The NFL’s latest expansion idea: 18 weeks

Kate Arhar
Senior Sports Editor

By Kate Arhar // @ClvlndK8

Any good businessman will tell you that once profits have stabilized or plateaued, the next step is expansion.

In the case of the NFL, “expansion” can have very different meanings and complications.

Adding more teams seems to be a quick response, but that might just dilute the talent pool, along with spreading around fan dollars. Besides, I love having exactly 32 teams and I’d hate to see that change.

They’ve tried expanding into new markets with the current teams, which is why we are now seeing games played in England and attempts to play in Mexico. But to me, that is really more a way to increase the customer base as opposed to an actual expansion of the offered product line.

Which brings me to the most recent idea to get some traction: expanding the regular season from 16 to 18 games.

Basically, there are two competing ideas making the rounds of social media right now:  18 games vs 18 weeks.  It’s important when reading someone else’s view on this topic to clarify which one they are discussing.

18 Weeks simply means adding another “bye” to each team’s schedule. You could either lengthen the season by a week or you could get rid of the 4th preseason game. Either way, the regular season would become 18 weeks long: 16 games plus 2 byes. Personally, this is my choice and it seems to be the simplest one to implement by just extending the season one more week. We could end up with the Super Bowl being on Valentine’s Day in February, but I’m not complaining…

18 Games means just that… 18 actual games. I think they would have to throw in a second bye week with this option, so they season would become 20 weeks long instead of 17. But with player safety always being at the forefront, there would definitely have to be other changes.

Lowering the preseason to two games would mean the same number of actual games for the season: 2 plus 18 instead of 4 plus 16. That also keeps the number of home and away games the same at ten. Adding a second by week gives teams more flexibility for recovery from injuries, however I’d be in favor or a more structured and even bye week scheduled.

For bye weeks, how about every team plays weeks 1-4, then weeks 5-8 are bye weeks. After that, every team plays weeks 9-12 and then another set of byes for 13-16. Rounding out with everyone playing weeks 17-20.  I’d also make sure the bye weeks connected with either Thursday night games or the London games in order to give some extra travel/recovery time.

Larger rosters overall would be nice, but larger game-day rosters should be done. I never understood why I can have 53 men on my roster but only 43 can “suit up” for games. Let’s have a 60-man roster for both overall team and game-day. And then I’d increase practice squad from 10 to 15.

Plus the injury rules are a bit antiquated. Why can’t there be a shorter Injured Reserve period? Once a guy is on IR, he’s out for the year or could be brought back after eight weeks. They need to find a friendlier return policy for players with short-term issues.

Obviously there is concern for the players bodies and how a longer schedule would affect their careers. Talk of having players ONLY be allowed to play in 16 of the 18 games makes my head hurt, but I can understand the validity of the argument.

Currently, an average NFL career is 3.3 years. If you break that down into games, it’s roughly 53 regular season games. Under a new 18 game schedule, that would be 2.9 years.  No big deal, you say…. then I shall remind you that players must have 3 years of playing time in order to qualify for benefits – including health insurance – after their days on the field are over.  If they stay with 16 of the 18 games, then fine, but if they don’t, then the qualifications for benefits must be addressed.

Which type of “expansion” do you favor? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Here are some from the folks on twitter:


Talk football with Kate on Twitter // @ClvlndK8

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