For the first time since the 1978 season, the NFL will increase the number of regular season games. As was approved during a virtual ownership meeting on Tuesday, the league will move to the 17-game regular season beginning in 2021 and also cut the preseason from four to three games.
The regular season expansion was made possible as part of the NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement signed in March of 2020. The labor deal allowed the league to add an extra regular season game on the condition that one fewer preseason contest will be played during that same year.
“This is a monumental moment in NFL history,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement provided by the league. “The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world.”
The 17th game added to each team’s schedule will feature clubs from opposing conferences that finished in the same place within their division the previous season. This means that the New England Patriots will get to host the NFC East’s Dallas Cowboys in 2021. The AFC was already determined as the home conference for the 17th game.
New England will therefore play nine home games versus eight road contests. The team’s schedule will not be released until later this spring, but the list of opponents now looks as follows:
- Home: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans
- Away: Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers
In 2022, meanwhile, the Patriots will play their 17th game on the road versus a yet-to-be-determined opponent that will most likely come from the NFC West.
With the 2021 season beginning as usual on September 9 and each team still receiving only one bye, the regular season will end on January 9. This also means that the Super Bowl will now be played on the second Sunday in February moving forward. This season it means that the title game will take place on February 13, 2022.
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