An 18-game regular season could become a reality in the NFL. According to the Washington Post, “some owners” would like to expand the regular season to 18 games or look at expanding the playoffs from 12 teams. It’s difficult to see the NFL actually expanding the postseason because its current construction makes it simple for the top two seeds in each conference to have bye weeks, so we’ll focus on the prospects of an 18-game regular season.
More risk of injury
If it would lead to much higher salaries and more guarantees in contracts, perhaps the players would be interested in an 18-game regular season; but it still seems unlikely a longer regular season is something they’ll agree to. More games means more risk of injury in what is a high-contact sport, as it’ll be another 120 minutes of football, when a lot of things can happen. Also, with the concern about the effect of cumulative hits and concussions on the brain, adding two more games sounds like a bad idea all around.
Stats and record
One thing players might be in favor of is getting more opportunities to put up numbers, which would happen with two extra regular season games. With the NFL becoming more of a passing league, 5,000 yards just recently became something that isn’t rare anymore—and with an 18-game regular season, 6,000 yards might start to become a regular occurrence. That’s just too much. History is important, and no fans of tradition should want to see statistics have another major jump. All 16-game records would be left in the dust, and all statistics from the 14-game schedule before 1978 would look even smaller than they do now.
September is already hot enough in cities like Miami and Tampa Bay, so it’s hard to imagine having two more hot-weather regular season weeks in August, when it’s typically hotter than September all over the country. At least in the preseason, players don’t usually play the entire game—which wouldn’t be the case if regular season games fall in August, as starters would be playing like it’s a game in December. Also, it would just feel weird to have a couple of meaningful games in August.
The NFL is a bit of a different beast that might not have an issue adding two more weeks to the regular season schedule, as fans are so crazy about NFL Sundays. However, there is a chance of oversaturation to the point that people might get tired of too much football. This probably won’t happen with the diehard fans that’ll watch no matter what, but in an era of impatience, the average person might get tired of the NFL by the time December and January roll around if the regular season starts in August.
16 is perfect
In the end, 16 games is perfect for the NFL schedule. For those unaware, the 16-game schedule allows for teams to play:
-Each of their divisional opponents twice (six games)
-Another division in the conference (four games)
-Another division from the other conference (four games)
-The two remaining corresponding division finishers from the previous year in the same conference (two games)
That’s perfect. The schedule rotates every year, and an 18-game schedule would ruin the ideal schedule model that other sports should be striving for.
We shouldn’t panic about an 18-game regular season yet, as there’s a chance the owners are simply using this as a bargaining chip to get something else that they really want from the NFLPA during labor negotiations. NFL owners probably won’t let greediness get in the way of player safety and tradition, but we’ll find out for sure after the 2020 season and the expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement.