According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the NFL is expected to officially expand its regular season to 17 games this week—adding one extra game from the longstanding current 16 game schedule:
NFL is expected to expand the regular season schedule this week to 17 games. The league had played a 16-game regular season schedule since 1978, by far the longest stretch without a change in NFL history.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 28, 2021
Using the known formula, in Week 17, the Colts will host the reigning Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers led by former Indianapolis interim head coach (and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach) Bruce Arians and longtime arch-nemesis Tom Brady.
What we also know is that there will not be an additional bye week to help compensate for the additional week of regular season football (so no extra consideration given by the league for player safety), Week 1 of 2021 will be September 12th, and Super Bowl Sunday will wrap up next season on February 13th.
Unfortunately, this seems like an ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it’ scenario, but by cutting potential preseason games (it’s expected there will be three instead of four preseason games in 2021), the NFL is looking at creative ways to continue to generate more revenue league-wide.
It’ll be interesting to see how this impacts players’ health and safety going forward—by adding another rigorous week to the NFL’s already physically demanding regular season schedule. League records could be implicated long-term too—as players will have one additional week to rack up season stats than their predecessors historically.
In any case, there will be one additional regular season game in 2021, and the Colts will be taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Game 17 finale—like it or not. Game on.