Report: NFL to Play 17-Game, 18-Week Schedule in 2021

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AP Photo/Nell Redmond

Between unprecedented drops in attendance due to the coronavirus and a seven percent drop in the television ratings, the NFL is anticipating a significant reduction in the salary cap.

Therefore, to offset these losses, you’re going to get more football.

As reported by NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, the NFL will scrap their current 16-game format and move to a 17-game schedule in 2021.

According to Pelissero and Rapoport:

An announcement may not come for weeks, if not months, since the NFL must first negotiate at least one new media contract in order to make the move to 17 games in 2021, per the collective bargaining agreement. But as one team source apprised of discussions said: ‘We’re all anticipating it’s going to happen.’

In turn, the preseason would be cut to either two or three games. There still would be one bye week per club, extending the total regular season to 18 weeks and pushing back the Super Bowl into the second week of February.

The NFL has played a 16-game regular season since 1978, when it added two games to each team’s schedule. Under the new CBA finalized this past March, the league and/or clubs have the discretion to increase the number of regular-season games per club to 17 — but not more — at any time, in concert with a reduction in the number of preseason games to no more than three.

While the NFL had pursued a 17-game schedule for some time, the coronavirus and ratings drop forced the league’s hand. The projected revenue shortfall for the league next year is significant. In August, league officials worked out a plan to prevent the salary cap from dipping below $175 million. To put that drop in revenue in perspective, the league is currently working with a $198.2 million cap.

“The cap is still likely to drop significantly in 2021, per sources, but the 17th game as part of a new media deal could boost it above that $175 million floor,” Pelissero and Rapoport reported. “The union’s share of all revenue already was set to bump up from 47 percent to 48 percent in 2021, and the move to 17 games with a new media deal triggers a ‘media kicker’ on top of it that further increases players’ share.”

Pelissero and Rapoport explain that the additional game given the NFL the ability to play an additional neutral-site or international game.

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