18-Game NFL Schedule Moves Into The Red Zone

A shorter preseason and more meaningful games may come to fruition as soon as 2012.

The NFL owners took a big step toward changing to an 18-game schedule today. Listening to Roger Goddell discuss the meeting afterward, the change will clearly be a big part of the league’s CBA negotiations going forward and could realistically kick in in 2012.

An idea I’ve preferred for a couple of years is to shift to a 17-game schedule. That way, every team can play a neutral site game, allowing for the league to continue to expand its international offerings without costing any teams a precious home game (and allow cities like LA that have facilities but no NFL team to host some games, too). Imagine how pleased I was when I got to the last chapters of Pat Kirwin’s book (which, by the way, is outstanding; if you like football and want to be a better educated fan, buy it) and found him making very much the same argument.

It would also be easier on the players and make the revenue component easier to manage. Fans already pay full price for preseason games, so there’s not a lot of extra revenue to be squeezed from ticket sales to pass on to players in the form of additional salary. But another meaningful week of games would mean higher TV revenue and neutral site games would be a great way to grow the game overall. 17 rather than 18 also balances the fans’ desire for more games that count against the extra physical toll another such game means for the players.

Despite the patently obvious advantages of the 17-game option, the owners are looking at 18. Perhaps splitting the difference is a possibility, but the odds are in favour of 18. Which, as opposed to 16 regular games and 4 preseason games, is a solid improvement. Whichever way they go, it can’t happen soon enough.

Now if they can just work out the rookie wage cap (which I think is a given, since both sides want it) and avoid a lockout (about which I’m much less sanguine), the sport could very well be set for another huge surge in popularity.

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Dodd Harris
About Dodd Harris
Dodd, who used to run a blog named ipse dixit, is an attorney, a veteran of the United States Navy, and a fairly good poker player. He contributed over 650 pieces to OTB between May 2007 and September 2013. Follow him on Twitter @Amuk3.


  1. Trumwill says:

    I think your 17 game plan is awesome… and I say this as someone that up untilhearing this idea didn’t want them to expand beyond sixteen!

    All of that being said, what the NFL really needs to do if it wants to get in my good graces is to expand significantly. The population-to-team ratio is ridiculously out of whack.

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    With due respect football is meant to played on Saturdays by amateurs.

  3. tom p says:

    Sorry guys, I wish they would go back to 14 games (so do the players) It is just too hard to get thru a season already.

    >>>With due respect football is meant to played on Saturdays by amateurs.<<<

    Steve P: I agree (or on Friday nights)

  4. Franklin says:

    I like the 17-game plan for the NFL, but I prefer college football.

  5. James Joyner says:

    With due respect football is meant to played on Saturdays by amateurs.

    The NFL has been around since 1920.  Unless Willard Scott has wished you happy birthday, you’ve never known such a world.

    And college football, at least at the top levels, stopped being “amateur” decades ago.  It’s a multi-billion dollar business whose performers aren’t allowed to be paid; but that just leaves more money for everyone else.

  6. Trumwill says:

    but that just leaves more money for everyone else.

    Well. Except for the 106 of 120 FBS schools that are losing money:

  7. James Joyner says:

    Except for the 106 of 120 FBS schools that are losing money

    That they’re losing money despite a license to print money is probably an indication that those schools are managed by idiots or  should step down to a lower level of competition.  Certainly, there’s no excuse for schools in BCS conferences to not be overflowing with money.