The NFL’s 17-Game Schedule Has Both Benefits and Problems for the Packers

The National Football League announced earlier this week that it was going to a 17-game schedule starting with the upcoming 2021 campaign. This is the first time the league has increased the number of games played in a season since 1978 when they increased the schedule from 14 games to 16 games.

The change has it both benefits and problems for the Green Bay Packers and for the rest of the league. Here is a look at some of the benefits and issues caused by the league’s change to a 17-game schedule:

Benefits:

1. More Games That Count

The best part of the extended schedule is straightforward: more football that counts. The Packers and every other NFL team will play one additional game and there will be more extra Sunday of regular season games for fans to enjoy.

The Super Bowl will be pushed one week further back which means that the NFL season will go to mid-February. That makes the offseason one week shorter as well.

2. Fewer Preseason Games

In exchange for the extra regular-season game, the NFL will cut the preseason down to three contests. Preseason NFL games are not always easy to watch unless you are a scout. Most of the games feature players who will not make the team at all or will be fringe players at best. That makes it tough to judge how meaningful a good performance is late in these games.

It really doesn’t matter who wins the games and they are often not competitive and full of penalties.

Season ticket holders pay full price for attending these games which is quite honestly a rip off. Exchanging one game that doesn’t count for one that does is a benefit for most fans.

Issues:

1. Injuries

With an extra regular season game, there will be a greater chance of injuries. This will affect the players both in the short term and long term. There are likely to be some more injuries during the season with players missing more games as a result.

Late in the season and into the playoffs, we may see more games without star players and more games with backup quarterbacks as well. That usually means a big drop off in the quality of play.

The bigger impact is long-term when it comes to the players. Adding an extra game each year will take a greater toll on their bodies which they may not feel until well after they retire. For a league that claims to care so much about player safety, adding an extra game runs counter to that view.

In addition, conditions like CTE which effect players later in life will also be a bigger issue for the players if they play an extra game each season of their careers.

These players are human and they often pay the price later in life for their exploits on the football field. CTE can lead to depression, violent and erratic behavior and eventually dementia. Playing an extra game with an extra week of practice each season during their careers will only add to the physical toll the game of football has on those who play it.

In addition, most experts believe the league will not stay at 17 games for long and this is just a stepping- stone to an 18-game schedule. That will make things even harder on the players’ bodies and increase the potential long-term damage to their bodies even more.

2. The Schedule Will be Less Balanced and Fair

The NFL schedule has been very balanced in recent years with teams in the same division playing 14 of their 16 games against common opponents. That number will be reduced by one as the 17th game will feature interconference games against non-common opponents.

Teams that finished in first place like the Packers did last season, will face a tougher opponent than their division rivals. So, while the Packers will face the Chiefs next year, while the Lions face the 5-11 Denver Broncos.

The bigger issue will be in the hunt for wild card spots where the strength of schedule could keep a more talented team from making the playoffs because they play a tougher opponent in the extra game.

3. Players Will Have Less Time to Impress Coaches in the Preseason

The elimination of a preseason game will make it that much harder for players on the fringe of NFL rosters from making an impression on the coaching staff. The four preseason games may be difficult to watch because they aren’t great quality football, but they are the best opportunity for players fighting for a roster spot to show the coaching staff what they can do under game conditions. One fewer preseason game will hurt late round draft picks and free agents the most.

In addition, all rookies will have fewer chances to adjust to the speed of the NFL game in game-like conditions. The elimination of one preseason game will make rookies struggle a little more to adjust to the NFL, especially early in the season. It may reduce the quality of play early in the season.

4. The Packers Will Have to Lose a Home Game

As part of this new 17-game schedule, each NFL team will have to sacrifice one home game to play international games. The Packers are the only team not to play in an international game in part because of the importance of Packers home games to the economy of Green Bay.

Each division will have all four teams play an international game every four years and it will cost each team a scheduled home game every other time they play overseas. The home games will be taken during seasons when the teams have nine home games rather than eight.

This means that the Packers will have increased travel costs every four years and the “extra” home game that the new league schedule provides will not benefit the Packers once every four years the team is scheduled to get that ninth home contest.

