One of the bigger things to emerge from the NFL’s new collective bargaining agreement a year ago was the potential institution of a 17th game in the regular season. The National Football League has seen its teams play 16 games in a regular season since 1978. Since the league experienced realignment in 2002 when the Houston Texans joined the fold, things have been extremely neat as far as determining each team’s opponents every year.
If you didn’t know, each team plays two divisions in a given season (on top of their own divisional games), one from each conference. These rotate every year. The other two games that teams play are determined from the divisions in their own conference that they are not playing, each team plays the team that they finished in the same place as in their own division the year prior.
Players have opposed a 17th game for some time as an NFL season is already a battle of attrition. Determining the game itself was a kink in the plan, but the NFL has now made the 17-game season official, and the Dallas Cowboy will visit the New England Patriots in 2021.
The 17th game comes for each team by way of their extra conference games in normal times. Each division will square off against one from the opposite conference and the same place finishers will play each other.
This coming season the NFC East and AFC East will meet which is why the Cowboys and Patriots will square off. Washington will visit the Buffalo Bills, New York the Miami Dolphins, and Philadelphia the New York Jets. All AFC teams will host the extra game in 2021, the NFC teams in 2022, so on and so forth.
As far as future years are concerned the rotation of divisions for the Cowboys goes like this:
- 2021: AFC East
- 2022: AFC North
- 2023: AFC West
- 2024: AFC South
In additional news the NFL also announced that every team will play an international game once every eight years. The Dallas Cowboys played against the Jacksonville Jaguars in London back in 2014 which would mean that they could quite possibly play an international game as soon as next season (2022).
For what it’s worth, the NFL has reportedly been linked to playing games in other countries like Canada, parts of South America, or other parts of Europe, but all of that remains to be figured out.