Against all odds, the NFL made it through the 2020/21 season largely unscathed. There were some hiccups, of course – remember that game when the Broncos almost ran out of QBs? – but aside from some strange scheduling changes, the league did a remarkable job keeping things running smoothly.
Now they’re getting cocky! After years of speculation, the owners finally agreed to add a 17th game to the schedule, starting this fall with the 2021/22 season.
Beginning in 2021, the NFL is expanding to a 17-game regular season. pic.twitter.com/skNisJwPS2
— NFL (@NFL) March 30, 2021
After allowing for the possibility in last year’s collective bargaining agreement, the owners officially formalized the 17th game during a vote on Tuesday. Now, every team will play an extra game against a non-conference opponent, with the conferences alternating years between having 9 home games or 9 away games. This year, the AFC gets the 9th home game, next year, the NFC does.
ESPN has published the full list of games for each team, including the newly added non-conference game. This is the first time the NFL has changed the regular-season schedule in 44 years when they expanded it from 14 to 16 games.
The idea was floated back in 2011 – they actually discussed adding two games and expanding the season to 18 – but concerns around injury risk delayed any changes. Now, with data showing that preseason games have higher risk, as players get back into shape, the owners decided that eliminating a preseason game and adding a regular-season game made the change more palatable. As did the extra revenue, especially after a season in which fans weren’t allowed at most games.
We’re yet to see what impact the additional game has on players who already endure a grueling season, but fans will surely enjoy one more week during which they can root for their favorite teams, pray the spread gets covered, and whine about fantasy lineup blunders.