The NFL owners have officially approved the proposal to move to a 17-game schedule, according to several reports.
Last year, the NFL and NFLPA signed a new collective bargaining agreement that allowed the league to move to a 17-game schedule as soon as 2021. Unsurprisingly, owners jumped on the opportunity right away, and now teams will officially have 17 regular season games going forward.
The details of the schedule are still being hammered out, but here’s what we already know about the schedule change.
The extra game will be between conferences
For the 2021 season, here’s how the extra game will work.
- NFC North will play the AFC West
- NFC East will play the AFC East
- NFC South will play the AFC South
- NFC West will play the AFC North
The team matchup will be based on 2020 standings. So the first-place NFC North team will play the first-place AFC West team. For the Detroit Lions, who finished last in the NFC North, they will play the last-place Denver Broncos.
Here’s a good look at the conference rotation beyond 2021:
Here's how the 2021-24 rotation for the 17th game will work. pic.twitter.com/mgTo7nKV4I— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 30, 2021
Conferences will alternate having the extra home game
In 2021, the AFC will be the host of this extra inter-conference game, giving them a total of nine home games. The NFC will still have just eight home games and nine road games. This will alternate every year, with the NFC getting nine home games next year to the AFC’s eight.
The preseason will be reduced by one game
There will now only be three preseason games to accommodate the extra regular season game. But here’s an interesting note from Albert Breer: the NFL regular season is not expected to move up a week to fill that fourth preseason spot. Instead, the NFL will leave that week vacated, giving teams an extra week to prepare for the first regular season.