Since the NFL realigned in 2002, there has been an incredibly easy process in terms of determining the games that each team is going to play every year. In fact, under this structure, 14 of each team’s 16 games are known between now and the end of time, theoretically. The only potential disruption to understanding how a season is ultimately going to shake out would be if the league somehow adjusted the number of games that they would be playing.
This became a potential reality over the offseason as it started to seem like a 17th game was on the horizon for each and every NFL team. What’s more is that it seemed as if 2021 could be the year that things first began down this road, but it appears is if there might be a delay on that and that Jerry Jones might be part of the reason why.
Jerry Jones is among the owners that delayed an NFL-wide decision regarding a 17th game
The NFL has a lot of decisions to make over the coming months as they continue to operate amid a global pandemic. This season has obviously been unlike any one that we have ever seen before and that will carry all the way through to the Super Bowl. It stands to reason that the NFL Draft process might be done entirely under the types of protocols that we have seen this year, but there is a lot of time between now and then.
It appears as if the league is trying to make decisions on some things in the here and now, though, and a 17th game is apparently at the top of the list. According to ESPN, during a Wednesday call, the idea of shortening the preseason was brought up by Commissioner Roger Goodell. It has been thought by some that in order to accommodate a 17th game that the preseason would need to be shortened. The worldwide leader reported that Jerry Jones was among those that “dismissed” the idea.
During the meeting, the issue of the preseason was raised, with the discussion centering on whether there should be a reduction in games. Sources told ESPN’s Seth Wickersham that Goodell seemed in favor of shortening the preseason from four games to two but that a group of powerful owners — New England’s Robert Kraft, Dallas’ Jerry Jones, the New York Giants’ John Mara and Pittsburgh’s Art Rooney II — dismissed the idea. Owners argued that a reduction to three preseason games might work but not two. No vote was taken, and the schedule remained unchanged.
Preseason games can get monotonous for everybody that doesn’t have a stake in them, but that obviously doesn’t include NFL owners. Trimming the exhibition period in half would be cutting the profit that they make from those games in half, a time that includes a home game for every club.
The idea of four preseason weeks along with 17 regular season games seems like a lot for NFL players to deal with, but perhaps the owners want to have their cake and eat it, too. As mentioned, the new CBA gives them the right to institute a 17th game, but it seems like that might not exactly happen in 2021. At the very least the formula for that extra game in terms of where it will come from and who it will be against has been outlined:
A scheduling formula for a 17th game was approved unanimously: an interconference matchup, based on divisional standings from the preceding season and on a rotating divisional basis. The idea is to facilitate competitive fairness, create additional value through quality matchups and preserve the objectivity of the scheduling process, the NFL said.
Speaking hypothetically off of where we are at this moment in time with the season, the Cowboys are scheduled to play against the AFC West in 2021. This 17th game would seemingly be against one of the teams that finishes in the same place as them from the other three AFC divisions on a rotational basis. As the Cowboys are in last place in their division at the moment these options are the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Time will tell as to what ultimately comes of all these things, but the NFL never sleeps.