My Thoughts On A Potential 18-Game NFL Schedule

The best thing about taking a day off of work following a vacation (aside from the fact that it’s one less day you have to work that week) is getting to watch shows like Around The Horn and PTI.  On the west coast, unless you’re a college student with a favorable schedule, unemployed, or home sick, you miss out on daytime television gems like these (and The Price Is Right, All My Children, Days Of Our Lives, Oprah, and so on).

Anyway, on Monday one of those shows talked about the NFL and how it is continuing to push for the 18-game schedule, with this caveat:  players would only be allowed to play for 16 games.  In other words:  they would have to take two full games off (ostensibly, in addition to the BYE week that already exists).

In general, the 18-game schedule gets uniformly criticized by everyone, and I don’t understand why.  I mean, I understand their arguments, which appear to be as follows, in no particular order:

  • It’s hypocritical for the NFL to preach the virtues of “safety” while at the same time lengthening an already-brutal season.
  • It would have the potential to punish teams who aren’t as deep on their bench, with a higher possibility of the stars getting injured if they happen to be surrounded by second or third stringers.
  • What makes the NFL so special is that the games are few and far between.  It’s not like baseball, where you’re worn out by six full months of a regular season.  Nor is it like the NBA with its seemingly endless playoff system.

Here’s the thing, though.  The NFL is the best.  Everyone loves it.  People complain about lengthening the season, or having games on Thursdays, and yet here it is, the most-watched thing on TV each and every week!  What are you going to do, NOT watch the NFL in those 17th or 18th weeks?  I didn’t think so.

Truth be told, I think the 18-week schedule is a great idea!  First and foremost, it would require teams to employ more players.  With bigger rosters, we’d be more able to keep some of those fringey guys we’re so sorry to see go at the end of the pre-season.

Also, two additional weeks of the football season is two less weeks I have to sit around and watch baseball, or other inferior sports.  If I could have stopped paying attention to the Mariners two weeks sooner, don’t you think I would have done that in a heartbeat?

Plus, I love this idea of trying to manage your rosters according to this rule of playing no more than 16 games.  That means the Seahawks would HAVE to start Tarvaris Jackson in two of our games this year.  Which two would it be?  Obviously, Jacksonville comes immediately to mind.  I think the other one would have to be Tennessee.  When you’re an NFC team, the least-important games on your schedule are the games you play against AFC teams.  Since both of those are home games, you feel like you’ve got a pretty good chance to win both of those games without your starters in the lineup.  Maybe the Seahawks go full-on backups vs. Jaguars.  It wouldn’t have been the most pleasing-to-the-eye game we’ve ever seen, but then again, a blowout by four touchdowns isn’t all that interesting either.

It would be tough, though.  I mean, you can’t just sit ALL of your starters, because you’re not going to have enough players to fill in.  And, what happens in that game where you start Tarvar and he ends up getting knocked out of the game in the third quarter?  Do you put Russell Wilson into the game to get you through?  Or, do you put in a third string quarterback?

All of this is endlessly fascinating to me.  It adds this new level of strategy I never thought would be possible.

Of course, as is natural, injuries will take care of the job for some coaches.  Chris Clemons, for instance, would have missed the first two games anyway because he was recovering from surgery.  So, there’s that out of the way.  Bruce Irvin would be good to go thanks to his suspension.  And so on.

It makes more sense for players to miss two full games vs. 8 full quarters.  If Russell Wilson takes the third quarter off for eight games in a row, is he taking the same reduction of a beating as he would by missing two full games?  Of course not.

