The NFL is apparently moving toward adding a 17th game to the season next year, though it put off officially doing so until sometime in the new year.
The league did not vote on it, but decided that whenever it’s implemented, the 17th game will be an inter-conference game between teams that finished in the same place in their division outside of the normal interconference rotation. That sounds like a mouthful, and it is, but basically this year the NFC North is playing the AFC South, and NFC West is playing the AFC East, and so on. What the 17th game would be, if implemented this season, would see the third-place team from the NFC North play the third-place team from the AFC West or North or East, depending on the yearly rotation.
This ignores the fact that a 17th game is moronic. Teams won’t get an even split between home and road games, and it’s yet another game that unbalances the schedule between teams battling for the same playoff spots and seeding. There’s not really a way to avoid that with the current playoff system, but exacerbating it isn’t the way forward either.
Here’s how NFL.com Grant Gordon broke it down:
Notable changes in the new deal include the addition of two more teams to the playoff field for 2020 season, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, an option to increase the regular season to 17 games starting in 2021, and increases in minimum salaries, performance-based pay and player revenue.
A 17th game is simply a stop-gap on the way to 18, which the players have treated like the death sentence it’s pretty close to being. Once they get 17, there’s no going backward, and they’ll get 18 because of the reasons I’ve just mentioned. Is CTE not a thing anymore?
And of course the NFL wouldn’t do something cool like make the 17th game a neutral site, played in various locations, which would at least even out the home-road disparity.