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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Roger Goodell Touts an 18-Game NFL Season. Getting There Won’t Be Easy

  • The commissioner said he isn’t a fan of the preseason.
  • An expanded regular season would impact the sports calendar at large.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

As hundreds of thousands of NFL fans were descending upon Detroit for the draft last weekend, and millions more were tuning in from their televisions, Roger Goodell casually dropped a huge piece of information Friday afternoon: his most vocal support yet for an 18-game regular season.

The comments, made during the commissioner’s debut appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, created plenty of headlines and had some fans and observers online assuming the expanded schedule was a done deal. “I’m not a fan of the preseason,” Goodell said while touting the benefits of an extra meaningful game each year in exchange for one less exhibition matchup.

The idea of expanding the regular season to 18 games is nothing new. Some owners wanted to make the switch back in 2010, as the league and players negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement that eventually came in ’11, after a four-month spring and summer lockout. They ended up waiting another decade before expanding to 17 games, which came in ’21.

Here’s What We Know

Goodell didn’t offer a timeline for expanding to 18 games, or get into specifics of how that would happen, but the scenario is a complicated one.

  • Timing: The NFL’s current CBA runs through March 2030. Any expansion of the season before then would mean a renegotiation—something the league doesn’t often do. Getting to 18 games for the ’30 season, under a new CBA, would be much more likely.
  • Media: An extra week during the regular season means 16 additional games for broadcasters to pay up for. The NFL’s current $110 billion TV deals run through 2033, but the league can opt out of most of them after the ’29 season, and out of Disney’s after ’30. That’s closely aligned with the next CBA.
  • Calendar: Goodell also floated the possibility of the Super Bowl, which currently takes place on the second Sunday of February, annually falling on the weekend of Presidents’ Day, which is commemorated on the third Monday in February. Under the current schedule, the stars will actually align in 2027, when Super Bowl LXI at SoFi Stadium will be played Sunday, Feb. 14, which is the day before Presidents’ Day. But that mash-up happens only about once a decade. Under a pushed-back NFL schedule, the Super Bowl and Presidents’ Day weekend would align almost every year.
  • An extra bye week? Some pundits have suggested an 18-game schedule should include a second bye week for each team. That wouldn’t work with Goodell’s Presidents’ Day weekend idea unless the NFL kicked off Week 1 on Labor Day weekend instead of the following week.
  • Impact on other leagues: Right now, Presidents’ Day weekend is also when NBA All-Star festivities annually take place, as well as the Daytona 500. It would be hard to imagine those events not moving if the NFL swooped in on those dates.

It’s a Football World

If owners can convince players to agree to an 18-game schedule, don’t think the NFL will feel bad about encroaching on more of the sports calendar. “Holidays are what we do,” Goodell said on McAfee’s show when asked about the league’s Christmas strategy. “I don’t ask permission for that,” he added. “We go where the fans are.”

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