NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the 32 owners have proposed an idea that has been heard before, but only recently has gained enough steam to actually be implemented, the extension of the regular season number of games from 16 to 18. This new format, the enhanced regular season, as it has come to be known, would result in the cutting of two of the current preseason games from each team’s schedule, in order to make room for the two additional regular season games. Here are some thoughts about how the decision might affect the game.
The theory goes something like this. 18 games would be one way for the NFL to recoup some of the revenue that is sure to be diminished due to the nagging and deep recession that affects the United States, as well as the rest of the world.
For the most part, players have been in opposition, because many believe that an increase in the number of regular season games, and the reps that come with them on the field, might result in even more injuries to players, over what they’ve said is already a grueling season. Plus, players want to see an increase in their salaries that are commiserate with the increase in revenues that owners stand to gain from the two additional games.
Also, in the event that the schedule is lengthened, players and coaches also would like to see the 53 man limit on the regular season roster raised, to allow for more bodies, and reduce the likelihood that injuries might decimate a roster. A greater number of players on the regular season roster would certainly be one way to limit the number of reps by each player, and ensure that the roster makes it intact, or closer to intact anyhow, in the playoffs, which is a serious concern. Certainly, some players could find themselves in a wild card scenario, which could add as many as 4 more games in the playoffs,: a wild card game, the divisional, the conference, and the Super Bowl bringing the season total number of games to 24(2 preseason, 18 regular season, and 4 playoff games). That is a ton of football. Presumably, a dominating team would pull their starters in the last couple of games during the season, in order to assure fresh legs in the playoffs, but under this scenario a wild card team fighting for a playoff spot couldn’t afford to rest their best players, and that could prove problematic.
There have also been discussions over how this might affect the offseason events, such as the June minicamps, and the start time of training camps. The theory goes that offseason events would be scaled back to prevent over training, and would begin in May instead of March, but it begs the question when the fringe players would have an opportunity to show why they deserve a roster spot in a game-like situation.
There are fans considerate as well. Eighteen games would likely affect which teams make the playoffs. Under the old system, each game represented 6.25% of a team’s schedule. Under the new system, each game would be worth 5.5% of their schedule. It is also possible that this change might result in more snoozer games that seem somewhat meaningless, or it could result in more interesting matchups with powerhouses from the other conference that would not have been possible under the old system. In this regard, I could see fans enjoying an opportunity to see how their team stands up to a winning team from the other conference, before any potential meeting in the Super Bowl.
Such a case could also tarnish some of the luster of the Super Bowl. In 2005, the Seattle Seahawks of the NFC, did not play the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers during the regular season. Can you imagine how much it might have tarnished the expectation of the Super Bowl, if the teams had already met during the regular season? Or would that perhaps add even further intrigue for some fans? Such as when the New York stunned the NFL fan by beating the New England Patriots (who had won every single game during their regular season and throughout the playoffs) in the Super Bowl, after losing to them in the last game of the regular season.
Another consideration, is the affect it would have on the standings, and a team’s definition of a successful season. A winning record would require 10 wins, rather than 9, and the added games would likely result in more of the career statistical records being broken, particularly for careers that would begin under this new system during the proposed 2012 season and beyond. Fans have complained over statistical records that were broken in other sports when the number of regular season games were expanded. Such was the case with baseball, (resulting in the controversial asterisk that appeared next to Roger Maris’ accomplishment, when he broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record with 61 during the 1961 season. The NFL already has some fans who dispute the current record holders. Some still say that Jim Brown was the best running back ever , and that Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton wouldn’t have come close to his record if he were allowed to play the current 16 game schedule over his career, (which was instituted in 1978), instead of 12 games per season for his first 4 seasons, and 14 games per season during his last 5 seasons. To some there will be a shrug, but I am certain that once the first career record comes down, we’ll hear the roar of the football purists out there. While it is difficult to estimate how many more touchdowns this may have resulted for Mr. Brown, I was able to calculate that under a 16 game season he would have ended up with 15,032 rushing yards, with a career average of 104.38 yards per game rushing. So, it would not be enough to displace Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, nor Barry Sanders, but it certainly would have moved him up from his current position to 4th all time. It is also hard to say that maybe he might have had more than that. I calculated the numbers using his average, but his additional games might have been against even weaker opponents and resulted in even more gargantuan numbers.
So what do you think? Should the NFL expand to 18 games? Would you be as invested in each game, or less so? Should the additional games be played against 2 more teams from the other conference? Or would you prefer to see 2 more played against teams from the same conference? Would it matter to you if long held career and season NFL records were broken because current players were allowed more games per season to accrue the stats?