Why Fans Will Support an 18-Game NFL Schedule

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    INDIANAPOLIS - SEPTEMBER 19: Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts gives instructions to his team during the NFL game against the New York Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 19, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    You’ve heard rumblings all year long that the NFL is ready to move from a 16-game season to an 18-game season, and now Colts GM and big NFL mucky muck Bill Polian says the transition is all but inevitable:

     

    "I think that the owners, and principally the commissioner, have decided that it's the way to go, and so the debate, such as it was, is over," Polian said. "I've heard recently, and I'm sorry that this didn't get more coverage earlier, some really, really interesting commentary on it. ... I wish some of that dialogue had taken place earlier…"

    …The format change hasn't been approved by either the owners or the NFL Players Association. Polian believes that is just a formality.

    I don’t believe it’s merely a formality at all. The NFL is on the verge of locking out all their players in March of next year, so I hardly see how the NFLPA is a shoo-in to go along with a plan they have already spoken out against.

    But let’s go ahead and assume Polian is right, and that an 18-game NFL season is in our future. You’ve already heard a lot of handwringing from the likes of Peter King and Bill Simmons over this issue. The main gist of their argument against an 18-game regular season is that it’s bad for the players’ health.

    To which I say: When have fans ever really cared about the health of NFL players? Playing in the NFL is statistically proven to take years, if not decades, off the lives of former players. And that’s with a 16-game season.

    Maybe you think this is a tragic fate, but it certainly hasn’t stopped you from watching football. I know it hasn’t stopped me. Is there a chance 18 games will cause more injuries? Of course. It’s a mortal lock. But the truth is that, deep in my heart, I’m just happy to have more meaningful football in my life, and less meaningless preseason football cluttering everything up.

    Even with two extra weeks of the regular season (not including an expanded playoff field, which seems a logical next step), the NFL season is still much more brief than that of the three other major sports leagues. It’s not as if the league is adding two months to the schedule. That would cause the NFL to end up like the NHL, where the least injured team straggles to the end to pick up the Stanley Cup in a numbing battle of attrition. I doubt two extra games will seriously dilute the product as much as some of the doomsayers may think.

    Besides, it’s more football. More fantasy football. More money to lose gambling. Are we sure 18 games is even enough? Let’s make it an even two dozen, Billy Boy.