The NFL Wants to Go to an 18-Game Schedule But Should They?

Reports circulated earlier this week that the NFL wants to expand to an 18-game regular season. It won’t happen right away, but the league will look to do that when negotiating the next collective bargaining agreement. But is that a good idea?

The league had just increased the duration of the season from 16 games to 17 for the 2021 campaign. The league had a 16-game schedule from 1978 through the 2020 season.

There are some definite advantages. Obviously, from a selfish standpoint, football fans want more games. One extra week of games that count is certainly a welcome thing for many fans. It would almost certainly mean the preseason would be reduced from three games to two.

For the league, the obvious advantage is more revenue from their broadcast partners who get much higher ratings from games that count than from games that just determine which rookies make the team.

It’s also more revenue from the new, lucrative world of legalized sports gambling. Let’s face it, fans place more bets on regular season games than on preseason contests. When they know the regular players are going to be in the lineup and the teams are trying to win, they are more likely to place a bet on the outcome. This again means more money for the league.  

The change would also give the league some balance in the schedule. Currently, teams have nine home games and eight road games one season and the reverse the following year. This gives some teams an advantage since they have an extra home game. Nine and nine would certainly be fairer to all 32 teams.

There would be some real disadvantages as well. Rookies and players on the fringes of NFL rosters would have fewer chances to impress the coaches and prove they belong on the final 53-man roster. While preseason games are far from entertaining, they do have consequences especially for the players trying to make that all important first impression.

The biggest disadvantage, however, is the health and long-term well-being of the players. The NFL claims to care for the health of their players but extending the season from 16 games just a few years ago to 18 games certainly doesn’t help in that department.

When it comes to concussions and CTE, two extra games certainly add to the wear and tear on a player’s body. Much of the damage done to players is not from the big hits we see on highlights that make us all wince, but from the repeated contact that is seemingly unremarkable but over time takes a toll on the bodies of the players.

If a player lasts five seasons in the NFL, that’s an extra 10 regular season games added to their schedule. Football is a game where nearly every player gets injured, it’s just a question of how often and how severely.

The toll on players’ bodies is not necessarily noticeable immediately, but after they retire, too many former NFL players have long term health issues in far greater numbers than non-athletes.

The NFL will likely throw the players a bone in the form of increasing salaries slightly for the extra game played. Because the average NFL career is still less than hour seasons and the competition for jobs is so tough, players don’t have the leverage when trying to negotiate a new deal. The owners can almost always outlast them and force them to give in because an NFL career is so short.

The city of Green Bay may benefit from another guaranteed regular season home game each season. Regular season games bring in more fans and have a completely different atmosphere than the preseason.

The modern-day media landscape is changing. Ratings for almost all television programs are down because of the increased options people have. The NFL is an exception with this year’s Super Bowl again breaking a record for viewership.

The 18-game season is likely coming as the league continues to search for more money. I just hope the players are fairly compensated both in salary and future medical benefits for what they are sacrificing to make it happen.

 

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You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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5 points
 

Comments (46)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
mnbadger's picture

March 09, 2024 at 12:18 pm

Thank you Gil for a well written and well timed piece.
I wish they'd go back to 16, but that won't happen.
My other wish is that players with 4 years get full health care after leaving.
They could be creative and cover co payments, deductibles, etc for those who reenter the workforce without breaking the bank.
I'd rather see that than more money for the "superstars"
GPG!

4 points
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TKWorldWide's picture

March 09, 2024 at 08:11 pm

Increase salaries
Expand the rosters
Throw in another bye week
Player safety? Money talks
Time will tell

1 points
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Tedlyflyfisher's picture

March 09, 2024 at 12:33 pm

I don’t like this idea at all. It’s fun to see a rookie show us a spark in the preseason and then to see him make the roster and (hopefully) become a solid player. Cutting the preseason to just 2 games just doesn’t give them enough time to shine. Yes, they’ll be watched throughout training camp, but historically we have seen some players who have been okay in camp, but once the preseason starts, they really show us something good. And I agree that an extra regular season game would create more injuries. Don’t be greedy, NFL owners!

4 points
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crayzpackfan's picture

March 09, 2024 at 12:40 pm

If this happens, I think the league will need to increase the number of roster spots as well as the practice squad.

7 points
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dblbogey's picture

March 09, 2024 at 02:51 pm

I agree, and I wouldn't even consider 18 games if they don't give each team 2 bye weeks. As a fan, I like it, but 18 games, and possibly 1-4 more playoff games seems like too much for the players bodies. In conclusion, they'll expand to 18 at the next contract negotiations because it's more money for the owners and half the extra income generated by an extra game does go to the players via increased salary cap.

3 points
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dobber's picture

March 09, 2024 at 05:13 pm

An 18-week season with two byes...man, the SB would be end of February...

