Mark Maske of the Washington Post reported in February that the league considered making the change, as well as reducing the number of preseason games from four to three, as soon as the 2021 season (h/t Jeff Kerr of CBS Sports).
While the makeup of the regular season hasn't changed since 1978—when the league moved from 14 games to the current 16-game format and dropped from six preseason contests to four—the NFL schedule did look different in 2020, with an expanded postseason field of 14 teams compared to 12.
Peter King of NBC ran through some of the major expectations for a 17-game season on Feb. 28:
- There will be no extra bye week—there will be 17 games across 18 weekends.
- The Super Bowl—scheduled for Feb. 6—will likely be pushed back one week to Feb. 13.
- The two conferences are expected to alternate hosting the extra week of the season every year—the AFC will have the honors of hosting the 17th game in 2021, though Maske reported Friday that may change in 2022, when the league wants to use some of those games as neutral-site contests for international play.
King also reported that Game 17 will be played between cross-conference opponents based on the 2020 standings. Per John Breech of CBS Sports, that sets up the following matchups:
- Packers at Chiefs
- Bears at Raiders
- Vikings at Chargers
- Lions at Broncos
- Seahawks at Steelers
- Rams at Ravens
- Cardinals at Browns
- 49ers at Bengals
- Saints at Titans
- Buccaneers at Colts
- Panthers at Texans
- Falcons at Jaguars
- Washington at Bills
- Giants at Dolphins
- Cowboys at Patriots
- Eagles at Jets
Per Maske, NFL owners are expected to vote on the new schedule Tuesday and Wednesday.