NFL

NFL expands regular season to 17 games

By Sports Desk March 30, 2021

Team owners voted on Tuesday to approve the first expansion to the NFL's regular-season format since 1978.  

Beginning this year, teams will play 17 regular-season games, with the preseason reduced from four games to three. Contrary to some proposals in previous years, each team will still have just one bye week.  

Tuesday's approval came one year after owners expanded the playoff field from 12 to 14 games, resulting in two additional playoff games and an estimated $150 million in added annual revenue, according to ESPN.  

The players had already approved an added regular-season game as a part of the 2020 collective bargaining agreement, which gave ownership the ability to expand as early this season.  

Earlier this month, the NFL announced a new broadcast rights agreement that secured the league's media distribution through the 2033 season. Tuesday's deal allows for additional international games, with each team playing abroad at least once every eight seasons.  

"This is a monumental moment in NFL history," commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans.  

"And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world."

The added game will match inter-conference foes, with AFC teams getting an extra home game in odd-numbered years and NFC teams in even-numbered years.

Some of the most anticipated matchups in the added game in 2021 include a showdown between Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers when the Kansas City Chiefs host the Green Bay Packers, the Indianapolis Colts hosting the reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and two former number one overall picks at quarterback squaring off when the Arizona Cardinals visit the Cleveland Browns.  

The season is scheduled to begin on September 9 and end on January 9, 2022.

Despite the NFL Players Association approving a schedule expansion in last year's collective bargaining negotiations, some players have been vocal about their disapproval of the change.  

New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara took to social media to call the expansion "dumb…as hell," while Green Bay Packers safety Adrian Amos tweeted: "We really let this happen."

Players will not see an increase in salary in 2021, and their wages will be split over 18 weeks instead of 17 weeks.  

In future seasons, the added revenue from a 17th game will contribute to a rise in the salary cap, providing the possibility for additional compensation for players signing new contracts.  

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