0 points
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MooPack's picture

March 09, 2024 at 12:41 pm

With the potential for more wear-and-tear, the vets will take the biggest hit. You'll see more teams going younger, cheaper, sooner.

3 points
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splitpea1's picture

March 09, 2024 at 12:47 pm

Sigh, the regular season is already long enough. Although I preferred the old days of 14 games, stretching it to 16 was okay because at least you got to see more contests outside of the division. But 17 and 18 games is kind of an overkill, as the best teams have already proven themselves and the top end of the playoff seeding is mostly in place already.

There's already three televised Sunday games, Monday night, and the dreaded Thursday night to go along with college football on Saturdays and a few regular season Saturday games when college ends. So for about four months, we are deluged with opportunities to watch football, and that's enough.

Yes, I know everybody wants to make more money, but the owners and players are already well-compensated for their investments and efforts. I would think the players would value their long-term well-being over a few more dollars, but since I'm not one of them, I'll just leave it at that.

If the schedule goes to 18 games, maybe the rosters will be expanded will some flexibility added to evaluate rookies when the preseason gets reduced. They'll work something out.

Screw the gambling interests--they're already a little out of control IMHO.

10 points
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Leatherhead's picture

March 09, 2024 at 12:54 pm

I'd like a 40 game season, but you've got to let these bodies rest. It's really like four seasons. The time from the end of the season until now. Short. Offseason.

Then the second season starts. Free Agency, The Draft, Minicamps, OTAs. Then July is usually vacation, but then in August it's training camps and the pre-season.

Then you have the first half of the season. You work around injuries, you work on getting better.

And then, the 4th season starts around Thanksgiving, the stretch drive and the playoffs. I've believed for a long time that if you're at .500 when the 4th season starts, you've got a chance if you can put it together, like we did this year.

I think the net effect of shortening the preseason is that the early season games are going to be more ragged.

I thought 16 games was fine. Now, with 17, it essentially makes that last game of the regular season a playoff game for many. Like it was for us, last year.

With the preseason games, bye week, playoffs.....this season is already plenty long. If they just have to have that 18th game, then I'd favor a split season, like MLB did during the strikes. If you're winning your division after 9 weeks, you're in the playoffs. Then we all take the bye week together. Then we play another 9 week stretch, and if you win your division that 9 weeks, you're in. If you win both halves, you get a bye week.

-1 points
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13TimeChamps's picture

March 09, 2024 at 12:56 pm

I never believed for a minute that the plan was to stay at 17 games, but to eventually go to 18. The writing was always on the wall. 17 games never made any sense from a scheduling standpoint. 16 games were perfect. 4 divisions in each conference with 4 teams. 8 home games/8 road games.

But, of course, greed reared its ugly head, which is obviously the driving force behind this. It's almost laughable when the league preaches safety for the players.

6 points
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Guam's picture

March 09, 2024 at 05:47 pm

Not only 18 games, but more of those games will be overseas. The NFL seems dead set on making football an international sport on the same level as soccer. Next season they are planning on a game in Brazil. Get ready for more games played at odd hours with jet lagged players.

Player safety when pigs can fly........

3 points
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stockholder's picture

March 09, 2024 at 01:19 pm

I say No. Too long now.
People won't follow it.
And the more they move around.
It will only be a money thing.
Why help Sports gambling.

5 points
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Starrbrite's picture

March 09, 2024 at 02:43 pm

The NFL is at a zenith—people are watching and will continue to watch.

-1 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

March 10, 2024 at 11:09 am

They have the College Games to Gamble the Mortgage. In reality, the younger set is (i) phoning the dollar bets like they were conditioned to do since Playstation. The Boomers will be moving on...Maybe Goodell gets a term in prison, next for Fixing games?

0 points
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therealcause's picture

March 09, 2024 at 01:34 pm

I care less about the players, and more about the taxpayers. My dream scenario would have every team's 18th game revenue set aside for stadium improvements and future rebuilds.

I'm sure amazon corporate execs are drooling over the potential of more targeted advertisement time!

4 points
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Zapato's picture

March 09, 2024 at 02:27 pm

This is all driven by the owner's greed. The 16 game format was just fine, but the owners needed more millions to add to their billions. They don't give a damn about player's long-term health. It's all about the money!

4 points
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Starrbrite's picture

March 09, 2024 at 02:41 pm

I was a federal agent for 40 years and no one ever asked or told me to remove myself from an operation because it might be dangerous or I might be injured. IMO 18 games are not to much to ask —risks are what they are in any profession. As they say, “that’s why you’re paid the big bucks”.
Moreover, I don’t believe there is much sympathy for highly paid and fawned over athletes.
They can do 18—increase the roster size and allow the entire roster eligibility to play on every Sunday. I never understood the practice squad—if you make the team you can play.
Go Packers!!!

