We've known it's been coming, but now it's finally going to happen. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the NFL is expected to officially expand the regular season from 16 to 17 games in the next week.
It seems like this was decided a lifetime ago, but it was only last year. The 17-game season was part of the new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, which was ratified in March 2020.
The CBA, including the 17-game season, was controversial among players. Russell Wilson came out against it, and Ryan Fitzpatrick was the most prominent player who came out in favor. In the end, 1,978 players voted, and the new CBA passed by just 60 votes.
Adding a game to the NFL season a isn't new concept, but as Schefter pointed out, it's been 43 years since they last did it. The NFL started with 12 games in 1947, moved to 14 games in 1961, and then 16 in 1978. Now we're up to 17 games played in 18 weeks.
What will determine the game 17 matchups?
Apparently the NFL didn't want to just pick teams from a hat when determining the matchups for the 17th regular season game. Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson reported in December that the NFL had decided on a structure, "which will be an opponent from the opposing conference, but coming from outside of the historically rotating interdivisional matchups that already exist." The 2020 standings will also play a role in the formula.
Confused? Hard to blame you. Here's how Robinson explained it in December.
For example, if it’s a season when the NFC North is slated to play the AFC South for out-of-conference opponents, the 17th game for NFC North teams will consist of the AFC South and one more AFC team from outside the South division. The additional opponent will be determined by the previous season’s divisional standings and will also rotate to a different division each season.
ESPN's Field Yates tweeted the projected matchups for the 17th game, which have not yet been announced or confirmed by the NFL.
Not all of those games are exciting, but the Green Bay Packers facing the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead could be the game of the year, not to mention a possible Super Bowl preview.
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