The NFL is about to host its biggest season ever, expanding to a 17-game schedule this year. But don't count out yet another expansion in the coming years. According to NBC Sports, the league is likely aiming for a future move to 18 games -- perhaps as soon as 2025 -- if not earlier. The NFL's current collective bargaining agreement, which runs through 2030, outlines only a move from 16 to 17 regular-season games, but Peter King reports "most observers ... think 18 games is on the way," with ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio saying it's "just a matter of time" until an additional week is up for a vote.
Addressing commissioner Roger Goodell's future atop the NFL, King projects Goodell to remain in place beyond his current contract, which goes through 2023, "maybe grooming a successor in the last couple of years." One of the top priorities for Goodell's future successor, he adds, will be handling such a move to 18 games:
The bell will continue to toll on health and safety, and the NFL's ramrodding of the 17-game schedule this year leads most observers to think 18 games is on the way. How can a league that professes to care about the long-term health of its players subject them to 17 games (in 2021) and maybe 18 (by 2025 or '26) without imaginatively pursuing ways to assure players they're not going to be guinea pigs for the NFL's almighty dollar? The owners have dollar signs dancing in their heads over more inventory; the players should have a roadblock dancing in theirs. That may be the first major issue for the NFL's fourth commissioner since the Kennedy Administration.
Florio, meanwhile, insists an 18-game schedule is already in the works, putting the "over-under" for another expansion at 2030, the final year of the current collective bargaining agreement. This year, the 2021 season, will mark the first in NFL history that more than 16 games have been played in the regular season.