-2 points
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Alberta_Packer's picture

March 09, 2024 at 07:17 pm

Wondering - during your career - how many times were you hit by fast- moving, 300 lb. immensely strong individuals - many times in one day - every week - for 5 months?

-1 points
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Starrbrite's picture

March 10, 2024 at 12:17 am

Seriously Alberta—that’s your argument. Join the RCMP and find out.

0 points
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Lare's picture

March 09, 2024 at 02:59 pm

If the NFL is dead set on going to 18 games, in compensation I think the players should demand doing away with Thursday night games. It's just too short of a week.

7 points
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13TimeChamps's picture

March 09, 2024 at 03:21 pm

If I was a better wordsmith, I could write an entire long-winded essay about how much I detest Thursday night games...for a myriad of reasons.

It's up to the NFLPA to take on this issue during the next bargaining session. They'll probably have to give up something in return...like the move to 18 games, that's going to happen regardless...but it's put up or shut up time for the players on this issue. It shouldn't be hard to come up with a cogent argument to state their case. Having to playing on 3 days rest is a slap in the face from a league that loves to claim their concern for player safety.

3 points
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Starrbrite's picture

March 09, 2024 at 05:01 pm

13—you’re an excellent wordsmith.
I typically agree with you, but in this case—no. I love Thursday night games—look forward to them each week. Maybe I’ve been retired too long —I still read my junk mail—tsk tsk.

0 points
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jannes bjornson's picture

March 10, 2024 at 11:14 am

TR night is for the MAC conference football contests, or AAC games. The Pros need the recovery period and the Fans need a life.

0 points
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LeotisHarris's picture

March 09, 2024 at 03:15 pm

"ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!?"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yD0XIowNAG8

2 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

March 09, 2024 at 05:33 pm

Now that's football. Those guys hit people. Not a bunch of crybabies whining about head injuries and sitting out battles because they have a stomach ache.

Football.

1 points
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Starrbrite's picture

March 10, 2024 at 05:23 pm

Right on Bitter.

0 points
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Ferrari-Driver's picture

March 10, 2024 at 08:30 pm

LH, Impressive clip. I just set the DVR to record the Gladiator. Thanks for the reminder.

1 points
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BruceC1960's picture

March 09, 2024 at 04:01 pm

This will turn into the NBA. Pay $$ for tickets and find out the stars or your favorite player are sitting this one out.

3 points
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Starrbrite's picture

March 09, 2024 at 05:03 pm

Bruce, you give the best argument for a shorter schedule—I agree with you on this. We do want to see our best players play.

0 points
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jont's picture

March 09, 2024 at 05:12 pm

They'd definitely have to increase the roster. 17 games for 53 active and 16 for practice squad is minimal if the injuries, fatigue, and steady wear & tear are anything to go by. I don't know how many more players should be kept on payroll, but careers are going to be shortened if they don't. As MooPack wrote above, we'll see younger players with a longer schedule, and I see adding to the roster as the only way to keep good vets playing.

1 points
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Starrbrite's picture

March 09, 2024 at 05:29 pm

Right on jont.

1 points
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Vachio's picture

March 09, 2024 at 05:31 pm

I think if they do it, they need to expand the rosters a bit (like to 55 or 56...but maybe even to something like 60). They also should add a second bye week.

2 points
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gbpmark's picture

March 09, 2024 at 06:25 pm

I agree completely the roster would need to be expanded but also at least one additional bye week would be required if not 2 additional bye weeks. As players get bigger, faster, stronger etc a physical game gets even more physical that needs to be taken into account if the league really cares about players health. Personally I doubt player healthy is as important as money to a profit whore like Roger Goodell. I think he showed profits rule the roost when he decided to put the Chiefs/Dolphin playoff game on a streaming service….

1 points
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CoachJV's picture

March 09, 2024 at 05:35 pm

I don't think home teams actual homes (cities) will get the benefit of extra games. In fact, in an 18 game season, I would bet that 2 of those games have to be played OUTSIDE the US as the NFL seeks to extend it's overseas expansion. Soon after, we'll likely see 2 new Expansion Teams with one being in Canada and the other in Mexico to start.

0 points
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Starrbrite's picture

March 09, 2024 at 06:49 pm

I believe you’re right coach.
I am one of those diametrically opposed to shipping out most prized sports product to foreign countries.
Keep it here.

0 points
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Qoojo's picture

March 09, 2024 at 06:46 pm

If they do, I think teams need two bye weeks and not just random weeks either. More like 1/3rd and 2/3rds into season, half of the teams take a week off, then other half takes the next week off.

I will defer to players voting on whether 18 games is too much. Seems like there are a lot of injuries already.

