The NFL announced its new TV rights deal two weeks ago, as the league will rake in around $10 billion per year thanks to their new agreement with Fox, CBS, ESPN, NBC, and Amazon. That’s a lot of money, and part of the reason TV networks were so willing to fork over big-time cash in the deal was the understanding that with a new media rights deal would come an expansion to the NFL schedule.
When the league and players association agreed to some CBA tweaks back in August to deal with the financial realities of the pandemic, the players were given the assurance that the salary cap wouldn’t dip below $175 million and the league was given the go-ahead to expand the schedule to 17 regular season games, provided they locked in a new TV deal that would boost revenue and give the players more money — as they are allocated 48 percent of all league revenue. As such, the NFL can now move forward with plans to expand to 17 regular season games.
NFL is expected to expand the regular season schedule this week to 17 games. The league had played a 16-game regular season schedule since 1978, by far the longest stretch without a change in NFL history.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 28, 2021
As for how the league will add a game for each team, the answer is fairly simple, per Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport, each team will add an out of conference matchup that will rotate each season.
Each team would play an extra interconference matchup — AFC vs. NFC — based on divisional standings from the preceding season and on a rotating divisional basis.
This is what that is expected to look like in 2021.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 28, 2021
The NFL’s schedule should come out within the next month or so, which will provide official confirmation of all of this, but the league will get its desired schedule expansion while cutting the preseason by one or two games.