The NFL season does not begin until September, but the league is preparing to unveil a major change. The season will reportedly expand to 17 games instead of the traditional 16. The announcement is expected to take place in the coming days.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the schedule change will take place this week, capping off months of speculation. Mark Maske of the Washington Post reported in February that the league was working to incorporate a 17-game schedule for the 2021 season. In order to achieve this goal, the league would reportedly reduce the number of preseason games from four to three.
If the league does move forward with the expanded schedule, it would mark the first change since 1978. The NFL made another major move and went from 14 games in the regular season to 16. The league also went from six preseason games to the current four. However, the NFL did approach the 2020 season differently by increasing the number of postseason teams from 12 to 14.
Extending the NFL regular season schedule by one game would bring about several changes. For example, the league would make the season 18 weeks long instead of 17 instead of adding any extra bye weeks. Additionally, Super Bowl LVI would move from Feb. 6 until Feb. 13. The NFL's two conferences would also alternate hosting the extra week. The AFC would host in 2021 and then the NFC would tentatively host in 2022.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expressed the opinion that the 17-game schedule would surface in 2021. He appeared on radio station KRLD-FM and said that the owners had not agreed to start the extended schedule in 2021. However, he did mention one factor that would lead to the change.
"My personal opinion is that it will [happen]," Jones said, per Sportscasting. "We did not agree on that [on Dec. 16] at our meeting, but we've agreed to do it, look at it, and do it. And we've got it in our collective bargaining agreement that begins this year.
"We wanted [everyone] to think about it more, and to think about if there are any nuances we could add to it," Jones added. [You'd be surprised [what you could devise] when you invite the perspective from 32 teams."
The league pushed for the expanded schedule during the most recent CBA negotiations. The NFL opted to avoid exercising that option during the 2020 season due to COVID-19 and other "turmoil." Now, however, the change will likely take effect.