The NFL 17 game, 19 week schedule

Recently, the NFL announced a proposal to re-vamp the off season, pushing some key events back two weeks. The notion is that this would be a precursor to extending the season to 18 games.  An 18 game season has been debated before, and was rejected by the NFLPA in the last contract negotiation.

Owners want more games to generate more revenue from ticket sales, and –probably more importantly – TV revenue. Players are opposed because of the increased risk of injury, especially late in the season when players are already nicked up. Playing two more games a year could mean shorter careers, with more injuries, and more long-term health issues.

Back when that contract was being negotiated, I had an idea. One that I think would have served all parties well. I couldn’t think of who to tell it to then, and chances are the NFL and Players Union wouldn’t have been interested anyway. So, you get to read it. Here is my idea.

The 17 game, 19 week season. Presently, each team plays 16 games over a 17 week season. Each team gets one “bye” week, when they don’t play a game. That means that the NFL gets more TV revenue from having an extra week of games, and the players get a week to nurse injuries during the course of the season. In my idea, each team would play one more game, but two weeks would be added to the season. Each team would get a second bye week. There would also be only a 3 game Pre-Season schedule, down from 4.

The extra bye week could come in handy for two other things that the NFL wants to do – more Thursday games, and more international games. The Thursday games have been gaining some traction with fans in recent years, but the players (and for that matter many coaches) hate them because of the short turn around from Sunday to Thursday. Similarly, international games bring the NFL to a new audience, encouraging growth, but players and coaches have to deal with a grueling travel schedule.

In my idea, all Thursday games would be played by teams coming off of a bye. Essentially they would get 11 days to prepare for a Thursday game, then would have 8 days to prep for their next game.

Also, any international game (in England, Germany, or anywhere else the league wants to play), would also come after a bye week, to allow for the extra travel. They might even consider having these games on a Thursday or Friday night. In the US, the NFL avoids Friday and Saturday games so they don’t impact High School and College football. But, international games would have no such issue.

The owners would get the advantage of adding two more weeks of TV revenue. The league would get more exposure on Thursdays, and more opportunity for international games. One stumbling block on the ownership /  league side is that an odd number of games means unequal amounts of home dates. The schedulers would have to devise a way to make sure that each team got 17 home games every two years.

The players have to add a regular season game, but reduce one pre-season game. The argument from players has been that trading out one-for-one between pre and regular season doesn’t work because the intensity is greater in the regular season. The trade off, and the incentive for them is that they would be picking up an extra bye week during the regular season to heal up and get much needed rest.

Fans win with this plan as well. They get to see their team one more time each year, and they get two additional weeks. And, with over 30 million fantasy football players, the extra two weeks means that even when their team isn’t playing, they still get to enjoy the games.

I am sure there are hundreds of things I haven’t thought about in this idea. And, there are a hundred lawyers on each side that would poke holes in it. But, I think it is a step in the right direction. With some effort and compromise on the part of the NFL and NFLPA, this might just be a good thing for both sides.

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