The NFL is expected to announce the addition of a 17th game to the regular season at some point this week. The NFL has employed a 16-game regular-season format since 1978. So this change is likely to be significant for players and fans who have been used to the current format for their entire lives.
NFL adding 17th regular-season game
Fifty-three years after adopting the 16-game format, the NFL is finally adding another game to the regular season schedule. The over-five-decade gap was the longest the NFL has gone without changing its format.
The decision to add the 17th regular-season game did not come as a surprise. It was included in the collective bargaining agreement co-signed by the NFL and the NFL Player's Association in March 2020. The decision created some controversy, with many players being outspoken against the idea. In the end, the NFLPA voted on the matter, and the resolution to add another game to the regular season passed by a paltry 60 votes.
Many veterans and superstar players are opposed to the idea of the additional wear and tear that an extra game will add to their bodies. But younger players and players who are not household names are generally in favor of an extra game, for an additional opportunity to showcase their talents in hopes of cementing their place in the league.
As it stands now, the NFL has a set decision-making process for crafting the league's schedule for the upcoming year. It is dependent on divisions, and to a lesser extent, final standing in the most recent seasons.
A 17th regular season game likely means that the NFL will reduce the number of preseason matches for each team. This means coaches and players will have less time to test and evaluate the progress they have made in training camp ahead of the season.
There is no official word yet about how the 17th game for each team will be determined, but some projections exist online. The accuracy and reliability of these projections are up for debate and the league will soon clarify the situation. But as of today, the average football fan now has one more meaningful game per season to look forward to starting this season.