The NFL is planning to expand its regular season to 17 games per team in 2021, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport.
The historic move signifies an effort by the league to generate new revenue and could possibly soften an anticipated drop in the salary cap next year.
If there was an increase in the regular season, the pre-season schedule would be cut down to either two or three games. The 17-game season would still have a bye week included for each team, which would push the Super Bowl to the second week in February as a result of the 18-week schedule.
In order to make the move to a 17-game regular season, the NFL must negotiate at least one new media contract per the league’s collective bargaining agreement. However, the newly negotiated CBA from this past March allows the league and/or clubs to increase the number of games per team, as long as the increase does not surpass 17 games and there is a reduction of pre-season games to no more than three.
According to Pelissero and Rapoport, NFL owners approved the scheduling procedure at their virtual meeting Dec. 16, but did not vote on expanding to 17 games.
The NFL has operated under a 16-game schedule since 1978, when each team’s regular season was increased by two games.