Will the NFL have 17 games next season? Media deal paves way for expanded schedule in 2021

Are you ready for some (more) football?

On Thursday, the NFL announced a new, media mega-deal that pays them $10 billion annually, starting in 2023 and running through 2033. Nothing may affect fans more than a 17-game season, though, which has been bandied about for some time, and is more than likely coming in 2021.

Most of the deal is the same, though there are some key changes to the league’s norms this upcoming season. Games can be flexed into “Monday Night Football” starting Week 12 and Amazon Prime Video will now be the exclusive home to “Thursday Night Football,” to name a few.

According to several reports, the 17-game season will be a thing coming in 2021, and the media deal — while not going active for another two years — was the jumping off point. 

MORE: Explaining the NFL’s new media rights deals

Will the NFL have 17 games in 2021?

While no word is official yet, multiple reports suggest that the NFL’s new media deal is the impetus for a 17-game season in 2021 and beyond. The league needed to renegotiate its deals for “Monday Night Football” which expired after the 2021 season before being able to decide on a new 

Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reports that the media deal will push the league to 17 games, with the vote coming during the league meetings later in the month. The owners are expected to vote for a 17-game season, with the preseason shrinking to just three games.

It doesn’t come as a major surprise: Under the new CBA, the league and owners have the discretion to expand the season to 17 games, as long as the preseason is cut by a game. The league will still have a 20-game full season with a bye week, and the Super Bowl would be pushed back a week in February.

The league, which reported a $4 billion loss due to the coronavirus pandemic, is looking to recoup money this upcoming year, with the 17-game season a boon to “righting” the ship.

The league has operated with a 16-game schedule since 1978. The league expanded playoffs in 2020, adding an extra wild-card team to each conference, for a total of 14 teams. 

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