For years, the NFL season has been 17 weeks long, with each team playing 16 games (8 at home, 8 away). This year, however, there will be an additional Week (Week 18). Though it may seem like a minor change, below are a couple of reasons why it changes the landscape of this year.
Load Management in the NFL?
Even though it may seem crazy to think, coaches may have to reconsider how much they play their starters this season. Usually, a coach does not take their guys out of the game unless it is the 4th quarter of a blowout.
This season, however, I would not be surprised to see coaches pull their guys earlier than usual. Injury, especially in the NFL, is a huge risk. Another game means another 60 minutes of guys getting potentially injured.
Let us not forget, the amount of hits football players take throughout the season takes a toll on their bodies. Coaches will have to be able to understand when/if he should take his starters out. Is the lead significant enough? Are my backups able to keep the lead? These are some of the questions that will go through a coach’s head about how likely it is to pull out the victory without their starters.
If they decide to keep them out there the entire game, do not be shocked to see more injuries than normal pile up.
Also, Week 17 was usually a week where coaches rest their starters if they have already locked up their seed in the playoffs. With Week 18 being added, there could be two weeks at the end of the year where this could be the case now.While it’s just one extra week, playing through Week 18 might have a lasting effect on player’s NFL career.
Half the NFL Having an Additional Home Game?
Since each team is slated to play an odd number of games (17), half of the NFL (AFC) will play one more home game than the rest of the league.
In my opinion, that is a huge disadvantage to the NFC that only gets to play eight games on their home field, which can also affect the players’ health in the long run.
In order to resolve that issue, the NFL has decided to rotate the extra home game to the opposite conference for next season. Since the AFC gets the extra home game this season, the NFC will get the extra home game next season.
Despite their attempt to try to balance it out, I would have rather seen each team play a game on a neutral field instead. The games in London, for example, each year, is a great way to increase the popularity of the NFL internationally while playing the extra game in a neutral setting.
Surprisingly, however, there are only two games scheduled in London this year (Falcons vs. Jets, Jaguars vs. Dolphins).
It will be interesting to see if the additional home game for the AFC will increase their winning percentage compared to the NFC. The good news is that each conference themselves are on an even playing field which makes it a little more accepting.