The NFL has faced many challenges during the 2020 season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but they have consistently found new ways to work around unprecedented obstacles. The league still has a few weeks to get through in this regular season, but they have already started looking ahead to 2021 -- which will bring with it its own set of challenges. This past offseason, NFL players voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement. While there are several rules, regulations and changes that are set to go into effect, one of the biggest potential changes has to do with the schedule.
Starting in 2021, the NFL has the option to expand the regular season from 16 to 17 games, which the league has wanted to do for quite some time now. On Wednesday, NFL owners started to lay the groundwork for an extra regular-season game, and virtually met to discuss and establish what it would look like. According to NFL.com, the league's owners did not vote to add a 17th game during this meeting, but did agree to procedures. Naturally, how future television and media deals shake out will be an important factor in the potential change, but the league appears to be readying itself to make the addition.
"We did not take any votes with respect to committing to do it," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said following the meeting, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. "The league did approve the scheduling formula if it happens, though.
"It obviously comes into play with respect to future media arrangements."
According to NFL.com, scheduling procedures will be an "interconference matchup based on divisional standings" from the previous campaign, and "on a rotating divisional basis" that would look similar to how the schedule is created now -- like how one division plays an entire division from the opposing conference. Having a 17th game could give the NFL the ability to attempt to schedule one formidable opponent against another contender from the opposing conference in a clash that could hold major postseason ramifications.
The fact that these meetings are happening now instead of during the upcoming offseason could make one believe that the league is indeed looking to make this change as soon as the 2021 season. Nothing is official yet, but it does appear a schedule with 17 regular-season games is not too far away.