An 18-game NFL schedule? Commissioner says fans want ‘more football’

Goodell: ‘Less preseason games and more regular season games’

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell responds to questions during a news conference after the football league's owners spring meetings Wednesday, May 22, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made headlines prior to the draft last month when he said in an interview on “The Pat McAfee Show” that he would consider an 18-game regular season schedule.

Speaking Wednesday at the spring owners meetings in Nashville, Tennessee, Goodell noted that an 18-game schedule isn’t something the league is actively thinking about, but that it could be a long-term goal.

The league went from a 16-game schedule (which had been the norm for 43 years) to a 17-game schedule in 2021.

Goodell on Wednesday noted that he believes fans would be in favor of trading one preseason game for an additional regular season game. That would allow for a two-game preseason and an 18-game regular season.

“We think that’s a good trade: less preseason games and more regular season games,” Goodell said, according to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. “I think most anybody would think that was beneficial.”

Any discussion of adding regular season games would have to include approval from the NFL Players Association. As part of the 2020 collective bargaining agreement, the NFLPA gave owners the option to move to a 17-game schedule, which the owners exercised ahead of the 2021 season.

The league moved to 17 games in 2021 for one obvious reason: money. More games equals more revenue. But the 17-game schedule – which gave teams an extra regular season home game every other season – also allowed the NFL to push more international games, while still giving every team at least eight home games every season.

On Wednesday, Goodell went on to note that 17 games is already a long season. Player safety is a concern with a longer season. Already, 66 different quarterbacks started games in 2023 because of injuries. More games equals more injuries.

“The key thing for us is looking at making sure we continue to do the things that make our game safer,” Goodell said.

The key thing for us is looking at making sure we continue to do the things that make our game safer.”

—  Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner

The league continues to make rule changes that focus on keeping players healthy. There will be a new kickoff alignment in 2024, created with safety in mind.

When the NFL moved to a 17-game schedule in 2021, the league bumped the Super Bowl back one week from the first weekend in February to the second weekend in February.

In April, Goodell floated the possibility of building Super Bowl weekend around Presidents Day in mid-February. A large number of fans would have the day off Monday after the Super Bowl. Such a schedule could also include two bye weeks.

On Wednesday, Goodell pumped the brakes on that idea.

“I wasn’t floating something we were actively thinking about,” Goodell said Wednesday. “It is something that we think about in long-range context. Again, [we’re] moving to quality and making sure that we’re doing everything possible to give the fans what they want.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.