Which brings us back to the bigger rosters.  I think you’d need to carry at least an extra 20-30 guys on each team.  Which shouldn’t be a problem, since teams go all the way up to 90 players in the pre-season.  Maybe in this instance, teams are less gung ho about putting guys on the IR to try to hang onto them.  Also, I think you need to introduce some sort of Disabled List like baseball has.  Limiting teams to one IR spot with a designation to come back is pretty brutal, especially for a sport like football.  Introduce a 2-week DL with the option to keep them on there as long as they need to recover.  The PUP list is a joke because it only works for guys who get injured prior to the season.  The vast majority of players get injured IN season, and you have to make the tough decision to keep them on your roster (but inactive on game days), put them on IR, or waive them.  A DL allows you to keep more of your players while not hurting the team in the process by making them play under-manned.

With bigger rosters, you’re going to need to lengthen the draft.  Shouldn’t be a problem; there are tons of college players out there who go undrafted.  This 18-game schedule is only going to reward teams like the Seahawks who have smart people crafting this roster through the draft.  You know all those guys who blow you away in the pre-season, then end up on the roster, but almost exclusively play special teams?  Well, we’d FINALLY get to see what they look like in a real game situation!  Just imagine how many more diamonds in the rough we’d find.  How many more feel-good stories would be written.  Journalists, why are you fighting this?  The NFL is trying to make your job EASIER by giving your more material to write about (besides the material excoriating the NFL for doing things like expanding the season to 18 games).

And, look at it this way:  by giving backups a couple games per season to start, you give them real-game experience that you may need in the future, when you have to replace aging stars because of injury or ineffectiveness.  Have reservations about re-signing all of our stud receivers?  Well, what if I told you we could start Stephen Williams and had to play him with the number 1 offense?  Or, how about this:  worried about how much longer Marshawn Lynch has to go?  What if I told you that the Seahawks would HAVE to sit him for two games, and in his place you could get Christine Michael some reps with the number 1 offensive line?  And not JUST against the crappy Jaguars at the tail-end of a blowout!

The only question I have is:  where do we find the 17th and 18th games?  Do we add two more games against opposite-conference opponents?  The way schedules are created now, it makes sense:

  • 2 games against every team in your division (6 games total)
  • 1 game against every team in one other division in the same conference (4 games total)
  • 1 game against every team in one division in the opposite conference (4 games total)
  • With the final two games relegated to the other two divisions in the same conference, based on where you finished the season prior

Take Seattle’s 2013 schedule:  We have our six divisional games, four games against the NFC South, four games against the AFC South, and since we finished 2nd in the NFC West in 2012, we play the 2nd place teams in the NFC East and North in 2012 (Giants & Vikings).

I kind of like the idea of playing two more games against the opposite conference, because you’re going to want two more of those less-important games (for tie-breaking purposes) to help your team decide when to play the bulk of its backups.  But, something tells me the Seahawks would be playing two more NFC games.  The easy way to figure it out would be everything stays the same (six divisional games, NFC South, AFC South) and then for those final four games, it would be one of two scenarios:

We would either play a home-and-home series with both the Giants and Vikings, or the top 2 in the NFC West from 2012 (in this case, San Francisco & Seattle) would play the top 2 from both the NFC East & North in 2012 (in this case, the Seahawks would play both the Redskins & Giants as well as the Packers & Vikings).  That would leave the Rams and Cardinals playing the following four teams:  Cowboys, Eagles, Bears & Lions.  Either way makes sense (the home & homes or the top 2 from each division) and I wouldn’t care which way they decided to go.

I feel like I’m in the minority on this, but I don’t care.  Part of my being FOR this particular 18-game schedule, I suppose, is because the Seahawks are the best team in football.  If I were to get a chance to watch this team play two more times every year, I’d sign up for that in a heartbeat!

I also think the NFL would be better suited to get rid of Thursday Night games and instead go with both a Friday Night AND a Saturday Night game.  That way, the league gets more primetime dollars than it would from one crappy Thursday night game.  It also gives teams one extra day to recover (Thursday games just seem cruel, while Friday doesn’t seem AS bad).  And, you know if the NFL is on Friday and/or Saturday nights, people are still going to watch.  It’s the NFL!  Good to the last drop!

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