In addition, with one fewer preseason game, the Packers organization will lose a home contest every other year when the preseason schedule is reduced to three games. This may mean lost revenue to Green Bay area restaurants, bars and hotels and a loss of sales tax revenue for Green Bay as fans do not travel to Lambeau Field for these preseason games.

Overall, there are both benefits and issues to consider with the expansion of the league schedule. Feel free to comment on your feelings below.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (31)

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mnbadger's picture

April 01, 2021 at 12:21 pm

NO way am I a fan of the 17th game. It's just GREEDY. Do players salaries increase by 6.25% this year due to the fact that they'll be working 6.25% more hours? I'd expect my pay to increase based at least partly on how much more I would be asked to work.
The 17th game MUST be a neutral site game and not count in any playoff qualification equations. It is what it is, a money grab. It has nothing to do with determining a champion.
Stadiums would have to be up to NFL standards, not like the debacle pre-season game where I believe ESB hurt his knee because the carpet seams came apart and the field needed to be shortened to avoid "the really bad areas" This isn't stand up comedy where all you need is a mic and crowd.
17th game is an absolute money grab, I may boycott the Pack vs KC game this year. Just greedy. I'm sorry if I was too nuanced, but I'm glad I got to rant. GPG

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Bear's picture

April 01, 2021 at 04:23 pm

Heck, when they went from 12 to 16 games it was a money grab. If you look at the players salary increases they were a part of the money grab also. It’s not one sided.

Pay the players a set dollar amount for each game played and they would probably want more games. This having to coddle the players is so sad..

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Since'61's picture

April 01, 2021 at 08:35 pm

Except when the league went first to 14 games and then to 16 games the league expanded the rosters each time.

Also, the number of games were expanded to account for league expansion. The move to 16 games also created a more balanced schedule and the league also brought in the bye weeks. Back in 1978 when the league expanded from 14 to 16 games the league did not have a salary cap or free agency. This enabled teams to have quality backups at QB and at other positions. More importantly teams were allowed to structure their own practice schedules.

My point is for those times everyone made more money, the owners and the players. Also the fans were able to enjoy more quality football. It was much more of a win-win than this move to a 17 game schedule. Why? Because now the league has less practices, they have international travel, Thursday Night Football, poor officiating to the point where no one knows what a catch is any longer. All of these are additional stressors on the players and on their safety. Plus as of now the league has not announced an increase in the rosters or an additional bye week.

It's not a matter of coddling the players it is a matter of maintaining the quality of the on field product. I'm not OK watching a bunch of guys who were flipping burgers a few weeks earlier becoming starters for the Packers because of an injury plague due to the combination of factors I mentioned above. When it reaches that point it's not professional football any longer. What's the point of calling it a professional league when they don't protect their players and dilute their product? What does that say about how little little the owners care about the fans who spend their money to support the owner's teams.

The fans and the players deserve better. Thanks, Since '61

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GilMartin's picture

April 02, 2021 at 04:59 pm

The issue I'm concerned about it the players' long-term health. And yes, they should be paid more for playing another game. Thanks for the comment, Bear.

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blondy45's picture

April 01, 2021 at 06:49 pm

mnbadger, NFL players get paid for a season of work. That includes OTA's, preseason, off season, game days, & off days. 6.25% more hours...???? I can not agree with you on that statement. By the way, I too do not like the 17 game schedule. Go Pack Go

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GilMartin's picture

April 02, 2021 at 04:56 pm

I'm with you mnbadger. It doesn't make sense in the long run but it's here and I'm sure there will be 18 games within 5 years. Thanks for the comment.

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splitpea1's picture

April 01, 2021 at 03:03 pm

Good article. As you stated, the problematic issues far outweigh the benefits, especially when it comes to player health (and 18 games will be even worse) and fairness of schedule. The regular season is already long enough; I actually wouldn't mind going back to 14 games, although that's obviously never going to happen. The extra game, which is meaningless for most teams anyway, will probably serve as a pseudo-preseason contest due to all the backups being used.

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murf7777's picture

April 01, 2021 at 01:04 pm

I just don't understand the concern for player safety and the dislike of what some call "owners greed".

