ProFootballDoc: 17-Week NFL Season Has Issues, But It Will Do For Now

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The NFL will officially have 17 games this regular season. There will also be one less preseason game, but the change will still lead to increased football and injury risk as established veterans don’t play much in August games anyway.

Is this a smart move for the league in the era of health and safety? The answer is both “yes” and “no.”

There’s no question that an extra NFL game increases injury risk. Skiing an extra 17th day down double black diamond runs increases one’s risk of ACL tear as opposed to just 16 days on the slopes. However, the increased risk is incremental.

Clearly the players accepted this move due to dollars and not for health reasons, since the salary cap will also increase because of bigger TV contracts. Players now get 48% of the revenue. The risk of injury will increase, but I don’t believe we will see a significant change. 

I still would have preferred my long-standing proposal of playing 16 games across 18 weeks and adding a second bye week. This would improve health and add more rest while fixing the short week/Thursday game issue by having only teams coming off a bye play mid-week. It solves the problem of teams with a “too early” or “too late” bye and opens up Wednesday game consideration. Financially, an extra week of prime time and Sunday slate of games is the same as the current windfall. As it is, we can’t watch all of the 8 or 10 games played in the early Sunday slot.

To me, it seemed like the NFL actually wanted 18 games but thought it was unachievable. They seemed to settle for 17, so that extra game seems destined for an international venue or neutral site to grow the game. 

Perhaps Park Avenue is smarter than all of us and they are saving the second bye proposal for when they want to go to 18 games across 20 weeks in the near future. Then we will get a President’s Day Weekend Super Bowl.

Written by Dr. David Chao

David Chao, MD -- known digitally as Pro Football Doc -- is an expert contributor for Outkick. Chao spent 17 seasons as the team doctor for the San Diego Chargers (1997-2013) and is part of the medical team at OASIS in San Diego where he treats and specializes in orthopedic sports injuries, working with high-profile professional athletes from the NFL, NBA, and MLB.


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