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Does anyone really want 17 games? Here’s a better idea

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Am I missing something?

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News out of the NFL this week is that they are still working on that proposal to get the season extended. We first had 18 games but the NFL Players association wanted none of it. According to The Athletic’s Daniel Kaplan, the NFL is now looking to a 17-game regular season. The NFL is trying to also get more teams into the playoffs.

OK. Why?

Teams are getting bludgeoned by season’s end with 16 games. In 16 games, the teams that should go to the playoffs usually go to the playoffs. Yes there’s that outlier 10-6 team or a 7-9 team that doesn’t get in or gets in respectively, but those seem like exceptions to the norm. Only two 11-5 teams have missed the playoffs since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule and three 10-6 teams have missed it in the past decade (18 total) Yes, I know you’re going to blast me with statistics, more statistics. Does the NFL really need one more game? Better, will one game really fix the above if it happens?

I have a better idea. Here’s my proposal:

First, the NFL season is increased to 18 weeks. Teams will still play 16 games, but there’s 18 weeks in an NFL season. So how does that work? Well the teams get an extra bye. So two bye weeks in an 18-week NFL season. One bye week happens in the first nine weeks, the other in the second half.

You might be wondering why all these byes. Well how many games are on TV Sunday? How many of those games can you not watch due to regional issues? Adding a bye takes a few teams out of the equation and lets the NFL dominate ratings on Sunday for an additional week (just fewer games to choose from). Byes would obviously start sooner than Week 4 in this scenario, but each team would get two weeks off and as you’ve seen from the San Francisco 49ers, that Week 4 bye is a blessing in disguise.

I’m not done. This is logic here, so NFL, follow/read closely: all teams are strategically placed on bye weeks so they can come back from one early for a Thursday Night Football game. This gives teams a week to prepare and it instantly removes the stench that Thursday Night Football gets, especially early in the season. Rather than those four day recoveries that TNF is forcing teams to do now. You could even leave the game “open” and then pick your teams based on their records returning if you have say, the NFC West in one hand and the AFC East on the other for the better, higher ratings game.

To take it one step further, the NFL could remove the second bye from teams if they are in some strange tie-breaking scenario where they need to play a game on the final Sunday to figure out who’s in. That part I don’t really have an answer for as I think the playoffs are fine the way they are. Maybe Week 19 is a game for any tiebreakers. Given the odds that 10-6 teams are kept out of the postseason, I think it’s not an issue. A bigger issue is when wildcard teams are forced to go on the road to an 8-8 team because the 8-8 team is in a crummy division. I don’t have an answer for that either.

If the NFL wants more football, just stretch what it has. Give another week, give your players another bye, and for the love of God, make Thursday Night games, games for returning-from-bye teams. There’s no need to be gluttonous when you can just partition what you have and make it available to a wider audience.

Of course, maybe I’m missing something here. Does anyone really want to see the San Francisco 49ers play 17 or 18 games a season? The 17-game proposal eliminates a couple preseason games, but that doesn’t sound like such a great compromise compared to an additional game. Is that really worth it? Seems fine to me—and I love football. Let me know what you think.