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The Impact of the 17th Game (18 weeks NFL Season)

By John Falabella

As we enter the 2021 NFL season, we will see a significant change to the schedule as a full NFL season will now consist of 17 games. Dating back to 1978, a full NFL season was 16 games (except for a couple strike-shortened seasons), and that is what most people, including players, have become accustomed to. So let’s take a look at how this extra game will impact the NFL as a whole and how it will affect you as a Fantasy Football player.


First of all, I think that 16 games are enough games for any team to play. Football, as we all know, is a violent sport. Over the past few seasons, “safety” has been a point of emphasis throughout the league… personally, I feel that adding extra games is a contradiction to those safety measures. The natural wear and tear of playing the game of football will most likely lead to a couple of things:


       1. Shorter careers

       2. Load Management


They say that a typical lifespan for an elite NFL running back is 7 to 9 seasons. Some players break this mold (Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, etc.), but it is about year 7- 9 that most RB’s numbers drastically change because of the beating they have taken over their careers. I realize that they have only added one game, but this one game could make a big difference. One other note, the NFL removed the bye week for the #2 seed in the playoffs, so for a couple of teams, they will be playing another game that was added in 2020.


I believe Sir Isaac Newton said, “with every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”… well, with the NFL adding games (Action), what will be the opposite reaction?

Since the NFL added games without adding any rest, or bye weeks, that means that teams will have to compensate for this additional wear and tear that I mentioned. A phrase that is uttered and hated in the NBA is “LOAD MANAGEMENT.” This is where a player will sit out to rest even though they can play. If they are hurt with a playable injury, they are more likely to sit with this extra game added. If an NFL RB’s lifespan is 7- 9 seasons, why would a player want to reduce his career by taking a full workload for 17 games or more? It is more likely now that a player will sit out, also known as, Load Management. I would imagine that this would happen quite frequently when a team plays on Sunday and then again on Thursday. With the institution of the Running back by committee (RBBC) teams are already set up to deal with this type of situation and this will also give fantasy owners another thing to worry about.

Another impact of the 17th game will be that sacred records will now be broken. Babe Ruth set a record for home runs in a season with 60 while playing a 154 game season in Baseball. In 1961 baseball expanded to a 162 game season, and Roger Maris hit 61 homers, breaking Babe Ruth’s record. 

Now that the NFL has expanded to 17 games, this will allow a more significant opportunity for players to break many NFL records. 

I think that the RBBC will be the way many teams go to protect their most valuable running backs but let’s pretend that a running back is used as a “Bell Cow” over a 17 game season… we will see more 2000 yards rushers! Over the history of the NFL, there have only been eight 2000 yard rushers. The first was O.J. Simpson in 1973, where he used his elusive skills during a 14 game season to gain 2000 yards. The others to accomplish this feat were: Barry Sanders, Eric Dickerson, Jamal Lewis, Terrell Davis, Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, and last season Derrick Henry. With the extra game, a Bell Cow back would now need to average 118 yards per game (previously 125) to join this list. Still a tricky feat but a little easier for sure. 

There has never been a 2000 yard receiver in the NFL. Calvin Johnson came close in 2012 (1,964 yards) but fell 36 yards short of this accomplishment. However, we will surely see this record broken with the extra game, and many receivers break 2000 yards over the next ten seasons.

Randy Moss – 23 Touchdown receptions 

In 2007 Randy Moss caught 23 touchdowns from Tom Brady over 16 games. This broke a record set by Jerry Rice in 1987, where he caught 22 touchdown passes in 12 games! With the 17th game, we may see the receiver’s top 20 touchdown receptions regularly.

In 2006, LaDainian Tomlinson set the NFL record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 28. With this 17 game season, it could be that this record will also be broken… possibly.

I can go on forever, but you get the point… the added game will lead to a drastic change in the NFL record book.


At first glance, I thought that the 17th game would clean some things up for Fantasy Football players, but I don’t think that it will after looking deeper. 

A big problem with fantasy football in previous seasons is when players sit out week 16, the typical Championship week for fantasy football leagues. I initially thought that leagues could continue to have their fantasy championships during week 16, and this would be early enough that players would not be sitting out. This could still happen, but the NFL made an error, at least an error in my eyes, as they added a bye week for WEEK 14! Having a Goodbye during week 14 means that fantasy leagues will most likely not want to have their playoffs begin in Week 14. Leagues will now be stuck using weeks 15, 16, and 17 as their playoff weeks, and the championship week will still suffer when players decide to sit out a week early.

Another problem would be “Schedule Balance.” If you play in a:

10 team league, you will play 5 teams twice and 4 teams once

12 team league, you will play 3 teams twice and 8 teams once

14 team league, you will play 1 team twice and 12 teams once

Personally, I like balance in fantasy football because if you play everyone once, you have nothing to complain about. However, when you play some teams twice, and you happen to play the best team twice, that can be a bit unfair, especially if you get knocked out of the playoffs because of it.

A possible solution:

This setup will create an opportunity for 15 team leagues to emerge. More money for your pot and a balanced schedule. 

A 15 team league will allow you to play everyone once (fair) and start your league playoffs in week 15 (fair – since there are bye weeks in week 14). This of course, would reduce the number of available free agents available in your league, but it is an option to keep your league in balance.

I am surprised that the NFL does not embrace Fantasy Football more. I was a 49er fan growing up and was a diehard fan entering my first few years as a Fantasy Football Player. While I am still a 49er fan, I am also a fan of the players on my team (past and present), which has made me more of an NFL fan. The NFL is more popular than ever due to fantasy football, the best fantasy sport that there is, so the NFL putting bye weeks on Week 14 is a wrong decision, from my perspective. It will work out one way or another, but that is one change that could make a huge difference.

 Commissioners: Best of luck to you as you make these decisions for your fantasy football league.

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Come back next week for more 2021 Fantasy Football news and insights! 

And, don’t forget to order your 2021 Commish Kit Fantasy Football Draft Boards! They are now shipping.