The National Football League shifted both their pre and regular seasons this year. The preseason games cut from four to three, and the regular season games expanded to 18 weeks and 17 games.
An odd number of games seems odd.
Who gets home field nine times on their schedule with only eight road games?
Half the teams will.
This season, teams that have two preseason home games will play eight regular season home games and nine on the road. Teams that have one of their three preseason games at home will play nine home games in the regular season. By the time that rigamoroll is completed, I expect the league will shift to two preseason games and 18 regular season tilts.
I say this, while when I was in the league NFL teams played six preseason games and 14 regular season contests. Last year, the entire preseason schedule was scratched by the virus, and while many expected the lack of a preseason would create a lot of sloppy play early in the season, it didn't materialize.
Instead, the start of the season had a number of penalties and missed assignments on par with past opening week games. This year, with three preseason games and a gap between the third and the opening of the regular season, teams are called to prepare in new ways.
The expanded regular season schedule also affects the season win totals for each team. With an extra game, a good team would seem to have a lot better shot at winning one more than in a 16 game season. Last year, the Kansas City Chiefs had the highest win total, 11½, and easily out-performed the number with a 14-2 regular season. This year, with an extra game on their schedule, the Chiefs win total number has bumped up to 12½ games.
All four of the teams with the highest win total, in addition to the Chiefs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, (11½), Buffalo Bills and Cleveland Browns, (10½), are all higher than they were in 2020.
On the low side, the bookmakers don’t give the bottom teams as much of a chance to win that extra game. Last season, the Washington Redskins were listed at 5 games, and this year the lowest total is held by the Houston Texans, 4½ games. For the record, the Washington franchise was forecasted to win the fewest games in the league, but in reality earned a postseason slot and beat the spread in their playoff game against the eventual Super Bowl winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There was a time when teams would play their final preseason game on Saturday and Sunday headed into the first week of regular season action. Then the league allowed each team to make up their own final week of the season schedule through agreement with their opponent and the league. The games would be held on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
With this practice in place, teams soon realized that it was to their advantage to play on the Thursday, ten days before the Sunday regular season openers, as opposed to playing their final practice game closer to the start of the regular season. It took only a few seasons for all the teams to gravitate to the Thursday date. This year, the gap between the final practice game and the start of the regular season is pushed even further.
The final preseason weekend this year will have four games on Friday, seven on Saturday and five on Sunday. The dates for those games are August 27, 28 and 29. The regular season starts in the Thursday night opener between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Dallas Cowboys on September 9. Twenty-six teams will be in action on the opening Sunday, and four teams will round out Week One action with a pair of Monday Night Football contests On September 13.
It does end the logjam of 16 games on the Thursday before the regular season kickoff, and it offers extra time for every team to prepare for their opener after the completion of their exhibition schedule.