The NFL has been talking about an 18 game schedule for a couple of years now and if you listened to Bill Polian on his weekly radio show yesterday you would have heard him say that the debate is over and it’s a done deal. At least for the owners. The players on the other hand are not 100 percent on board and the owners will need that ratification from the NFLPA if they want to avoid even further labor unrest.
While the owners don’t need the NFLPA to approve the change legally, it will be more difficult getting a new CBA completed by March without their involvement. The current CBA is on it’s final leg and while both sides have spoken no progress has been made. The owners still want the players to take a cut in their share of the pie and the players still refuse. Other issues such as salary caps and rookie wage scales are also on the table. The owners themselves continue to fight amongst themselves over revenue sharing between teams. It all comes down to a lot of fluff, a lot of posturing, and both sides determining that the game itself is just as important.
Perhaps the biggest winner in all of this is the fans and the biggest loser in this is the fans.
The good part of all this as it relates to the fans is that there are two more games to watch and two less pre-season games to watch. Considering that around the league tickets are normally the same price for pre-season as they are for regular season games, hopefully more fans will be able to get tickets to something more meaningful.
The bad news impacts season ticket holders and Sunday Ticket subscribers as both will increase in cost. Season tickets will now have one more home game while Sunday Ticket subscribers will now have two more weekends of full-slate games. With two more weeks being played out, the television contracts will also increase as well. Something that is also being debated between the NFLPA and the owners.
In theory the NFL season will begin two weeks earlier, which for a team like Miami could be very beneficial as late August it horrid. League games used to start in the first week of September so a return to that should be favorable.
An issue that the NFLPA will bring up is the audition process for players. Traditionally players get off-season mini-camps, training camp, and four pre-season games to make a roster. That will change with a shorter pre-season schedule bringing final cuts to 53 that much sooner. It’s very possible that under the next CBA, roster sizes will increase in both active, in-active, and practice squad limits.
To me, the increase in number of weeks played is good from a standpoint of being a fan. I love football so making the season that much longer is fine with me. It will be interesting to see how they structure the extra games and both games will likely be in conference games with teams facing off against others from a different division depending on previous year finishes. Unfortunately, I think that the NFL is dropping the ball here by adding one additional home game to each teams schedules.
The NFL is a brand all it’s own and there is no better way to showcase that brand by branching out. Adding two additional games gives the NFL an opportunity to expand their marketing arm. How much extra money would the NFL bring to them, and additional cities if those games were played in neutral locations?
Why not have a regular season game played in Honolulu? Why not have a Dallas vs. Houston game in Austin or San Antonio? What about Miami and Jacksonville battling it out in Orlando? Expanding the season by 32 games means you could play 32 games in cities that traditionally don’t host an NFL team or maybe even a major sports franchise. The NFL would surely fill the stadiums. For that matter they could rotate some games to be played out of area in NFL cities if needed. Say, Miami hosting the Colts in Charlotte, NC. One extra weekend where teams can play and give themselves and the NFL more marketable exposures. The logistics might be hell but it’s surely capable of being done. It would also solve the issue of sending some teams overseas each year and losing a home game.
There are a lot of possibilities that are all completely doable. But, the NFL will likely add an additional home and an additional away game to the schedules. And while that would be fun simply for having two more weekends of football, it really does nothing for fans outside the area.