News surfaced over the weekend that the NFL was planning to change the 2021 schedule. Tuesday afternoon, the 32 owners held a vote and agreed to expand the regular season. Each team will now play 17 games instead of the traditional 16.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the owners had voted to play 17 regular-season games in 2021, and then the NFL confirmed the news with a press release. In order to fit the extra game into the existing calendar, there will only be three preseason games. This change marks the first major update to the NFL schedule since the league expanded from 14 to 16 games in 1978.
The 17th games for 2021 👇🏻 pic.twitter.com/G1SvzUoSPd— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) March 30, 2021
"This is a monumental moment in NFL history," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in a press release. "The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world."
While the teams will now play an extra game each season, they will not have an extra bye week. Each team will still only get one week off. The schedule change also means that each team will host 10 games overall — either nine regular-season games and one preseason game or eight regular-season games and two preseason games.
One primary concern for the fans is how the regular-season schedule change would impact the playoffs. The league provided some clarity with its press release and confirmed that big games would be moved by one week. The regular season will come to an end on Jan. 9, 2022, and the playoffs will begin the following week. The 2022 Pro Bowl will take place on Sunday, Feb. 6 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. The season will come to a close with Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles. The Big Game will take place on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022.
For NASCAR fans, there are no immediate concerns about conflicting schedules despite the season-opening Daytona 500 taking place on Feb. 14. The Great American Race will take place on Feb. 20, 2022, so fans of both sports will have the opportunity to watch each primetime event. The only potential conflict would take place in 2027, per Fox Sports' Bob Pockrass.