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Does The NFL Really Need An 18-Game Season?

Submitted by on August 27, 2010 – 9:44 am3 Comments

I love football just as much as the next guy. I watch college football—no matter how big or small the team playing is, I’m there—professional football and, sometimes, even arena football. I used to watch the XFL (what up, He Hate Me?!) and over the course of the last two years, I’ve developed a terrible addiction to fantasy football (someone, anyone, pleeeeease make a trade with me today—I don’t care if there’s still two weeks left until the regular season!).  So I should be excited that the NFL is strongly considering expanding their regular season from 16 games to 18 games, right?

Right. Except, I’m not. Now, I’ll be the first person to admit that the NFL exhibition season is the biggest tease in professional sports. It’s basically like when I was a kid and I’d wait alllll year for Advent to start and get so excited and then think, “Wait a second, Christmas is still a month away; what am I so excited about?!” So, on the surface, I’m glad that the NFL is considering doing away with two of the four exhibition games that are in place now and replacing them with two more additional regular season games. As a fan, that sounds much better to me.

But I also understand that there’s a reason NFL teams play exhibition games, just like there’s a reason I used to go to church for four straight weeks and have the priest almost tell me that it was Christmastime—before telling me that I still had four weeks left to wait. Bottom line: Exhibition games are vital to NFL teams. Outside of letting the starting NFL players shake off the cobwebs, the games also gives coaches the opportunity to evaluate the way that rookies and, most importantly, free agents play. Without that opportunity, you’re likely to see a whole lot of undervalued guys miss out on their chance to play in the NFL.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer is just one of the many NFL players who have spoken out against an 18-game NFL regular season.

It goes beyond just the exhibition games, too. While, in theory, I’d like to see more weeks of NFL action, I also know that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. To bring it back to the Christmas analogy, I’m the product of a divorced household, which meant that at Christmastime, I was often subjected to one of the few positives of divorce for kids: Two Christmases! Only problem? That sounds a lot better than it actually is. After one, you’ve pretty much gotten more than you already need, and after two, you just kind of feel like, ‘Okay, it’s cool, but I definitely don’t need this much Christmas in my life.’

The same can be said for watching 18 NFL games. Does it sound great? Of course. But by the time you reach game 15 or 16 right now, you’re either: A) Ready for the NFL Playoffs to start, or B) So disgusted by your team that you’re praying for the season to end ASAP. With 18 games, you’re going to have to wait that much longer for that type of season to come to an end.

And then, of course, there’s the NFL players, who actually have to go out there and—you know—play in the games. Players have overwhelming said that they’d prefer keeping the total game count at 16. Why? Because 18 games increases the likelihood of more players getting injured. It puts players at risk for physical and emotional fatigue. It makes each individual game count a little less. And, above all, it will literally shorten careers. More games means more guys retiring before they hit the age of 30. That’ll make it hard for you to develop much of a relationship with the guys that are on your team.

A longer NFL season could put NFL players like Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson at risk of shortening their careers due to the extra wear-and-tear on their bodies.

Over the coming weeks and months, NFL owners will ultimately decide how long the NFL season will be in the future. They likely won’t take any of the points made above into account. As long as their decision helps to make them more money, they’ll make it. But I just hope they think about more than the short-term gain that an 18-game season could bring. Because I love football—and I don’t want that to change.

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