An NFL team’s schedule is guaranteed to consist of 16 regular season games. With the possibility of four playoff games and five preseason games, players can participate in 25 games per season, and that excludes the Pro Bowl or training camp activities.
Are four to five preseason games necessary for NFL teams to prepare for the regular season? Could these preseason games be turned into more profitable regular season contests? How can the NFL help reduce injuries by implementing a scheduling format featuring fewer preseason games, yet increasing regular season games?
Will creating a shorter NFL preseason reduce injuries?
The idea behind a shorter NFL preseason is reducing the amount of injuries, particularly in meaningless games. In 2003, the Atlanta Falcons season was essentially over before it began when Michael Vick sustained a broken leg during the preseason. Harry Williams, the former Houston Texan who was trying to impress Texan and NFL talent evaluators, sustained a spinal injury during the first quarter of a 2008 preseason game on special teams. To have a career or season end on an injury in a warm-up game is extremely frustrating for players, fans, and even owners.
Shortening the NFL preseason schedule would reduce the potential for injuries during games that don’t count, but would eliminating preseason games reduce injuries overall? In that aspect, I would argue that the opposite could occur. With fewer preseason games, the NFL would likely increase the total of regular season games. Regular season games have psychological and financial importance, so those games would include players playing with extra passion and intensity.
Eliminating NFL preseason games would reduce the amount of meaningless injuries, but it could increase the amount of injuries overall because of more regular season games.
Longer NFL regular season makes business cents
Many professional sports’ regular seasons are lengthy. In the NBA and NHL, eighty-two games can be exhausting to the casual fan. Similarly to a major golf tournament with the final 9 holes on the fourth day, I don’t enjoy watching MLB games until about August in their 162 game scheduling format. When these sports complete their championships, I’m ready to give them their four to five month hiatus.
The NFL is one of the few professional organizations that should look into adding regular season games. From the beginning of February through the beginning of September, the NFL plays no meaningful games. Other than April’s NFL Draft and the Gamebreaker, NCAA Football, and Madden video game series from June on, football fans must wait approximately seven months for meaningful football. Unlike the other major sports venues, I’m still interested in a few more weeks of football following the Super Bowl.
The success of the NFL Draft and the NCAA football series shows there is interest in football before September. From a business standpoint, why not capitalize on it? Adding regular season games would increase television revenue. It would serve as two more weeks where it was eating into its competitor’s competition as most Americans will watch regular season football over baseball, basketball, or hockey. In addition, it edges on negative publicity to charge fans regular season prices for preseason games where players play one quarter.
What could prohibit a longer NFL regular season?
The NFL’s sixteen game schedule is convenient in that an opponent’s games for the next season can be figured at the conclusion of the regular season. It makes it simpler to create a schedule that guarantees games against every opponent in the NFL at least every four years, with home games at least every eight years.
Another factor that will hinder longer regular seasons is the players. Players are not going to play more regular season games without compensation beyond their preseason checks. If the regular season extends to eighteen games, I’d guess that players will expect an eleven percent increase in their yearly salaries. Another thing to consider is that with a longer regular season, it’s reasonable to think that an NFL roster expansion to fifty-five or more players could occur.
With more salaries and possibly more players to account for, will owners find it profitable enough to extend the NFL schedule?
How many preseason games should the NFL schedule?
If the NFL wants to maintain twenty combined games over the preseason and regular season, the ideal solutions appear to be reformatting the schedule into two preseason games with eighteen regular season games or three preseason games with seventeen regular season games.
In 2003, Troy Aikman suggested that two exhibition games should be enough for coaches to evaluate their talent. With one game to finalize starting positions and one game to decide upon the final players on the final roster, there is no reason to suggest that NFL teams need more preseason playing time. College football teams play no preseason and they’re expected to go undefeated if they want any opportunity at a national championship.
How many regular season games should the NFL schedule?
Obviously, an eighteen-game regular season schedule is more ideal because it creates for an equal amount of home and road games. The only way I could see any odd-numbered schedule being a viable option is if the NFL wanted to dedicate a week toward expanding themselves as more of an international brand and play an entire week of games in various cities around the world. These would be considered neutral games and give other countries a first-hand perspective of the NFL.
The NFL should add a second bye-week during the regular season
One of the first things I look at when the NFL schedule is released is when my favorite team’s bye-week is. When a team has a bye-week early in the season, it increases the potential for a fatigued team at the end of the season. If a team gets their bye-week at week 3 or 4, they will be playing nearly three months without a week off, and that doesn’t include the playoffs for wild card teams. Currently, teams with bye-weeks around weeks 9 and 10 have favorable advantages to make a run at season’s end over teams with bye-weeks earlier in the season.
If the NFL creates a longer regular season schedule, then it’s essential to give teams another week of rest. In an eighteen game schedule with two bye-weeks, this could be done by giving teams their first bye-week around weeks 3-10 and their second bye during week 11-18. Weeks 19-20 would close out the season before the wild card rounds began. This gives players a rest week per 10 weeks instead of a rest week per 17. This should prevent injuries by keeping players rested and prevent scenarios where teams are playing over three consecutive months of regular season games without a bye-week.
The NFL should extend the regular season while creating a shorter preseason
From a seventeen-week schedule featuring one bye-week with four preseason games (possible five for Hall of Fame Game participants) to a twenty-week regular season schedule featuring two bye-weeks and two preseason games, the NFL can eliminate injuries during meaningless games, create three more meaningful week of games that will give teams more revenue potential, and still keep players refreshed by giving them a second bye-week over the regular season.
Jamie Turner, “NFL Insider: Goodell begins push to shorten preseason and add 1 or 2 games to regular season” NFL Insider. Aug 23, 2008. May 4, 2010.
Adam Markowitz, “Williams’ injury suggests NFL needs shorter preseason.” Realfootball365. Aug 26, 2008. May 4, 2010.
Jennifer McCaffrey, “Shorter NFL Preseason equals less injuries.” Leeinks. Aug 11, 2009. May 4, 2010.