The Perfect NFL Schedule
The NFL is finally changing its 16 game regular season format for the 2021-22 season. The recent CBA states that the league will expand to 17 regular season games and will only play three of the original four preseason games. This is a step in the right direction. But not completely. The NFL needs to think about now expanding that 17 to 18 some day to have an equal amount of home and away games, and to move on from the previous 16 game schedule. Also, two preseason games seems about right, not three. This provides another week of meaningful football and fans, organizations and players will all benefit from it. Getting rid of meaningless games and adding meaningful games causes more interesting games that matter, and more money for teams and players. The NFL should also strongly consider adding another bye week for each team. So in total, two preseason games, 18 regular season games and two bye weeks would make the perfect NFL schedule.
Playing in the NFL is a lot different than playing in the other top American sport leagues such as the MLB, NHL, and NBA. The NHL and NBA for example, have 82 regular season games and the MLB has 162. Take those numbers and compare them to the NFL’s current 16 game schedule and you would think that it is much harder for the other athletes because of the amount of games they play. Well players in the NFL will argue that they play in the toughest league. Football, especially pro football, is a brutal sport. Teams are faced with more injuries as the season progresses. NFL teams only play once a week throughout the whole season so teams have enough time to rest up before their next game. The schedule has always been simple and easy to follow. Each team would play 16 games, 8 home and 8 away, with one bye week for each team. Now however, the NFL is adding a 17th game like I have previously mentioned. This now makes teams play an odd number of games which is unfair. Now there will be some teams in the league that will be forced to play nine away games and only eight home games. It would make perfect sense for the NFL to then move to 18 games so that there are nine home games and nine away games.
Home field advantage is a real thing in professional sports. From the article “Is playing at home really an advantage?” the author, Kevin L. Burke says, “In a 2010 paper, University of Rochester social psychologist Jeremy P. Jamieson, who did a meta-analysis of studies on both team sports and individual contests such as golf, tennis and boxing going back more than six decades, calculated that those who are competing at home tend to win slightly more 60 percent of the time.” If home teams are winning more than the away teams, my question is, how is it fair for some teams to be playing 9 home games and only 8 away games. In all the sports leagues that I have ever watched and participated in, there has always been an even number of games. This is why there should be an 18 game regular season instead of 17. Having 18 games will assure that each team will play 9 home and away games. This is a more fair schedule for the league to consider. Also, removing one of the preseason games and adding another bye week for each team is also a good idea.
The Houston Texans starting running back going into the 2019 season was supposed to be Lamar Miller. His season was ended before it could even start when he tore his ACL in the 3rd game of the preseason. In 2016, the Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback, Tony Romo, was hit hard on his lower back early in the third preseason game and did not return to the field until week 17. Nobody wants to see players get hurt in games that simply do not really mean anything. The NFL should now consider shortening the preseason to 2 games and add another bye week in the regular season. Some players will tell you that 16 games is already enough. That is only with one bye week. Add another bye week to the schedule and players will have another week to rest their bodies. From the article “How NFL players spend their bye week” the author, Matt Bowen says, “The first thing most players look for when the NFL schedule comes out is the bye week. The opponents? The prime-time games? That stuff can wait. Man tell us when we get a break. One thing to realize: NFL players are not robots and the grind of the season is real, so guys cherish their time away.” With the addition of another bye week, players have another opportunity to stay healthy and spend time with their families and friends. I think most players would be in agreement with me in saying there would be nothing but positive outcomes by adding another week off.
Each year, at around the end of the summer, football fans are far more than ready to begin watching their favorite teams and favorite players take the field. Fantasy drafts begin, team projections for the season start to get released, and players/coaches are finally ready to move on from all the offseason training camps and workouts. It is football season. One thing, however, that also takes place during the end of the summer for the NFL is the preseason. Many fans seem to not care about the preseason because these games are meaningless. Fans would rather buy tickets and go to the games that actually have an effect on their teams post season dreams, they do not want to tune into the games where the starters do not make an appearance. Instead of playing all four of the current NFL’s preseason schedule games, it should be reduced to just two. The regular season should start in late August when the third and fourth preseason games take place. This would allow the regular season to be expanded to 18 games instead of the current 16. The season would also end at around the first week of February, which is currently where it ends now. This is a much better schedule for everyone involved. The NFL has already announced that starting in the 2021 season, there will be 17 regular season games and three preseason games. This is the right step in perfecting the schedule, but not quite perfect just yet.
