Predicting what an 18-game schedule could look like for the NFL, Redskins

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 23: Washington Redskins helmets on the sideline during their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on November 23, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 23: Washington Redskins helmets on the sideline during their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on November 23, 2014 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The NFL is seriously considering an eighteen game schedule after the 2020 season and a new collective bargaining (CBA) agreement may include such a plan.  How would it affect the Washington Redskins?

The 2019 NFL season continues to churn along and as it progresses deeper into the schedule, we will have cooler weather with more touchdowns, interceptions, field goals, impressive catches, turnovers, and bone-crushing tackles. Teams will win. Teams will lose. After winter arrives, a new Super Bowl champion will be crowned and the league will be closer to a brand new CBA.

Fans tend to dread the negotiations between owners and players for one simple reason – a work stoppage may occur and a Fall without pro football is simply excruciating.  The owners and players have plenty to focus on in the new CBA, but the biggest bargaining chip of all is the possibility of going to an 18-game schedule.  Would the Redskins benefit from an increase to 18 games or is it better to keep the 16-game format?

Time to be upfront and honest here.  It will very likely happen and I fully support expanding to 18 games.  One point of contention for both the players and owners is the preseason format.  If the schedule is increased, the preseason would be decreased, perhaps by two games or it could be eliminated altogether.  Four preseason games seem to be unpopular with fans, players, and coaches.  Even owners seem to be jumping on that bandwagon.

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Since this article is a prediction piece, let’s focus on the advantages of such a change and what is needed to make an 18-game schedule a viable option.

The players don’t seem too keen on going to an 18-game schedule right now, but the league will probably make an offer in the CBA that would be acceptable.  Money talks and players do listen, so it would not be a surprise to see such an announcement sometime within the next year or two.

We’ve heard it said that some people can’t be bought for any price and that’s probably true.  Friends, football players can be bought and they prove it each year with fat contracts and very nice perks.  Some of them are more than happy to share pictures of their riches on social media and a nice sum of money will convince players that expanding to an 18-game schedule is advantageous to their pockets.

Let’s see what will happen when the league expands the schedule because it will happen – that is the prediction.  If the NFL decides to expand the regular season by two games, it is likely to expand the schedule into January, not August.  Playing games in full pads and gear when the temperatures in late August are still quite toasty is not a good idea.  Nearly all of the preseason games are played at night and most players rarely see the field more than two quarters.  Games in the hot August sun would be brutal and it makes sense to push a new 18-game schedule into the new calendar year.

Another necessary change is the size of the teams.  By moving to an 18-game schedule, the wear and tear on players will increase and more athletes will be needed to compensate for the seasonal grind.  A roster of 65 players seems appropriate with 55 being active on game day.  An idea that was floated by Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk and various sources in this article would limit players to sixteen games.  They would be required to sit two games.  Florio believes that exceptions should be made for quarterbacks, punters, holders, long snappers, and kickers.  That would seem to be unfair and it should apply to all players.  A recent spate of quarterback injuries simply proves that a sixteen game limit should apply to all players – no exceptions.

Another change that needs to occur under an 18 game format is the size of practice squads.  This may sound like an unusual amount, but twenty players should be the size for each team.  Many of those players will be needed for an extra two games – more for injuries to starters and regulars, obviously.  There can be a rule that allows a team to lose no more than three practice squad players from other teams during the season.  Once a team loses three practice squad players, then no others can be sniped for the remainder of the season.

So how would such a change affect the Redskins?  The quick answer is pretty much the same as each team in the NFL.  The Redskins could use an early strategy to sideline some of their players during the first half of the schedule – perhaps seven or eight per week – so as to comply with the 16-game rule.  The starters and regulars could complete that requirement just before the halfway point of the season. This strategy would afford rookies and younger players the opportunity to gain valuable experience early in the season. Veterans such as a Vernon Davis or a Ryan Kerrigan may benefit from some needed rest halfway into the schedule.

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An 18-game schedule is very doable, but it needs to be implemented with player safety being of the utmost importance.  Limiting roster and practice squad space simply can’t work with an additional two games each year.  Look for 18 games each year starting in 2021 or 2022.  That is the prediction.