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Improving the NFL Schedule, for Safety’s Sake

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One of NBC's Thursday Night Football games between the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers. Photo: Mike McCarn, AP

Sometime in April the NFL schedule will be released. While a lot of fans will immediately start planning which games they will attend, many NFL players will be nervously calculating how many days of rest they will get between games. This problem can be easily improved by the NFL and its schedulers this year; here’s how.

It’s common knowledge that most NFL players do not like the way the current NFL schedule is composed. Currently, a team can get off the field Sunday at midnight, and then play approximately 93 hours later on Thursday Night Football (TNF). For such a violent sport, players need more recovery time; scheduling them to play without adequate rest increases the chances of player injuries. Arian Foster has claimed that these Thursday night games put “every player on the football field in danger” and he’s probably right.

The NFL wants to keep TNF because it generates massive amounts of revenue for the league; in 2016, CBS and NBC agreed to pay a combined total of $1.8 billion to air TNF for two seasons. Despite protesting TNF games, NFL players also benefit from this additional revenue, and most likely would be supportive of these games, if they were given more rest days.

So here’s how to improve TNF and make it safer for players; Have teams coming off of a bye week play each other on TNF. It’s a simple concept that can be immediately implemented for 2018 by the NFL schedulers. This change couldn’t be implemented for all TNF games. But it can be implemented for some TNF games, and some improvement is always better than no improvement.

Here are the details; There are 15 TNF games (weeks 1-15) and only 7 bye weeks (weeks 5-11). The first game of the season should not be counted as an “unsafe” game as both teams are fully rested. Removing that game leaves 14 TNF games and 7 bye weeks. If teams coming off a bye for those 7 weeks played each other, it would cut the player safety issue in half; a 50% improvement over the current situation.

Some critics may argue that such things cannot be quickly agreed to by the NFL and the NFLPA. This is simply not the case. In the Canadian Football League, a mid-season agreement increased the number of bye weeks from 2 to 3 and also banned full contact practices. If both the NFL and NFLPA agree to this scheduling rule, it can be implemented for the 2018 season.

Everyone wants TNF to be good. The reality is that when two teams with too little rest play each other, the product is terrible, not to mention dangerous for its players. Richard Sherman summarized TNF games perfectly: “We’ve seen blowouts, sloppy play, and games that have been almost unwatchable.” If this scheduling idea is implemented, half of the TNF games in the 2018 season would be safer. This would be a win-win-win scenario for players, the NFL and its fans.

By Dominic LePan, B.A. Econ, PMP

Dominic LePan is an Oil and Gas Professional living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Dominic is a Seattle Seahawks season ticket holder, Big Brother, Big Sister mentor and avid sports fan. 

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