How Many Weeks Are In An NFL Season?

National Football League
National Football League

An NFL season usually lasts 17 weeks because all 32 NFL teams play 16 games and get one bye week. But this schedule is set to become a thing of the past.

Ahead of the upcoming NFL season, the league is said to have configured a new 18-week schedule that will add another game to each team's schedule. As a result, every team will now play a 17-game season.

This change marks the latest example of the league lengthening the annual schedule. Believe it or not, at one point in time, the 16-game slate was a point of criticism because many fans thought it was too long.

NFL seasons weren't always this long

Super Bowl LV
Super Bowl LV

In the history of the league, starting in the 1920s, football teams have played anywhere from approximately 8 to 10 games. Schedules weren't universal because ae game of football was still considered more of a club activity rather than the institution that fans know it as today.

By the 1930s, teams played between 11 and 14 games, depending on how many teams were in the league from season to season. Into the next decade, the standard schedule consisted of 12 games, and the number of weeks needed to fulfill that number varied from year to year.

NFL football in 1949
NFL football in 1949

During the "golden age" of the NFL in the1960s-70s, the regular season was set at 14 weeks. Competition from the rival AFL (American Football League) caused the league to experiment with a bye week, but the concept didn't always stick. The NFL adopted the 16-game schedule in 1978, and it took until 1990 for the league to bring back the bye week. For the next few decades, the 17-week NFL season became the new normal.

But even the new number still varies. Ahead of the upcoming season, each NFL team is projected to follow an 18-week regular season, but the pre-season is another factor. If one counts these exhibition games, the schedule becomes a 21-week slate due to the league's new collective bargaining agreement with the players.

And don't forget to add one more week if a team also plays in the Hall of Fame Game. For the teams that fall short of the playoffs, their seasons would then be about 21-22 weeks long.

As for the teams that do make the playoffs, their schedules are at least one week longer. Each playoff win adds an extra week to the schedule. By the time teams reach the Super Bowl, their seasons are about 26-27 weeks long.

The NFL season is longer than ever. The average team is engaged in football-related activities for at least half the year. Plus, when one factors in the training camps that start in July, the schedule becomes even more eye-opening. Clearly, football players practically eat, sleep and breathe their profession all year long.

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Edited by Colin Tessier
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