In what can only be called one of the most non-breaking news moments of the offseason, NFL owners on Tuesday approved the addition of a 17th game to the schedule starting this season.
The move has been expected ever since the league and the players union agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement in 2020 allowing for the additional game. It was only a matter of time from there, and once the league reached a deal on a new TV package, the owners gave the green light.
This is the first time the league has expanded the schedule since 1978, when they went from a 14-game schedule to a 16-game schedule.
In addition to the extra game, the league also announced changes to its International Series of games. Beginning with the 2022 season, every team will be guaranteed a least one international game every eight years, and the NFL will schedule up to four neutral-site international games every season, with the initial focus on placing games in Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe and the United Kingdom, according to NFL.com.
So what does this mean for the Cleveland Browns?
As has been widely reported, the AFC North will host teams from the NFC West this fall in the extra game, which means the Browns will face the Arizona Cardinals after both teams finished third in their respective divisions last season. The game can be scheduled at any time during the season, so it is not necessarily a Week 17 matchup.
The other matchups within the AFC North will see the Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Seattle Seahawks, the Baltimore Ravens play the Los Angeles Rams, and the Cincinnati Bengals play the San Francisco 49ers.
Even with the additional game, the league will continue to hold just one bye week, which means with the season beginning on September 9, the regular season will conclude on January 9, 2022, and the Super Bowl will be held on February 13, 2022.
The NFLPA issued a Tweet touting the financial benefit to the players of a 17-game schedule:
The statement reads:
NFL owners bought the right to go to 17 games in the 2020 CBA in exchange for players getting a larger guaranteed shared of revenues, a media kicker, better benefits, higher minimum salaries and additional reductions to time at work.
Since players share the revenue that is brought into the NFL, more money for the NFL means more money for the players as well. The new CBA also increases the players’ revenue share as part of the negotiated media kicker, which comes into effect when we play 17 regular season games. As a result, players will see even larger revenue increases in future years, when the new media revenues really begin.
Finally, playing an extra game means that a few single-season franchise records may fall for the Browns. Assuming that they stay healthy and play all 17 games:
- Quarterback Baker Mayfield needs to average just 235.3 passing yards per game to become just the second Browns quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season.
- Mayfield needs to average 1.82 touchdown passes a game to break Brian Sipe’s record of 30 touchdown passes.
- Running back Nick Chubb needs to average 109.6 yards per game to break Jim Brown’s record of 1,863 rushing yards. That likely won’t happen because the Browns will not want to wear Chubb out, but he is talented enough to do it.
- Someone would need to average 5.2 receptions per game to break the single-season record of 89 receptions, held by tight ends Ozzie Newsome and Kellen Winslow II.
- Defensive end Myles Garrett needs to average 0.8 sacks per game to break Reggie Camp’s record of 14 sacks in a single season.