A 17-game regular season in the NFL has been coming for a while now, and it has finally been made official.
This has been inevitable ever since it was included in the Collective Bargaining Agreement that was ratified last March. It was controversial among players at the time; the CBA passed by a very slim margin, in part due to concerns over the additional regular season game.
There are still plenty of players who aren't fans, including Saints running back Alvin Kamara, who tweeted on Sunday that the 17th game is "dumb as hell."
This is a change designed to create more revenue and put more money into everyone's pockets, particularly the league's owners. While players might not be fans of the extra game, it does mean the NFL will go from four preseason games down to three.
The additional game will follow a similar structure to the way teams' schedules are currently constructed. Teams will play the team that finished in the same place as them from one of the three divisions outside their conference that isn't the non-conference division already included in their regular schedule.
I may have worded that confusingly, so here's how it works for the Vikings. In 2021, they're set to play six games against NFC North opponents, four games against a rotating division from the NFC (it's the NFC West this year) and four games against a rotating division from the AFC (it's the AFC North this year). They finished third in their division last season, so they'll also play the third-place team from the NFC East (Cowboys) and the NFC South (Panthers). That's the normal 16-game schedule.
The 17th game would then come against the third-place team from the AFC West, East, or South. According to multiple reports, the NFC North will get the AFC West for these purposes, so the Vikings will also travel to Los Angeles to play the Chargers in 2021.
The last time the Vikings played the Chargers in LA, the stadium was packed with purple-clad fans in a dominant 39-10 Minnesota victory. However, the Chargers should be a tougher opponent in 2021 with franchise quarterback Justin Herbert going into his second season.
It'll be very interesting to see how the 17-game schedule affects the league as a whole. Records based on volume stats will be broken left and right, which will make it important to compare per-game averages and adjust for eras when comparing players and seasons from before and after the switch. It'll be something that might take a while to get used to, considering the NFL has had a 16-game schedule for over 40 years.
The new regular season records will also take some adjusting to. Gone are the days of 8-8 or 10-6 or 12-4 or any of those figures that we're so accustomed to. Will 10-7 be good enough to get into the playoffs, or will it sometimes take 11 wins to sneak in as the No. 7 seed?
Will injuries go up with an additional game? The Vikings may have to consider managing Dalvin Cook's workload more closely instead of giving him 25 touches a game for 17 weeks.
These are all things that are worth thinking about. In the end, I'd imagine we'll get used to it quicker than we might think.
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