Regarding Greed......How is it greed that an entrepreneur wants to make money and increase market share. America was built on free enterprise and I'm not sure, but most of us wouldn't find any business owner who wouldn't want to protect their investment by increasing it's market share. In the business world, you are either growing or dying. Could be a very slow death, but that is what your business is doing if it isn't growing. I will agree when they knew about CTE and didn't tell the players, it was greed, but that's not the case any longer. The hazards are known.

Players safety? Come on man, this is a very violent sport and always has been. These players make their choice to take their college education and go into a career or play in the NFL. They know the sport is violent and NOW know the risks of CTE, but yet, choose to join the NFL for the riches it offers and/or the competition the sport provides their desires. Very few, like Borland decide to leave to another career. Why do people choose to be Firefighters and/or Police Officers full knowing it could endanger their life and put their families in a difficult situation at anytime? I'm sure municipalities try to make it safer for them, but the reality is you can only go so far, but yet they still choose said occupation. It's human desire.

Lastly, the players will get their share of the increased revenue upon their next negotiations. Being they get a percentage of the pool of monies, i suspect they will be seeing increasing prior to negotiations.

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Oppy's picture

April 01, 2021 at 02:48 pm

Every extra game a player plays takes a greater toll on their bodies and increases the likelihood of injury.

As far as "You're either growing or your dying", that's simply not true. That may be the case for investors in stocks, where you only benefit with growth, but a business that generates a profit can continue to sustain that profit without the obsessive need to grow and enlarge their footprint if they so choose.

It is what it is.. It's greed. I'm not passing judgement on the motive, but it is simply all about making more money, and nothing else. The NFL is not making the move to 17 games to ensure they stay competitive in the market, and they aren't doing it to broaden the fan base. The 31 private owners of NFL franchises have pushed for 17 games to make even more money.

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splitpea1's picture

April 01, 2021 at 03:05 pm

A quick search revealed that NFL revenue increased from about $4 billion in 2001 to over $15 billion in 2019.

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murf7777's picture

April 01, 2021 at 03:05 pm

I have to disagree with your position on growing versus dying. Since we were talking about growing revenues if you were dying you are decreasing revenues and sooner, rather than later, your profit will follow. Now, if you have a magic formula that allows for decreasing revenues but ongoing stable profit I’m all ears.

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Oppy's picture

April 01, 2021 at 09:32 pm

Just because there isn't obsessive need for growth doesn't mean there is atrophy.

Despite many wild claims to the contrary, you can maintain a situation.

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murf7777's picture

April 01, 2021 at 03:19 pm

Also, show me a business that stays the same in revenue and profit year in and year out. Maybe business pre 1980 you could get away with trying to stay around the same revenue for awhile, but not today. Business is fierce and cut throat. Mainly technology has driven that to a much higher degree. Think Amazon as an example. Those greedy bast$&&d’s are trying to grow again. Why do they need more, they are putting those poor brick and mortar stores out of business. The reality in business is if you don’t innovate you die. The only thing that is undetermined is how long it will take.

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LeotisHarris's picture

April 01, 2021 at 06:00 pm

Well, murf, unless you're on Wall Street/a big bank, and then the the federal government bails you out. No innovation or growth required. Just good old fashioned greed wrapped up in stock options and bonuses for those entrepreneurs you revere at the top.

Last time I checked, America was built by slaves on stolen land. Greed from the get-go. Now the world runs on Asian salve labor. Pretty sure no matter how much you wave the flag or spout economic theory, the model of stealing everything you can't buy or kill just isn't sustainable. It's good of you to stop by and school us 'bout the b'ness world, though.