1 points
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THESZOTMAN1's picture

March 09, 2024 at 07:26 pm

I thought 17 games was one of the worst ideas in the history of bad ideas. Now this. We shouldn't forget the human element. Put plainly, longer seasons means more injuries, worse injuries and shorter careers. Period. I expected the players to nix 17, but they voted against their own self-interest and took the money. Sadly, they'll probably do it again. After all, it IS all about that. And as far as sports betting, who gives a rat?
The Szotman

4 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

March 09, 2024 at 08:05 pm

Didn't the USFL play 18 games before Trump blew it up? Of course there were only a couple NFL type athletes on each team and they're much bigger and faster now. They'll probably give in but I hope they at least stand together to play on grass like the soccer players do. At least that might save them some joint injuries.

3 points
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nstewart1's picture

March 09, 2024 at 08:16 pm

You claim that "Much of the damage done to players is not from the big hits we see on highlights that make us all wince, but from the repeated contact that is seemingly unremarkable but over time takes a toll on the bodies of the players." That could be true, but I don't remember seeing data on that.

Also, presumably the player's wouldn't be "thrown a bone" for an additional game, they'd get about half the revenue from it. It seems to be always unremarked upon that every revenue enhancement the Evil Owners push through is also want the players agree to, and for which they are paid for.

4 points
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246toothpicks's picture

March 09, 2024 at 09:09 pm

This was always the plan once they went to a 17 games schedule. They so much as said so. This isnt a surprise. I'm all for it! 18 regular season games and 2 preseason games. It's better than 16 regular and 4 pre season like it had been. Still a total of 20 games.

-1 points
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canadapacker's picture

March 09, 2024 at 11:25 pm

I still don't believe that the Players Union and the Players representatives have not pushed for ensuring that Thursday night games are only played by teams who are coming off a bye week. ( maybe except Thanksgiving games. But it seems that with creative scheduling and even with a 18 game schedule and an extra bye week that player health and safety would be enhanced.

0 points
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1
Since'61's picture

March 10, 2024 at 09:21 am

The league has discussed and planned for an 18 game season for a long time. They will get there eventually. When they do they need to increase the size of the rosters and they need to have 2 bye weeks. Go down to 2 preseason games and eliminate TNF and the over seas games. There needs to be some balance for player safety which can be partially accomplished with less long distance travel and a week's rest between games.

I doubt that it will happen. Sports have become dominated by greed and as long as the $$$ is rolling in the league and the owners won't care. Meanwhile the fans receive a product diluted by injuries to some of the best players and shortened periods between games (TNF).

The league is not concerned with reaching a point of diminishing returns but that too will eventually occur. For now the beat goes on. Thanks, Since '61

2 points
2
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HarryHodag's picture

March 10, 2024 at 09:56 am

I got negative feedback when I suggested the money being paid modern athletes is out of whack. This proposal is a reflection of how out of whack priorities have become.

Anyone who has played football knows this isn't baseball or basketball. Players risk much more in terms of health going out on the field. After you've played a dozen games your beat up. Now the power brokers would like to add more games, not counting the playoffs, which could add up to three more. The Super Bowl winner would likely play 21 games.

While the owners are quick to say that they would shed one exhibition game the reality is most starters don't play much in the pre-season. What they are telling the starters is you will now play 18 games. From a health standpoint they obviously don't care. It's all about cash.

This week some fans at the Chiefs-Dolphins game had body parts amputated due to frostbite. Playing in open air fields in January is nuts. They could move the start of the season up a month with the playoffs ending around the end of December. The Super Bowl could be played at a warm weather site in mid-January.
Nope. Being the most watched show of the year, the game is played in February when TV sweeps happen.
Yup, player/fan safety out the window so the power brokers can make more of your cash.

Then they NFL has gotten into bed with gambling interests. We all know what a clean, honest industry that is...(sigh). They also took some of the games and put them in a pay-per-view arena. Like sheep, the fans went to the pay sites and coughed up more cash just to watch what they used to get for free. Your cash.

It all adds up to killing the golden goose. I know my opinion is far outweighed by the fans, but the NFL has crossed over into some territory that I think is contradictory to common sense. It's all about your cash, ignoring player and fan safety.

Blister away. I'm used to it.

2 points
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Since'61's picture

March 10, 2024 at 10:20 am

Harry no blistering from me. I completely agree with you. Thanks, Since '61

0 points
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PackBacker's picture

March 10, 2024 at 04:57 pm

Or maybe play every week of the year, instead. Why deny billionaire owners the opportunity to become trillionaire owners? Rich people need to make a decent living. And the networks need their bazillions, too.

Now, seriously, no to 18. And no to 17, also. Go back to 16 games. The players are getting mangled enough as it is. Let's think about their needs for a change.

0 points
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SinceLombardi's picture

March 11, 2024 at 07:04 am

You can bet the NFL will do whatever is best for those deep pocketed owners. I can see the day when the super bowl will be a PPV event.

0 points
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