the gun if they do in fact put this schedule in place. Here’s why.
Under a 17 game schedule, there’s an immediate, obvious issue. The schedule is naturally uneven. Unless the league plans to send every team to London or Mexico City for a game, half the league will get to play nine home games while the other half will have nine road games.
However, the rumors are that the league plans to reach an 18 game schedule, so this 17-game schedule could be a one-year occurrence. It’s hard for me to envision a world where in nine months travel restrictions will open up to the point where every NFL team can travel across borders without any issues. If the goal is to reach an 18-game schedule, why not just wait until then and eliminate this problem?
I get it; everyone hates the preseason. It’s boring football, and all it does is tease us while we wait a month for the real thing to start. The main reason everyone wants this schedule expansion is so the preseason can be shortened or even eliminated. However, we just saw what happens when the preseason doesn’t exist. Remember back in week two when we had the biggest rash of star injuries that we’d ever seen? I’m no expert, but one has to think that the lack of a preseason warmup had something to do with that.
Football is a high speed, contact sport, and it’s very difficult to go from 0 to 100 in this league. Of course, the lack of OTAs and a shortened training camp also had an impact on players, but with a shortened or eliminated preseason, I am concerned that serious injuries to stars like Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley will become the norm. Like I said preseason is boring, but it feels like a necessary evil if we want to protect the players and see them finish their seasons and careers.
Again, my biggest concern with this has to do with player safety. If we continue expanding the schedule out, when does the lack of an extra bye week become an issue? We already talk about teams struggling by the end of the season because their bye week is in week four. After that, they have to play three straight months of football which inevitably takes a toll. If we want to eventually expand the league to 18 games, it’d be easy to just make the regular season an even 20 weeks with an extra bye.
Will that actually happen? Who knows. If the NFL cared about player safety, we would have seen more concessions/improvements made this season. Just look at Denver’s QB situation (or lack thereof) from a few weeks ago. The NFL has shown their true colors when it comes to player safety by just dragging teams along.