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Since'61's picture

April 01, 2021 at 08:52 pm

murf7777 - you're correct that an entrepreneur should try to maximize their investment. But the key question is why should they maximize their investment? If the answer is just so that they can make more money after already becoming billionaires or multi-hundred millionaires, then that is the wrong answer. That is just greed and that is not what entrepreneurism or capitalism or the US is about IMO

If they are making more money to improve value for their customers and improve their employees lives then that is the correct answer. Until I retired I was entrepreneur for most of my career. I had my own business and then I partnered up with a person who had been my mentor before I went on my own.
From the beginning we both agreed that we would take care of our employees and partners first and that we would not do business with anyone who would not respect our way of doing business.
We turned away $millions of business if the potential client was just using a merger or acquisition as a means of wiping out jobs and reducing employees. We never did business in Russia or with a Russian company even when some of our US clients wanted us to help them get started there. We never asked any of our employees, or independents to go to a country where they were not comfortable or where we wouldn’t go ourselves. Those were just some of our ground rules we established early on.
Bottom line, after 30+ years we ultimately turned the company over to our employees. We slowly transitioned out our equity and allowed the employees to build up their equity in the company. Now it’s theirs. They built it and they earned it.
That’s one way at least, how capitalism should work, especially here in the USA. Make decisions for people not just to make more money. My partner and I could have taken our equity and sold the company. And and walked away from our people. Believe me we had offers. But why hurt our people when we had enough money already? It’s unnecessary.
What is the value of money for money’s sake?

The idea of makes as much money as possible at any cost is an anathema to the original concept of capitalism and is causing an ever widening gap between the wealthy and the poor and destroying the US middle class. Again it’s unnecessary. Sorry for my rant. But I just don’t see how a 17th game helps the game, the players or the fans. It’s just money for the sake of money (greed).
"You cannot negotiate with someone who says what's mine is mine and what's your is negotiable." John F. Kennedy. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Oppy's picture

April 01, 2021 at 09:57 pm

Since'61, the description of your business model is so similar to that of the company I currently work for, that I was starting to wonder if I knew who you were for a moment there.. right up until you said 30 years. The company I work for was a privately held family business for around 60 years before they turned it over to the employees.

I feel incredibly grateful to work for a company that puts integrity, charity, and employees in the forefront of business decisions ahead of making pure profit for the sake of profit the motive, and I'm sure your employees and partners did, too.

Its amazing how many people will tell you a business can't survive much less compete in today's markets unless they operate as cut-throat tacticians in all matters with the bottom line being the end-all, be-all.. even while there are wildly successful examples of businesses putting people and ethics first and still somehow generating enough revenue and profit to enrich the lives of all those who help make it happen and the surrounding communities they serve.

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Since'61's picture

April 01, 2021 at 11:23 pm

Oppy - you are so right. If you do the right things and if you treat both your employees, partners and clients with respect, the money will come. It will take a little longer but in the end the company and it’s customers will be better off.

Privately held companies can still do it if they remain true to their values and make decisions based on people before profit. The problem with the big US Corporations is that they are driven by their shareholders so the companies are managed from quarter to quarter rather than for the longer term. It’s earnings, earnings, more earnings while the employees kill themselves trying to meet impossible deadlines and demands.

There was a time when it was great to work in corporate
America. Corporations once focused on building careers and meeting customer needs. But since the 90s they have increasingly focused on their shareholders and creating value for their shareholders at the expense of their employees.

The executives get enormous bonuses while jobs and people get downsized. It’s a constant chase for money and profits. It’s capitalism on steroids for the very few rather than for the benefit of customers, employees and the community.

It doesn’t need to be this way. Your company is apparently one of the few that realizes people first, the profits will follow.
Stay well. Thanks, Since ‘61

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murf7777's picture

April 02, 2021 at 08:59 am

Oppy, if your message was directed towards me, then you took it wrong. See my latest response to 61'. I've started companies and our most important asset was our employees whom we called our associates as we felt that was a better term, more equal sort to speak. Ethics, integrity and a caring attitude was most important. Our goals were to grow each and every year so we could not only increase our own incomes, but also provide job security and increased wages/benefits for our associates. Our mgmt including myself, was first in and last to leave to lead by example. I believe many small businesses are this way. Of course, our company was a small company under 100 employees similar to the one your worked for.

We're talking about multi-billion dollar big biz. In that world, unfortunately, it is cut throat and it's survival of the fittest. I understand why you and others have the feeling of "greedy people", really, it has crossed my mind and they showed it by not putting the players safety first when they knew about CTE but yet didn't tell the players. They were sued and paid for that mistake. That is also the past and players have full knowledge of risks now.

