Is More Football Good?

The NFL is adding a 17th game. What does this really mean?

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It’s the best feeling in the world. You wake up on Sunday morning, eat breakfast, and proceed to spend the rest of the day watching football. The quintessential football Sunday is a day of raw emotion, epic plays, and good times with friends. So when I heard that the NFL was going to add a 17th game to the regular season, I was ecstatic. It seemed like a win all around. Players will get paid more, owners get to sell more tickets, and most importantly, we get more football Sundays. However, that was at first glance. When you look deeper, in fact, not only is playing more football not good, but it is also actually quite bad for everybody, including the fans.


As mentioned, more football seems great for the fans, and on the surface, it is. It’s one more week of the sport we love watching, so how could it be bad? Well, adding a 17th game will actually not improve the watching experience. Fantasy football enthusiasts are well aware of the annoyance of teams benching players after they clinch the playoffs. Get ready for this problem to be worse. With an extra game, the top teams will have an extra game to pull away from the others. This addition means that not only will more teams rest players, but some teams may also rest them for two weeks rather than one. The next casualty is interesting games. With more playoff spots being decided before the season ends, we will have more useless games. Last season, for instance, if there was an extra week, 16 teams would have already been eliminated from the playoffs. However, in the actual last week of the season, 14 teams were eliminated. This change is slight, but it will cheapen football Sunday.


The party this change is most obviously detrimental to is the players. They suffer from the biggest con of the whole situation. Football is a high contact sport, and by the end of a season, players are badly beat up and need months to recover. Adding an extra game will exacerbate this condition, likely causing more injuries and subsequently contributing to more lifelong disabilities. The other main drawback for players is the shortening of the preseason. As fans, the preseason may be annoying. It’s a teasing month of watching a team’s third string quarterback throw wobbly passes over slow linebackers to a receiver who may very well drop the ball. The regular season is obviously way more appealing than the preseason. However, the preseason was never intended to be for the fans’ benefit. It has been to give that slow linebacker or unheralded receiver a chance to be great. It gave undrafted rookies like Warren Moon, Night Train Lane, and Antonio Gates a chance to earn roster spots. Without the preseason, these greats probably would have never played pro football. These players are icons of the game, and keeping the preseason preserves that opportunity.

The Game of Football:

The NFL has always had a strong competitive balance. Symmetrical schedules, hard salary caps, and clear-cut tampering rules have created a parity between teams unparalleled by other sports. However, almost every major sports league has one thing in common: an even number of games in the schedule. This number means that teams can play the same number of games at home and not. With 17 games, the NFL has to give half the teams an extra home game, putting them at an inherent advantage. Additionally, the NFL has the hard task of assigning every team an additional opponent. Their solution to this challenge is to give every team an opponent in the opposite conference, matched based on the standings from the previous year and excluding teams that are already on a team’s schedule. This method creates another inherent disadvantage, this time for the better teams in the league. It also is a bad solution because it will add many more games between awful teams to the schedule. As a New Yorker, seeing the Jets being given a game against the Eagles and the Giants a game against the Dolphins just means two more boring games preventing me from watching playoff football.


You may recall that I said that more games seemed better for everybody. This claim is false. It is good for one group and one group only, and that group consists of only 32 people––the most powerful 32 people in the league. This group is the owners. From this deal, they get the only thing they want: more money. This deal comes down to the fact that more games mean more TV deals and more tickets sold. They don’t care about the safety of the players, they don’t care about the integrity of the game of football, and they don’t care about your fantasy team. The owners have not really had to justify this change. They are leaving that explanation to Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell has justified the increase in schedule length in several ways. The first was by saying, “Well, I have to start by saying it’s not more games […] We’re still within the 20-game format. That was something that was important to the NFLPA. And that was part of our structure of the CBA.” However, the notion that preseason games and regular season games are equal is questionable. They exist for entirely different reasons, they are played by different people, and the people care much less about one rather than the other. Goodell’s other reason is that fewer preseason games will actually decrease injuries. However, this argument does not take into account that far more players participate in a given preseason game than in the regular season, and regardless of when the first game is, there will be more injuries since players’ bodies are not ready for the stress of a season. A good example of this effect was in 2020, when COVID-19 canceled the preseason. At the beginning of the season, an unprecedented number of players got injured, including many season-ending injuries.

Football is a sport of balance. A team can’t win without a good defense, and it can’t win without a good offense. A quarterback can throw the perfect pass, but the receiver needs to catch it. We can’t watch football without players, and we can’t watch football without someone organizing it. The relationship between the owners and the players cannot become one of tug-of-war. If the owners keep prioritizing money, the players and the game will suffer, and as a fan, that consequence is unacceptable. So before you say that more football is good, take a step back, because is it?