With the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between NFL owners and the NFLPA set to expire following the 2020 season, talks are ramping up ahead of the upcoming offseason. Among the hottest topics are restructured marijuana testing for players league-wide, but the biggest would be the possibility of a 17-game regular season schedule.
The NFL’s already found success with international games in London and Mexico City, and CBS Sports‘ Jason La Canfora reported that the league’s offices are focused on expanding the game even more internationally. Places like Germany and Brazil could host a regular season game, but even in the United States, bringing the game to massive college football towns is being considered.
La Canfora specifically mentions Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana and Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama as places where the NFL is looking to bring games under this proposed format.
NFL’s 17-Game Schedule
MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey — home of the New York Giants and New York Jets — is the NFL’s largest stadium with a capacity of 82,500. The Dallas Cowboys’ 80,000-seat palace known as “Jerry World” can expand to fit 100,000 seats for massive events like the Super Bowl, and it’s considered the crown jewel of modern NFL stadiums.
But bringing an NFL game to the home of the Alabama Crimson Tide, where 101,000-plus fans pack inside? And even Notre Dame Stadium, where 80,000-plus college football fanatics sold out every single game for 46 consecutive years?
These neutral-site games could bring pro football unprecedented levels of popularity, which is incredible considering how big the sport already is.
How Would a 17-Game NFL Schedule Work?
Multiple reports suggest a new NFL schedule will include a reduced preseason and expanded playoff field from 12 to 14 teams. In addition to expanded rosters, salary and pension adjustments for players, and potentially another $1 billion in television revenue, the NFL is considering that 17th game for every team be played at a neutral site.
Safety concerns adding another high-speed football game is the biggest counter to these plans, however. The league is working diligently to even the workload, whether that be fewer offseason workouts or a second bye week, to fine-tune a 17-game schedule before it’s formally proposed to the NFLPA and player representatives.
“We’ve had very fruitful discussions on it, discussing the positives and negatives, the changes to the game that we’ve made over the last 10 years, which I think are really important as it relates to the safety of the game and how we’re preparing and practicing, training our players.”
— NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, via The Washington Post
Imagine 100,000 Steelers and Eagles fans packing into Penn State’s Beaver Stadium? What about the Packers and Vikings playing an NFC North night game in Ann Arbor, Michigan? Send the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams back to the Rose Bowl for Monday Night Football, and there won’t be room to move in there.
College football stadiums are built for massive NFL audiences, but honestly, the thought of ticket prices for these games sends chills down my spine. The National Football League is already easier to watch on television, and while the collegiate experience sounds great, would it really be worth a several hundred bucks for fans to see an NFL team play?