That said, my premise was based on the need to grow or you die. In the NFL, because it is so popular, it would be a slow death, but ultimately that would be detrimental to players salaries and benefits. Enough said on this subject, I just wanted you to know where my values are.

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Oppy's picture

April 02, 2021 at 11:54 am

Small company under 100 people I work for? The company I work for is the largest privately held of its type in the industry in the US (perhaps worldwide), and it's one of the largest of its type in the US period. Is it double digit billions like the NFL? No, but it's major business, big enough we are constantly being told what we do is impossible.

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murf7777's picture

April 02, 2021 at 08:11 am

Since 61’ ....Impressive resume and I agree with some of what you have said and appreciate an intelligent response. I didn’t want to talk about my experience but since it seems to validate things I will. I started 4 companies from scratch without purchasing business. Basically, one employee and client at a time. I sincerely valued each of them and knew the importance of innovation and growth to keep the business healthy and relevant. By doing that, we provided increased salaries, benefits and job security for each of our employees.

Your analysis seems to be based on the premise that the NFL can’t go away so there is no need to grow, thus it’s just greed. I’d debate that there are other sports, such as soccer that is ever growing to compete with. Hispanics are the fastest growing race in the US and by far they are into soccer over football. That’s just one example, other non sports entertainment takes viewership away,...etc.

For the players, I don’t know how it will be for them in the long run, that will be played out over the course of time. obviously injury concerns are there and the players have a choice to play or not to play. But, if the NFL starts decreasing and losing market share then I know it will be bad for their incomes.

For the Fans, based on just this sites response, I suspect it’s a mixed bag. That said, I’m willing to bet the majority of people who stated they are considering not watching anymore will still be glued to each Packer game. Is the product somewhat watered down for player safety purposes, yes, but it’s still for me anyways by far the most exciting sport to watch.

As I appreciate your wisdom on this subject, I’d love to debate this more with you offsite. Bests.

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Bear's picture

April 01, 2021 at 04:34 pm

Sorry, I don’t feel sorry for millionaires playing a game and they might/will get hurt. They could quit anytime and retire with a few million. I think they’re better off then most Americans.

If you want to call it greed you can call it greed both ways. Ie: How many Millions does Rodgers need??? More then 1 or 2 is as you call it greed.

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blondy45's picture

April 01, 2021 at 06:35 pm

Agree Bear. I know the NFL is different than the MLB, or NBA. They only have so many games to perform throughout the year. But you all know as well as I do, that players have a sniffle, or a "pulled" have to rest injury, they "can't play". All the games must count towards the NFL play offs. How many more teams will now be added to the post season? Millionaires getting paid to sit on the sidelines to get rid of their cold like symptoms? Management decisions to "rest" players as a precaution?

I know players get hurt, CTE, Joint disabilities, and other body traumas occur more often in the contact sport of football. NFL players need only to make their money in the NFL for a short period of time. They retire & are set for life if they manage their money wisely. They can get most any job they desire, since they are former NFL players. The elite get advertising gigs to further enhance their wealth & notoriety. Players are more greedy than the owners are IMO.

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Oppy's picture

April 01, 2021 at 09:44 pm

Players make chump change compared to owners, and the great majority of NFL players end up paying a price with long-term health problems and drastically reduced life expectancy, something the NFL owners need not worry about. And we're just talking income, not even considering the payday that comes if/when a NFL franchise owner decides to sell.

How on god's green earth you can consider players "more greedy" than owners is baffling to me. Yes, many players have the opportunity to earn life-changing money and are handsomely compensated, but when you look at how much revenue their talent creates, and the sacrifices they make to play the sport, it's unfathomable how anyone forced to choose "who's more greedy" would pick players over owners.

Please, help me understand.

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mnbadger's picture

April 02, 2021 at 10:40 am

Business 101: Every business has a list of assets and liabilities. Long term, you want to grow one and reduce the other.
Additional games, over the long term, counters this basic principle IMO.
Short term cash is good, but long term damage to your most valuable asset, the players, is bad. Dont forget, there are far less kids playing HS football today than 20 years ago, thus less talent available to replenish rosters with top quality talent. Oversaturating the market is bad. Fans will lose interest in late season meaningless games.
Scheduling "fairness" is gone, that's bad for business.
I don't see this as a good business decision long term. GPG

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fastmoving's picture

April 01, 2021 at 02:30 pm

"The NFL’s 17-Game Schedule Has Both Benefits and Problems for the Packers".....just like every single thing in life.

