For the NFL, season-length expansion is nothing new

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Last year, when commissioner Roger Goodell hinted about expanding the regular season to 18 games and shortening the preseason by the same amount, most NFL fans (and certainly NFL betting enthusiasts) cheered. But most don’t know that the NFL has been down this path before.

  • In 1960, the NFL played a 12 game schedule over 13 weeks. From what I can gather from old news articles, it appears that 5 preseason games were played, although it could have differed among teams.
  • In 1961 the regular season expanded to 14 games with no bye week. Owners milked the system by scheduling 6 or more preseason games.
  • In 1978, two preseason games were converted to regular season games, and the NFL expanded to its current format of 16 games. The bye week was added in 1990.

Now, in 2011, while the total number of games again remains the same, the NFL has increased the value of it’s TV rights by adding more games that matter. Add to that the fact there will likely be 2 bye weeks for each team instead of 1, and suddenly the NFL has 3 extra weeks of football to show on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday.

NFL owners have been playing this game for years, and will continue to play the game. It would be foolish to rule out future expansion of the preseason (or even the regular season). Not that this is a bad thing – I personally wish the football offseason was no more than a month.

My guess that is in a couple years, the NFL will add special “exhibition” games versus NFL Europe for a select number of teams to showcase “international” American football. These games can be played in Europe a week or two before true “preseason” begins. The international locale will not put any additional burden on US season ticket holders, but will still drive revenue for the owners through ticket sales and TV. Soon, all teams will want in on the action, magically increasing the number of preseason games up to three (or more).

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