It's time to extend the NFL regular season

A 17th regular season game creates potential for exciting changes

Millions of Americans watch football religiously, and it's time to give them even more games to enjoy.

Since 2008, the National Football League has been discussing getting rid of the last of the four preseason games in exchange for an additional, 17th regular season game.

The preseason is often seen as a nuisance and does not have the competitive environment of a regular season game in which players strive to play their best. Each additional game increases the potential for injury, which should be a driving factor toward keeping the preseason as short as possible.

Thus, preseason games drag on for a month with little excitement from fans and players alike.

“The original idea for preseason games was to get players back in shape after the offseason and prepare them for the rigors of the regular season,” sports analytics professor Daniel McIntosh said. “However, now the purpose has changed as athletes have year-round training regimens. The increased risk of injury is simply not worth it for teams in these meaningless games.”

Although preparation before the season begins is necessary, four games are not — especially when players are already spending the entire offseason training and staying healthy.

Another factor that the NFL is considering in making this decision is the desire to spread football on an international level. Adding a 17th game would allow more teams the opportunity to compete all over the globe, as they have in recent years at venues such as Mexico City and London.

“The idea of going international is absolutely worthwhile," McIntosh said. "The potential revenue streams for the U.S. are getting close to a saturation but the global market is essentially untapped in terms of overall potential. The NFL is seeing an influx of foreign competitors such as the Champions League, the Premier League and the various other top flight soccer leagues.”

It’s only natural that the NFL is looking to expand its empire in the same way soccer has been able to do. In 2014, 205 million Americans watched at least part of a professional football game, whereas the Premier League currently draws in 1.2 billion fans — a staggering number the NFL would move toward with a strong international push.

Fans love the idea of an additional competitive football game — and the NFL loves the prospect of more revenues yet it is unclear whether the players would favor an extra game.

“I don’t think the players want this because it would amount to an increased workload without any additional revenue directly tied to them,” McIntosh said. “Yes, perhaps the salary cap increases, but that would not be shared equally by all players.”

Nevertheless, the NFL season has been amended before. In 1960 the league went from 12 games to 14, and in 1978 the league increased from a 14-game regular season to 16 games. This is something that has happened in the past, and while it may take time to adjust to the change, it is certainly not out of reach.

However, while significant modifications such as this one are achievable in the NFL, the same definitely cannot be said for NCAA football.

“I think extending the (NCAA) season would be seen as a pure money grab and would have significantly negative ripple effects,” McIntosh said.

NCAA football has only made two small adjustments to the rules in this millennium — a clear indicator that although the NFL is willing to update its rulebook, college football will always remain the same. Though the NFL seems to be focused on modernization, college football has its roots set deep in tradition.

“I think it’s inertia in action,” McIntosh said. “The seasons have followed the academic calendar since the beginning and tradition has kept it in place.”

Reach the columnist at or follow  @alexandracwolfe on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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