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Potential 17-Game NFL Season Could Include Neutral-Site Games

As discussions over a new labor agreement continue, there is reportedly momentum for a 17-game NFL season that would include neutral-site matchups for every team.

The NFL and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) are expected to launch serious negotiations over the next collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in January, which would involve discussing possible changes in several areas of the league. Among the potential reforms that have been pushed by owners is a series of scheduling changes, including a 17-game regular season and a postseason that would run until the end of February.

In one idea that is being floated, every team’s 17-game schedule would include at least one neutral-site game. While the neutral-site games would be a way for the NFL to continue broadening its efforts internationally–and perhaps grow its presence in London–they would not necessarily all be international. There could also be games staged in non-NFL markets in the United States, with some marquee college football stadiums possibly used for those contests. More from CBS Sports:

The proposal includes Week 1 still beginning after Labor Day, and the Super Bowl concluding the final Sunday of February (which could be bad news for The Oscars). It would allow the NFL to have playoff games on air throughout the month of February — critical sweeps weeks for its broadcast partners — and would include two byes for each team.

The additional game for each club would be played out-of-market, the sources said, with a heavy emphasis on key international locales like the United Kingdom (London and Ireland, in particular), Germany, Mexico and Brazil. It also opens the possibility of a full eight-game regular season schedule of games in London – something commissioner Roger Goodell is very supportive of — with fans there able to buy a “season ticket,” which would include at least two Jaguars games.

The NFL has also talked internally about playing games in other cities in the U.S. which do not have pro teams, with some buzz about playing a game at Notre Dame or Alabama, as well as Hawaii and cities in Canada. It is viewed as a unique and profound way to grow the game globally and extend the reach of sales, merchandising and broadcast rights around the globe, with there only so much more room for growth within America.

The additional international games would also allow the NFL to create a new broadcast package that would be aimed toward streaming/digital without disrupting or taking away from the current packages of Monday night, Thursday night and the AFC/NFC package. Many owners believe the additional package could bring in $1 billion or more per season. (Those streaming games would also be available to in-market fans of the participating teams on over-the-air broadcasts.) Furthermore, the league proposal would support an additional wild-card playoff game in each conference, but not an additional round or weekend, which also could be spun off as an additional broadcast package.

Whether this concept is included in the CBA remains to be seen, as the NFL and NFLPA still have plenty of work to do before finalizing the next agreement. If it does move forward, however, the NFL would effectively leverage the 17-game season into a stronger presence in markets outside the league, both domestically and internationally.

Photo of Tottenham Stadium courtesy Populous.


August Publications