The current regular season schedule is laid out so that each team plays every team in their division twice, every team in a specific division in their own conference, every team in a specific division in the opposite conference, and then two teams in the same conference that finished in the same spot in their specific division. That is how a 16 game conference is made for each new NFL regular season. For my proposal of an 18 game schedule, the schedules current format remains the same except the 2 extra games that are played will be a random team in your conference and a random team outside of your conference. The way these games can be set up is the same way games are set up in college football. Teams would be able to reach out to one another and the league office to set up these two new games. One home game and one away game to equal nine each for the regular season.
People may think that playing 18 games for certain players may cause more injuries and no one wants to see a players career be ended early due to injuries. Jerry Jones, who is the owner, president and general manager of the wealthiest sports team in the entire world, The Dallas Cowboys, has said he believes an 18 game schedule would actually reduce the amount of injuries. Jones, when talking about the possibility of an 18 game schedule, has stated, “I think, candidly, it’s probably physically better for players than it is to have the longer preseason, the longer practicing. Our studies show that we actually have a ramped-up injury situation with players during preseason as opposed to the injury factor in the regular season.” Jones also believes that reducing the preseason games to just two games is also a much better idea than to have four. Jones has stated, “My solution is real simple, cut back on preseason games. Have one at each team’s home, play a couple of them and then add two games to the regular season. That’s a better equity or a better way of players using what they bring to the table, their talents, their skills, their professional time in pro sports. That’ll give them a bigger pay day that is fair. The other thing it does is it certainly gives our fans what we all think they deserve and that is a competitive game.” It seems Jerry Jones thinks a lot like myself. All of the points he makes are very similar to the ones I have in mind such as making the season longer, shortening the preseason, focusing on players health, players receiving more pay for the extra games, and giving the loyal NFL fans what they want, which is more football.
Another proposal that the league has offered is that if the season expands to 18 games, then players can only play in 16 of them at most. This then eliminates any higher chance of players getting more injured in an 18 game season because they can only play up to 16 of them. This creates a more strategical approach for coaches. Would coaches want to bench their best players against weaker opposition? Would coaches want to play all their star players in the first 16 games so that they can potentially clinch a play off spot and not have to worry about the tough and cold December games? This is a longer NFL season with a huge twist that is creative and fun. This proposal also benefits players more than hurts them. Jenna West of Sports illustrated writes, “Owners are enticed by the idea of a longer season considering the more revenue it would create. An analysis done by the NFL Players Association found that up to $2.5 Billion in additional annual revenue could be generated with two more games. That would add $15 million to each team’s salary cap and give players more money.” Players will be getting paid more money to play in the same amount of games. More games causes a longer regular season and shortened preseason which gives fans more games to look forward to considering the regular season games actually mean something. The idea of players only being able to play in 16 of the 18 games also causes coaches to focus on another aspect of strategically setting up their team for success. If a team that plays with less starters were to beat a team that had a lot more of their starters in causes excitement and an underdog vibe that fans love to see in sports, especially in football.
There are some people out there that believe expanding the NFL season is not a good idea and that it puts the players health at risk because more games on the body equals a higher chance in sustaining an injury. That point makes sense, more physical football games means more wear and tear on the body. Out of the four big American sport leagues, an NFL career is the shortest in length simply because some guys’ bodies in the league become too injury prone to the fast and furious play style that the NFL provides. However, the NFL is already planned to move to 17 games starting in 2021 and looks to possibly advance to 18 in the near future. There have been many proposals thrown in the mix for how an 18 game season would work. It seems that the most likely and most popular idea that is currently spreading throughout the league is that an 18 game season will take place, but players will only be allowed to participate in a maximum amount of 16 games. Also, this plan includes reducing the preseason games from four to two which means that is even less football than in previous years. If there are less meaningless games and the same amount of meaningful games for the players to participate in, that means there is not any way this 18 game plan will result in more injuries than before. More football games will also most likely mean that there will be an increase in roster size. There is currently a 46-man game day roster limit that has been implemented for a few seasons now and that number would have to change if the seasons become longer. Larger rosters also means more fun as well for the fans of the league to watch and see. Some teams may stack their offensive lines with more players to rotate in and out of games to keep the players from getting tired. Other teams could potentially acquire an abundance of edge rushers for the same reason. there are many different possibilities that teams can take and it would be interesting to see what teams did with their rosters.
