The NFL officially expanded to a 17-game season in 2021, adding a Week 18 to increase the regular season and generate more revenue. With the league always looking for new ways to generate record profits, it seems an 18-game season could be in the cards.
When the league and NFL Players Association agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement before the 2020 season, players allowed owners the authority to implement a 17-game schedule. While a majority of players were against it for health and safety reasons, an expanded regular season led to record-setting TV contracts and that will lead to the 2022 salary cap eclipsing $200 million.
Now, as the first 17-game season rolls on, it seems many around the league are already starting to think about adding even more games in the future.
According to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, ownership circles around the league believe a push for an 18-game season is inevitable. There isn’t a specific timetable for when the push could happen, but it will likely take several years with the players union’s approval required.
Will the NFL go to an 18 game season?
Because the players have a right to block adding another game to each team’s schedule, owners will certainly want to wait before proposing the idea. The future pitch will likely center on the financial benefits of adding a Week 19, but it also comes at a cost.
There is still concern from players and coaches about how a 17-game season will impact players. Injuries are already piling up across the league and it’s only going to get worse as the year rolls on. With teams locked into having just one bye week and Thursday Night Football not going away anytime soon, the health and safety of players is at greater risk.
But with TV ratings skyrocketing once again, there are great opportunities to generate even more revenue. While the NFL signed 10-year contracts with television networks, it has the right to renegotiate those deals after seven seasons.
By 2028, the salary cap could easily surpass $250 million with new forms of revenue coming in. That would lead to higher player salaries and with the profits increasing, owners could offer players a higher share of the split in exchange for an 18-game season.
For now, owners are just happy to have 17 games and more interest in football than ever. But with money always serving as the bottom line, more changes will come. Whether that’s adding another week to the regular season or even expanding the size of the league, change is inevitable.