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An 18-game schedule doesn’t work for everyone, but 17 games might do the trick

Convincing NFL players that an 18-game season is of benefit to them is an uphill battle, but the right schedule with 17 games could make everyone happy while also fixing several other problems.

Tennessee Titans v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones suggested last week to expand the NFL regular-season to 18 games, while reducing the preseason to only two games. Instantly, debate began among a variety of people as to whether this suggestion was even plausible.

Although owners and fans would benefit from an increase of quality product, it would be difficult to get the players on board unless it came with the corresponding 12.5-percent salary increase commensurate with the number of regular-season games played. But even if that long shot same through, it’s still difficult to add more wear-and-tear on players’ bodies with the longer season. The trade-off of losing two preseason games and replacing them with regular-season games isn’t likely enough of an incentive for the players to get on board.

The question is whether there would be any change in the schedule which could benefit the players, owners, and also the fans.

If we’re going to look at changing the schedule, let’s see if there are any other problems which could be solved along the way.

The players are not fans of Thursday night games because of the short recovery and preparation week.

We can fix that.

Some teams don’t like giving up a home game to play games abroad.

We can fix that too.

And the casual fan simply isn’t going to watch four preseason games when many stars are playing in less than a half of maybe two of those games.

Let’s definitely take care of that one.

How can the league answer all of these problems at once, while making players, owners, and fans happy? It’s simple. Make the following changes to the NFL season:

Two Preseason Games

17 Regular-season Games

Two Bye-Weeks

Now for the specifics that answer all the problems...

Two Preseason Games

This is self-explanatory and, frankly, long overdue. Each team would only have one home and one away preseason game. Although coaches would like to have more games in order to evaluate players, that’s more than enough games for the fans.

17 Regular-season Games

A 17-game NFL season seems a little tricky at first glance. Does a team get an extra home game, or road game? That answer helps with another problem: Every team will play one game at a neutral site. Teams would no longer have to give up a home game every time a game is played in England or Mexico. Not only that, the number of international games would be expanded. There would now be 16-games which could be played at various neutral sites. Additional sites could include Canada, high-profile college venues such as South Bend or ‘The Big House’, cities which no longer have an NFL team, such as St. Louis, or other NFL cities that need to meet a stadium lease requirement such as Pittsburgh.

The matchups for the extra regular-season game would be an issue needing addressed, but there’s a variety of ways to do that. An additional cross-conference game would be intriguing, especially if all of those games became the ones for a neutral site.

Imagine what this year‘s Steelers game could have been. If the cross-conference game goes against the division from the team that’s two years removed from playing again, and it’s based on last year‘s division standings, the Steelers would be matched up this year against the Eagles. What would that game look like in Beaver Stadium in State College, PA with a capacity of 106,572? The word “awesome” comes to mind.

Two Bye-Weeks

The important part of adding an extra bye to the season would be proper placement. The additional bye would be guaranteed to take place the week before any team plays their Thursday night game. If player safety is really as important as everyone makes it out to be, this needs to happen. No more short weeks for players. And NFL fans should get a much better product for Thursday night football. Players would have 10 days off before every Thursday night game, and 9 days off afterwards while still having a bye-week at another point in the season.

It’s worth mentioning that if a team is scheduled to play on Thursday in Week 2 of the season, they’d be starting off with a Week-1 bye. Although it’s not ideal, this practice isn’t really so outdated. From 1999 through 2001, the NFL had an odd number of teams before the Houston Texans joined the league. During those three seasons, there had to be a bye during every week of the season, including Week 1 and Week 17. Not perfect, but manageable.

With 17 games and two byes, that would extend the NFL season to 19 weeks. That’s two additional weeks of advertising that can be sold at a much higher regular-season rate. That money can help with anything lost by having two less preseason games.

Everyone Wins

With the exception of NFL coaches that would now have to make roster decisions with less preseason game tape on players, there are many benefits to a 17-game season. Fans get less preseason games, more regular-season games, plus games played in different venues. Owners would get the added revenue of the split profits of the additional regular-season game, as well as the additional money from those coveted commercial slots. Players would have an overall reduction of one total game, and would get a badly-needed bye before playing in any Thursday Night Football clash.

Checking The Boxes

  • Less preseason games? Check.
  • No more short weeks for Thursday games? Check.
  • International games not costing a team a home game? Check.

We have a winner.