More regular season football games also give worse teams in the beginning of the season a better chance to make a late playoff push. This is beneficial to the entire league because since there are more games added on to the season, teams have more of a reason to continue to try in the season after having a potential losing streak. In the current NFL, if teams start to lose 4-5 games in a row, it seems like the season is completely over and that it is time to start tanking for the earliest possible draft pick. This can now change, with the two extra games offering more potential to still push late in the season with the addition of a 7th playoff spot in each conference that the NFL is adding, starting in the 2020 season.
An 18 game schedule would most certainly make more money for the league as well. This means that players will get paid more money for having to take part in a longer season. Players will definitely benefit from getting paid more. Who doesn’t want to get paid more? There really isn’t any extra tasks they are asked to take part in when they still would be playing in only 16 games and two less preseason games. On top of all that, the other great idea for an 18 game season is to add another bye week. This would officially mean players are getting another whole week vacation away from the brutal game to rest their bodies. Telling these professional athletes that they will be paid more money, play the same amount of games and have more time off during the season sounds like a slam dunk of an idea that not many will oppose.
There are fans out there that will say they don’t see any problem with the current 16 game schedule and a part of me agrees with them. It is the only NFL schedule that I have known in my life time and there really is not much wrong with it. However, like previously stated, the NFL Players Association has already officially agreed that the league is expanding to a 17 game season starting in 2021. The 17 game season does not come off the tongue nicely for anyone. An odd number of games? this eliminates the complete fairness of an even number of games when it comes to home and away games. Now, some teams (most likely half the teams) in the league will be forced to play an extra away game. the other teams will have an extra home game and traveling to play opponents in professional sports is not easy and there is definitely an advantage for the home team. Even in sports for the NFL, the home team usually always given at least a three point advantage over the visiting team because of how home field advantage works. This is why the league should move on from the 17 game season that will be implemented starting next year to an 18 game season to balance the schedule evenly.
In conclusion, it makes perfect sense for the league to move on to 18 games after the 17 game season takes place. All the other American leagues have an even number of games for their teams to play. Instead of moving back to the 16 game format we should move on with life and focus on the idea of an 18 game season. Players and fans will both benefit from 18 game season, and all Americans favorite thing to watch on Sunday’s with their family and friends expands to even more games, which means more of watching your favorite teams and players play in what is the most popular professional sport in the country, The National Football League.
Is playing at home really an advantage? Research says… (2016, January 21). https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nfl/news/nfl-conference-championship-games-home-field-advantage-records-panthers-bronocos-mlb-nba-nhl/1xio6320kqfb51q28da09zdlyl
A break from the grind: How NFL players spend their bye week (2016, November 11). https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/18013606/how-nfl-players-spend-their-bye-week
Jerry Jones Says Players Would Benefit Physically From 18-Game Schedule (2018, August 28). https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/08/28/jerry-jones-18-game-schedule-safer-players
Report: NFL Owners Suggested 18-Game Schedule With 16-Game Limit for Players (2019, July 12). https://www.si.com/nfl/2019/07/12/nfl-18-game-schedule-suggestion-player-limit
How NFL is Set, if Needed, to Shake Up its Schedule (2020, April 27). https://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2020/04/27/Leagues-and-Governing-Bodies/NFL-schedule.aspx
Is it really a good idea for the NFL to add two more playoff teams? (2020, February 22). https://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2020/2/22/21148479/is-it-really-a-good-idea-for-the-nfl-to-add-two-more-playoff-teams
NFL 2019: Here’s why the proposed 18-game schedule with a 16-game limit could actually work. (2019, July 17). https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/nfl-2019-heres-why-the-proposed-18-game-schedule-with-a-16-game-limit-could-actually-work/
NFL 18-game schedule: Examining Scheduling and Bye Week Logistics. (2018) https://bleacherreport.com/articles/444538-nfl-18-game-schedule-examining-scheduling-and-bye-week-logistics