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Coldworld's picture

April 01, 2021 at 03:37 pm

Everyone is focused on player issues, but for me it’s the asymmetry that it adds to the schedule, further penalizing decent teams and promoting the weak.

I’m fine with improving rosters through draft priority and even regular scheduling outside the division, but the random best against the best (plus arbitrary location too) aspect of the one off game irritates me and I think messes with the opportunity to reward better football teams in the current year.

I can live with it from uneven quality divisions because I value divisional rivalries and integrity. This is just a step too far in the wrong direction, and one an 18 game schedule seems possibly likely to exacerbate. In doing so it means more lower quality football even without player health considerations, I fear. Heading in the wrong direction for short term reasons Mr. Goodall.

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MarkinMadison's picture

April 01, 2021 at 08:05 pm

Yeah, I don't like it. Adding extra teams to the playoffs made more final games more interesting this year, so adding a game won't necessarily lead to more back-up QB play, at least due to the schedule. Overall, I think the increased injury risk is not worth it. We may very well see increased play by back-ups due to increased injury risk. Dropping one pre-season game does not equalize the risk, because we all know the starters will only play one pre-season game, at most. I also agree that the old system had more symmetry that going to 18 games will not fix. 4 teams per division. 8 divisions. 16 games. 32 teams. You couldn't really design it any better than that if you tried. Now they are mucking with mathematical perfection.

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Johnblood27's picture

April 02, 2021 at 09:23 am

The asymmetry doesn't hurt the competitive balance of the league one bit. The issues exist for every team, no net loss or gain. Year to year there is no guarantee that a good team from last year will be good again next year. The salary cap, free agency and rules changes have ended the days of dynasty football (outside of franchises that find ways to cheat the system). Each year stands on its own.

The 17th game is about growing the fan base in areas outside of the 32 team regions without expanding the number of franchises (yet).

The asymmetry allows for the neutral site game rotation to equalize the lost home game revenue for each team in the league over the rotational time cycle. Think in multiple year mode, not in single year mode.

As far as increasing the possibility of injury for players, with the NFL becoming a 12 month/year commitment, year-round training and the increased physical demands on professional athletes to excell at their sport, this is a straw man argument. There is simply no way to ever prove that one additional week will result in more injuries. This can also be a point for the players union to gain traction by negotiating for expanded rosters, playing time restrictions, less physicality in practices, etc on and on. The potential benefit exists for both sides.

I do not see an 18th game being an inevitability. It would bring no more balance to the equation and would seriously compromise the neutral site aspect of the 17th game addition and the equality to all teams over the cycle time.

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13TimeChamps's picture

April 02, 2021 at 10:00 am

"There is simply no way to ever prove that one additional week will result in more injuries."

You're kidding, right? Show me an NFL week where there were no injuries. There are injuries every week. Adding another week to the schedule means more injuries. How much more proof do you need?

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Cotreq's picture

April 02, 2021 at 10:33 am

I get it , in all business dealings its never about the money except when its always about the money. Green Bay is the exception but all team owners are wealthy individuals so its pretty natural for us working class to accuse them of being greedy..but...lets just look at the last season where there were no fans in the stands. Teams and owners revenue was reduced drastically but players still got paid, travel expenses were still paid , pensions and insurance were paid all those things took place and the owners had to shoulder the full expenses with reduced revenue. So fundamentally it is about recovering losses and improving the business balance sheet , in that regard the Packers are no different than Ford, Honeywell, Tesla, Microsoft etc etc if your going to stay in business you gotta make money. So I understand the 17 game rational but there is a price to pay by the players bodies.
How about 18 games ? more revenue for the team...but...we add another by week spaced thru the season. No player can play in more than 15 regular season games ( here the quality of your backups become extremely important ) and we expand rosters to 58 or 60 players . That adds to the expense side of the ledger but should be offset with the additional games,.

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April 05, 2021 at 05:14 am

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