The addition of the 17th regular season game, which became official Tuesday, provided some good news for the Miami Dolphins on a couple of levels.
The first was the NFL's decision to match the AFC East with the NFC East for the one extra game because of just how bad the NFC East was in 2020.
Sure, it's impossible to expect the whole division to be so poor again next season, but it's also impossible to envision a more favorable outcome there for the AFC East teams.
That the Dolphins got an extra home game was beneficial both from a competitive standpoint as well as a financial standpoint. Anybody who knows the dynamics of attendance at Hard Rock Stadium for Dolphins home games understands that the Giants will draw a good crowd, probably better than just about any other NFC opponent the Dolphins could have been given.
Of course, the Dolphins aren't going to get an extra home game every year because that's going to rotate between the AFC and NFC every year, meaning that for the time being the Dolphins will have nine home games in odd-numbered years and nine road games in even-numbered years.
In 2022, the Dolphins' "extra" game will be on the road against the NFC West team that finishes in the same position in its division. The Dolphins will get an NFC South opponent in 2023 and an NFC North opponent in 2024.
Another significant tweak to the schedule in 2021 involves flex games, which came about as a result of the new television deals announced a week ago.
For one, late-season switches of Monday night games now will become an option, which clearly is a win for fans because it will eliminate meaningless prime-time matchups.
Another will be the introduction of a Week 18 Saturday doubleheader. The Dolphins got close to that last year when they were part of five Week 16 matchups initially scheduled as TBD with the NFL taking as many as three to put on Saturday.
The Dolphins' home schedule in 2021 also features games against Buffalo, New England, the New York Jets, Atlanta, Carolina, Baltimore, Houston and Indianapolis.
In addition to the three AFC East opponents, the Dolphins will play road games against Jacksonville, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Tampa Bay and Tennessee.
The addition of a 17th regular season game will mean a reduction in the preseason from four to three games for every team except those playing in the annual Hall of Fame Game, which in 2021 will feature the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys.
The scheduling formula moving forward will remain the same as it's been:
-- The four teams from another division within its conference on a rotating three-year cycle (four games).
-- The four teams from a division in the other conference on a rotating four-year cycle (four games).
-- Two intraconference games based on the prior year’s standings (two games). These games match a first-place team against the first-place teams in the two same-conference divisions the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place and fourth-place teams in a conference are matched in the same way each year.
-- One interconference game based on the prior year’s standings on a rotating four-year cycle (one game). These games match a first-place team from one division against a first-place team in an opposite conference division that the team is not scheduled to play that season. The second-place, third-place and fourth-place teams in each division are matched in the same way each year. The home conference for this game will rotate each season.
Also of note in the NFL announcement Tuesday, all 32 clubs will play internationally at least once every eight years. The scheduling of up to four neutral-site games per year in a country outside the United States will focus initially on Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America and the United Kingdom. In addition, interested clubs can continue to volunteer to play home games internationally.
The officially move to 17 games was considered a foregone conclusion once owners were given the ability to do it in the 2020 Collective Bargaining Agreement between owners and the NFL Players Association.
It will be the first time since 1978, when the regular season schedule increased from 14 to 16 games, that there's been a change in the schedule.