A major schedule change is on the way in the NFL. Later this week, the league is expected to expand the regular season to 17 games,
NFL is expected to expand the regular season schedule this week to 17 games. The league had played a 16-game regular season schedule since 1978, by far the longest stretch without a change in NFL history.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 28, 2021
">per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The change to the schedule would be the NFL's first since 1978, when the 16-game regular season was first implemented. The format has been used for the past 40 years, without any major pushback from owners, players, or fans.
The move still comes as no surprise after the NFL has hinted at an expansion frequently over the last few years. When the league and the player's association agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement in March of 2020, the NFL and its owners were granted the power to add a game to the regular season. The plan gained even further traction as the league lost significant revenue during the pandemic-altered 2020 season, which also caused a dip in the salary cap for 2021.
A 17-game regular season for each of the NFL's 32 organizations would add significant revenue for the league. Combined with the NFL's new $110 billion media deal that begins in 2023, its looks like the league is prepared to bounce back in a massive way from the shortfalls of 2020.
Adding an extra regular season game will also give the NFL a chance to expand football's reach overseas. With games having already been played in London and Mexico City, the addition of another contest could give the league an opportunity to break into more worldwide, emerging media markets.
Time will tell if additional schedule changes stem from the move to a 17-game regular season. At this point it's anticipated that the preseason will cut at least one game from its usual four-game slate and the Super Bowl might be pushed back in the second week of February.
The only change that will be set in stone later this week is that the regular season will now consist of 17 games, for better or for worse.