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Buy Or Sell: NFL Will Expand Regular Season To 17 Games In Time For 2021

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The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.

That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).

The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.

Topic Statement: The NFL will adopt the 17-game schedule in time for the 2021 season.

Explanation: As part of the 2020 CBA, the NFL was granted the authority to expand the regular season from 16 games to 17 games, beginning in 2021. They have yet to do so, and it is not certain that they will, as a number of issues, including broadcasting contracts, remain in flux.

Buy:

The NFL has been talking about expanding the regular season for decades, literally. They wanted to go to 18 games. They made sacrifices in order to get this into the most recent CBA. It would be insane if they were to fail to enact their right to expand at the earliest possible opportunity.

Add to that the fact that an expanded regular season is an important bargaining chip for them when it comes to new broadcasting deals. Obviously, if you’re negotiating with a 17-game schedule rather than a 16-game schedule, you’re offering more product, and thus could demand more.

Given the lack of crowds last year, the league also has plenty to make up in lost revenue, and added 16 more games will help them do that. There’s just too much money involved that will be left on the table to think that they won’t act on it this year.

Sell:

When the league enacts the right to expand the regular season to 17 games, it also triggers an increase in the percentage of the revenue that the players receive from what the game brings in. The added game creates an additional slice of pie, but each slice for the league will be slightly smaller, albeit minutely.

That could be one factor in the league balking at pulling the trigger early. It has also been widely discussed that the expansion is tied to the completion of new broadcasting contracts. It was reported that one was completed with Disney yesterday, but that was later denied.

There is still a lot of uncertainty right now about what the 2021 season will look like when it comes to playing with Covid-19 hanging over their heads. I’m not privy to all the factors to be considered, but given that they haven’t done it yet, it’s reasonable to be open to the possibility that it’s not in their best interests to pull the trigger now.

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