As had been expected for months, NFL owners voted Tuesday to expand the regular season from 16 to 17 games starting this year. This is not a drill, people. It’s about time.
Sure, you may have heard it was going to happen, but you may still have questions about the details. How will it work? Who’s playing against whom? Who’s making money off this case?
We’re here for you. You have questions, we have answers:
Wait. Is it starting this season?
Yes. The 2021 regular season – like the one that begins in just over five months – will be the first 17-game regular season in NFL history. The new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) negotiated and signed last year allows the NFL to play 17 games as early as this season, provided at least a new media rights agreement is reached, which has been done.
Tuesday’s vote by the owners was a formality, as they had already laid the groundwork for the format and were in final negotiations with their TV network partners. With the new CBA in effect until 2030, this will likely be the NFL’s new reality for the foreseeable future.
So will the season start earlier or last longer?
You can use it later. The Super Bowl, which was scheduled for February 6, 2022, will now take place on the 13th. February 2022 scheduled. The season was supposed to begin with the traditional Thursday night opener on September 9, which was scheduled even though the season had been extended to 16 games. The first Sunday of the regular season should be September 12, and the Sunday of week 18, when the last games of the regular season are played, is the 9th. January 2022. We say expect because we are dealing with a year that could still be hit by a sustained pandemic of COVID-19.
Do the teams have two bye weeks each?
No, they won’t. The 17-game regular-season schedule spans 18 weeks, with each team getting one week of play per season.
What about the pre-season?
The preseason will be shortened. The CBA stipulates that the total number of games per team per season shall not exceed 20 (excluding the two teams participating in the annual Hall of Fame preseason game). This means that no more than three preseason games per team may be played in a season that includes 17 regular season games.
Perhaps the league will shorten the preseason even further, but at this point – and especially given that the entire preseason schedule is abolished in 2020 – there will likely be three preseason games per team. (Again, excluding Hall of Fame teams, who will play four games each).
Can the players defend themselves?
Not anymore. The CBA gives owners the right to extend the regular season to 17 games, meaning players have already signed. You’ll hear a lot of grumbling about this, because generally players don’t like the idea of the extra game taking over their bodies. And this was a big point of contention a year ago when the CBA was being negotiated.
The players who opposed the deal felt they needed more concessions from the owners in exchange for a 17-game season, which was a priority for the owners. The feeling was so strong that the CBA voted to ratify a player by a narrow majority of 1019 to 959. But he did it, and that’s the new reality, whether the players like it or not.
Mike Triplett explains why the NFL adopted a 17-game schedule while the players were against it.
Will players get more money from this deal?
In general, yes, absolutely. The players’ share of league revenue, which was 47% and would increase to 48% from the 2021 league, includes a media kicker that will apply after the league switches to a 17-game regular season schedule. In principle, the players’ share of revenue could increase as the cost of the new television deals increases. If the new TV deals are 60% higher than the old deals, the share of player revenue rises to 48.5%. If the new telesales are 120% higher than the old telesales, one arrives at 48.8%.
The impact of these TV deals on the economic landscape of the NFL likely won’t be felt until 2023, but to give you an idea of the numbers we’re talking about here: In 2019, the league reported revenue of about $15 billion. If players’ share of revenue goes from 48% to 48.8%, and we use 2019 revenue data, that means an increase in player spending of about $120 million. Dividing that number by 32 yields a salary increase of about $3.75 million by 2020.
The league’s revenue from new TV deals is expected to be well over $15 billion, so those numbers will only grow.
That’s great for the future, but what about the players already under contract? Will they get more money?
Some of them, yes. The CBA provides that any player whose base salary exceeds the minimum amount for a time served player is entitled to an additional game check, provided that (A) his contract was terminated prior to February 26, 2020, (B) his contract has not been renegotiated or restructured in a manner that increases his deductible, and (C) he is in the process of being rehired for FY17. Play on the active list, the inactive list or the injured reserve.
The additional match voucher is 1/17th of the player’s basic salary and is paid in one lump sum at the end of the year. Some people do it very well. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, for example, has a base salary of $23.8 million in 2021, which means he’ll make $1.4 million more – if he’s on the roster for Game 17. (Garoppolos is the highest number we could find that matches the risk-free formula).
If the player is not in the game after 26. At the time of the signing in February 2020, it is assumed that he and his agent were aware of the upcoming 17-game season, as it was clear at the time that the new CBA would include the league’s right to enforce it, which would mean that he would not receive any additional match checks.
Will the payment schedule for new players change?
Yes, but the new CBA would have done it anyway. Under the old agreement, players received 17 weekly payments during the regular season – one per game and one per tournament week. For example, if a player’s salary is $1.7 million, he will receive $100,000 each week from week 1 to week 17. Under the new arrangement, he would instead be paid over 18 weeks, so a man earning $1.7 million would now receive a weekly check of $94,444.44 if the payment schedule remained the same.
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However, the compensation package does not remain the same. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, players can be paid for 34 weeks in a league year where the regular season consists of 16 games, or 36 weeks in a league year where the regular season consists of 17 games. This change had been requested by the players as it would allow them to be paid for more than the season. With the regular season having 17 games, players will receive 1/36th of their base salary per week over a 36-week period beginning in week 1 and ending in week 18 following the end of the regular season.
