NFL and union officials met today and discussed extending the regular season to 18 games. It's an "idea that is really gaining momentum, particularly with the owners," says Packers team President Mark Murphy.
There are a couple of clear benefits here. The owners will make more money and the fans will get more football than they care to watch. But beyond that there is a cloud of problems with the idea.
The proposed plan would eliminate two preseason games to make up for the extra weeks. A lot of fans don't enjoy preseason games and neither do veteran players. But there are some advantages to the current preseason set up.
There isn't a real minor league for the NFL and these extra preseason games are the only game situations in which you can evaluate young talent. Plus, the younger players who may be depended on during the season learn as much in these "exhibition" games than in all those months of practice.
At the end of the day, performing in a game is the only way to actually know what you're doing. I also think the loss of these games will make it even harder for undrafted players and late round picks to really make a mark. Some of the best players ever to lace up proved their worth in the last two preseason games.
The second problem and probably the first issue on the minds of NFL players is injuries. Your star players usually get a lot of time in one or maybe two preseason games, and by a lot we are talking a half. With their work load increased by 12.5 percent you would also have to figure a 12.5 percent increase in injuries.
Those increases will be most felt in the postseason during which players will be attempting to play in their 19th, 20th, 21st, and possibly 22nd full contact 60-minute game. Tom Brady and Ray Lewis have already spoken out against this, and I imagine more will follow. More teams will find themselves limping into the playoffs without their full complement of players.
To me those are the major issues, but there are also a couple of minor problems too.
For instance, the way an NFL schedule is drawn up is very scientific. I can tell you 11 of the 13 teams any team will play in any season in the future, whether it be three years or 100 years from now. Given the current formula 11 of those teams are already set. The other two teams come from the two divisions in your conference that you are not scheduled to play that year.
By adding two games to everyone's schedule, they allow themselves to be random with at least those extras. Now, this will no doubt lead to three or four good matchups during the season, but it is also going to lead to a dozen or so throwaway games at the end of the year, when some 1-15 roughed-up team will have to endure their wonderful season on camera for two more miserable games.
Adding two games further lessons any ties to the older records of football. How common will 2,000-yard rushing seasons become? We will probably see one every other year or so now, along with 5,000-yard passers as well.
This only further disconnects the sport from the tradition of the game, and I am never a fan of that—unless the benefit of it is better than what these two extra games will bring.