The NFL owners meeting in Atlanta could conclude with an 18-game schedule beginning in the 2012 season (pending approval from the NFLPA). For fans, a once far fetched idea has become a very real possibility. For owners it means more revenue as well as more expenses – including expanded rosters . Finally, the players are faced with earlier training camps under more extreme conditions, greater risk for injuries, but there will be increased revenue sharing with the owners.
Who are the winners and losers here?
As a fan I would love to see the season expanded but an 18-game regular season isn’t the way to go. I agree that four preseason is overkill, so why not go with a two game preseason and expand the playoffs.
Why you ask?
In 2008 the New England Patriots went 11-5 and MISSED THE PLAYOFFS. There’s no way that should happen in today’s NFL. If the regular season is expanded by two games with no change in the playoff format, you increase the chances of an 8-10 division winner and a 10-win division runner-up missing out.
The expanded season will lead to increased rosters which will almost certainly increase the salary cap and may also call for additional rounds in the draft. I think it’s about time that a stateside NFL Development League is considered.
One issue that cannot be overlooked is the historical significance of an 18-game season and what it does to the record books. Single-season records like Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 rushing yards and Dan Marino’s 5,084 passing yards will fall by the wayside. Dickerson did have two additional games to break O.J. Simpson’s record of 2,003 (the NFL expanded to 16 games in 1978.) .
The average life span of an NFL player is 3 1/2 seasons while that of a running back is 2.7 seasons (and declining), with the increase of concussions an expanded season will prove disastrous. The NFL will certainly have to improve on its healthcare situation for former players - the NFL for all of its revenue and popularity has THE WORST health benefits for its players. A retired player only has health benefits for the first five years of retirement after that he’s on his own. We already know the well chronicled stories of Johnny Unitas and Mike Webster and how they suffered after their playing days. It’s a story that I’m sure can be told a thousand times over.
One question that I have is will existing contracts be pro-rated for two additional games? I don’t believe the NFLPA will agree to an expanded season, I think the Union is wisely considering health over money. And that’s not a bad thing.
While we will have more games, I think that an 18-game schedule will ruin the parody that exists in a league at the height of its popularity.