How should this work, with an odd number of games?
The 2021 NFL schedule won’t be released for another few weeks, but the formula that determines each team’s opponent means that teams have known for months who would play if the 2021 schedule stayed at 16 games. An extra game means an extra opponent, and the owners voted a few months ago on a format that would determine that extra opponent based on the previous year’s division standings.
The league will have each division play against a division from the other conference, alternating these games each season, and the team that finished first in one division will play against the team that finished first in the other, and so on. According to the current schedule, that first season of 17 games must be played against inter-divisional teams that played each other two years ago, so this is:
- AFC East teams play AFC East teams.
- NFC North teams play against AFC West teams.
- NFC South teams would play against AFC South teams.
- The NFC West teams will play against the AFC North teams.
So, to determine the specific matchups, look at these links and see which teams finished in which spots in the rankings in 2020. The Washington football team, which finished first in the NFC East, will play its extra game against the Buffalo Bills, who finished first in the AFC East. The Chicago Bears, who finished second in the NFC North, will play against the Las Vegas Raiders, who finished second in the AFC West. The Carolina Panthers, who finished third in the AFC South, play the Houston Texans, who finished third in the AFC South. And so on.
But won’t some teams have extra home games?
Yes. With each team playing 17 games per season, the symmetry of the league schedule disappears. Half of the teams in the league play nine home games during the regular season and the other half play nine away games. Honestly? Not really, but everyone is going to get rich off this deal, so they have to live with it.
To maintain a degree of parity, the owners proposed a system where one conference team would get an extra home game one season and the other conference team would get an extra home game the next season. Example: All AFC teams play nine home games and eight away in 2021, then all NFC teams play nine home games and eight away in 2022, then the AFC again in 2023, and so on.
Get ready for more NFL games in 2021, as each team will play 17 games for the first time. The last time the league changed the number of games was in 1978, when a 14-game season was played. Photo by Robin Alam/Sportswire Icon
We have to get used to weird win-loss records, don’t we?
It really is. Even Jeff Fisher couldn’t go 8-8 in this format. Teams can go 8-8-1, but it would be very unusual for a team to hit exactly .500 in an odd number of games.
What about individual records? Do they have to have stars now?
Good question, but I don’t see a problem with it. Of course, the records for rushing yards, receiving yards and passing yards in seasons of 16 games are now in jeopardy, as those who want to surpass them have an extra game to do so. But it’s happened before. Prior to 1978, the NFL regular season consisted of only 14 games. Of course, the vast majority of volume records in the league have been set since the 16-game expansion 43 years ago.
And of course in 43 years we will look back (well, maybe we will) and say that since 2020 all records have been broken and rebroken many times. When someone scores over 2,000 yards for the first time in a season, a miser will say: Yes, but Calvin Johnson set the record in just 16 games, and he’ll be right. But that’s the way it is in the world of sports.
We’re not used to that in football because, well, it’s been 43 years since we’ve had that change. Twitter didn’t even exist back then, and everyone could see what everyone else thought of the change. Can you imagine that?
Is this all just a precursor to a possible expansion to 18 regular season games?
No. The CBA says the league can’t extend the regular season to more than 17 games as long as the contract runs until 2030. So the quickest the owners can do is increase the number of games to 18 – by 2031 – unless the players agree to open the CBA and renegotiate, which would be intact.
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What else can an extended regular season bring to the NFL?
The 16 additional games this season will give the league the opportunity to fill some of the new programming slots that will result from the new television agreements, whether it’s double Monday night games, Saturday night late night games or Sunday morning games on air in other countries.
One of the topics discussed by the game owners on Tuesday was the future of international gaming, with Canada, Germany, Mexico, Brazil and the United Kingdom mentioned as possible locations. From 2022, all 32 teams will play at international level at least every eight years.
Will we see players from teams rested because of the extra game?
It’s quite possible. Those of us who were in the NFL locker room in December and January know that this is no small feat. These guys are pretty much done at the end of a 16-game season, and it only gets worse when they’re 17. Players need to figure out how best to handle themselves over the course of a long season, and it’s entirely possible that extra breaks are part of that.
Coaches – especially those on playoff teams – need to figure out how to better manage their players for a longer season. This of course means that more players will have to sit out weeks 17 and 18 to ensure they are fit for the play-offs. The first few years will probably involve a lot of trial and error until everyone gets used to it.
Will the price of my subscription package increase?
This, my friend, is a question for every team whose tickets you buy. I don’t know what to suggest, but I have a feeling.
frequently asked questions
How can NFL teams make money without fans?
Most NFL teams receive a portion of the league’s merchandise, but the Cowboys have their own licensing agreements. Fewer fans at games means less merchandise purchased at AT&T Stadium. There are also problems with sponsors.
Where do NFL teams get the money to pay players?
Revenue Distribution About 2/3 of the NFL’s revenue comes from the TV deal. The players receive about 2/3 of the team’s revenue. So the TV contract is more or less used to pay the players. These contracts usually run for about 5 years, and each time they are renegotiated, the price goes up.
How do sports teams make money?
Unlike industrial or financial companies, which are typically valued based on their cash flows and assets, sports franchises are valued based on their revenues. … This growth is due to league revenue, which includes revenue from entrance fees, broadcast rights, luxury lodges, club seats, concessions, advertising and membership fees.
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