Why the NFL Should Not Expand the Regular Season

There has been a lot of talk coming from Commissioner Roger Goodell about increasing the number of regular season games from 16 to 17 or 18. Most of the scenarios I have seen are that the league would reduce the number of preseason games from four to two, and add two games to the regular season to make it an 18 game regular season. Unfortunately it’s not a matter of if it will happen, it’s just a matter of when.

I am STRONGLY and EMPHATICALLY opposed to increasing the number of regular season games to 17 or 18 games. I think it’s fine if the league cuts the preseason to two or three games, but increasing the number of regular season games is only about one thing – MONEY. It’s not about the fans and it’s definitely not about the players. I am strongly opposed to increasing the number of regular season games for two key reasons.

First, and most important, is injuries. Football is a very violent sport and injuries are common. If there were two more regular season games we would inevitably see more star players, who we watch the game to see, hurt during the season. In the first week of the 2008 regular season we saw many star players get hurt, the most obvious being Tom Brady. In just week one of 2008 we saw injuries to Tom Brady, Brodie Croyle, Vince Young, Jeff Garcia, Nate Burleson, Marques Colston, Marion Barber, Joseph Addai, Todd Heap, Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates, and even LaDainian Tomlinson. Now not all these injuries were season ending, but they certainly had an effect on players’ games the rest of the year.

More games means more injuries. The season, I think, is already too long and it is more a game of attrition and who is left with more healthy bodies at the end than it is the best team wins. More games would just exacerbate the situation.

Add to that, according to the National Football League Players Association, the average career of a football player is 3 ½ years. Now I have seen averages slightly higher than that so let’s say it’s 4 ½ years. And let’s face it, a lot of this short career span has to do with injury. If you add two games to the regular season, a player will have played an entire extra half season after four years, assuming he didn’t make the playoffs. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the violent game of football, the career suddenly just got a wee bit shorter. The more games you add, the shorter the stay in the league, and the greater the chances of a career ending injury.

Secondly, anything that cheapens in the importance of individual regular season games is a mistake. Each game now is very important in making the playoffs and getting home field advantage, at least until toward the end of the season once you have it wrapped up. If each individual game becomes less important, will the players try as hard week in and week out? Will fans even care?

Counter to that is the end of the season. We already have at least one week, and for some teams two weeks, were they have things all wrapped up and they play their second string guys and give the game a pass. If there were more games, then we would likely see two and maybe even three or four weeks where teams have their division and seeding decided and have to figure out how to manage the rest of the season while resting their star players and avoiding injuries. And this gets really messy when you have one bubble team playing a team of second stringers, and another bubble team playing a losing team giving their all, or another bubble team. So while one team gets a pass and a better chance of making the playoffs, the other team still has to fight for their spot. It’s not really fair. And more games likely means more of this at the end of the season.

And then we have the problem of bad teams making the playoffs. You can already guess that if they expand the regular season I can almost assure you they will expand the number of teams in the playoffs. We already have had 8-8 teams in the playoffs and on rare occasions have had the possibly of a losing team making the playoffs. I don’t want 8-8 teams in the playoffs, even if it’s my own. But if the league expands the regular season and then adds teams to the playoffs, that is what we will get, watered down less important regular season games, and mediocre teams, or worse, making the playoffs. Even for a fan as avid as I am, I’d be less enthusiastic about regular season games if this were to occur.

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2 thoughts on “Why the NFL Should Not Expand the Regular Season

  1. Very well thought out arguments. I’ve long been an advocate for a longer regular season, but you’re really starting to make me rethink my position. It is true that bad teams already make the playoffs, and one of the best things about the NFL is that every game matters. I still would really like to see the preseason reduced to two games in any case, whether the regular season is extended or not, and if the regular season is lengthened I definitely think it should be at the expense of preseason, not in addition. At the very least, season ticket holders should not be required to pay full price for preseason games. Ultimately, this is a money grab by the NFL no question about it. I will be curious to see what the player’s union ends up having to say about more regular season too.

    • Thanks for the comment. I will be curious to see how the union responds to the longer regular season as well. The thing I worry about most is that the team winning the Super Bowl in a longer season like that won’t be the best team, just the most healthy one.

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