We’ve heard rumbling of the news for months, but the NFL has officially announced that team’s will play a 17-game schedule starting in 2021. This comes after a postseason change which has the playoff format expanded to include an extra team per conference. Additionally, it was revealed that there will be no extra bye week during the 18 weekends of regular season play, so every team will remain with one week off from playing.
With each team now playing an extra game, the NFL had to configure a way to decide considering future opponents are typically know for years out. The 2021 matchups are based on standings from the 2020 season. The Atlanta Falcons will travel on the road and face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 17 as both teams finished last in their respective divisions last season. These two have faced off in preseason a lot in recent years, and Atlanta will likely get to draw new #1 pick Trevor Lawrence.
Another rule change is each team will only have three preseason games, down from the normal four games.
Beginning in 2021, the NFL is expanding to a 17-game regular season. pic.twitter.com/skNisJwPS2— NFL (@NFL) March 30, 2021
Overall, it’s an extra weekend of football that we all get to enjoy. You do have to wonder what the impact will be on injuries, as the NFL has continuously played a 16-game regular season since 1978. Having to play an extra game while receiving the same number of weekends off during the season may allow for teams to rest players more than usual.
One other thing to consider, if you care about the historical analysis of statistics is that now when you compare a player’s season from 1978-2020 to 2021 and beyond, you’ll have to remember that there’s an extra game being played. Do those records just freeze in time and we start over? I don’t have the answer to that, but we can definitely expect season records to be broken soon and career records to fall more easily by the wayside with an additional game added to team schedules.