The True Cost of Adding an Extra NFL Game

The National Football League is a business and, as such, is focused on making money. And make money it does. Even during a national pandemic.

In 2020, the NFL reported it made roughly $9.8 billion in revenue. The 32 teams in the league each received a cut of that revenue equal to $309 million each. That was a record payout. Most of the revenue is generated via media rights, aka TV contracts. 

In the grand scheme of things, the NFL can make even more money. All it has to do is expand its existing media contracts. That, of course, led to the addition of a 17th game in 2021. 

A large number of NFL players were not in favor of adding the 17th game. They had their reasons and fans are starting to see why. The addition of that extra game comes at a cost.


Adding to the NFL Pot

In 2020, NFL revenue was down compared to 2019 mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Projected revenue for this season is in the $16 to $18 billion range. The league stands to earn nearly $300 million in revenue just from new sports betting contracts. 

The league will, of course, benefit financially from the extra game. Players, on the other hand, may or may not. The extra game does represent another game check, but the league somehow negotiated to keep that extra payment outside of the current revenue-sharing plan. Ultimately, there is a cap on how much a player can receive for that extra game. That’s not good for morale.


The Extra Game Tax

Navigating through a 16-game schedule is tough enough. Don’t forget, players report to training camp in late July and play preseason games before the regular season. The addition of the 17th game reduced the preseason to three games. 

At our current point in the 2021 season, NFL players have been at it for 20 weeks already. There are still five weeks left to play in the regular season. Remember during this regular season when the NFC had an unbeaten team and four one-loss teams? 

The unbeaten – Arizona – now has two losses. Green Bay (9-3), Tampa Bay (9-3), LA Rams (8-4), and Dallas (8-4) have all been hit with multiple losses. Many of them were upsets. The Bucs lost to New Orleans even though Saints QB Jameis Winston got hurt. Dallas got pounded by an inferior Denver team and the Rams lost at home to Tennessee which had lost RB Derrick Henry for the season.

The Buffalo Bills were the team to beat in the AFC. Not anymore. The Bills have lost four of their last seven games. Teams that were once contenders – Carolina, for example – have found that one or two injuries can derail an entire season. Now, teams on the brink like Washington (6-6) in the NFC are left to figure out how to navigate the rest of the season without DE Chase Young. TE Logan Thomas, S Landon Collins, and a handful of others will miss time over the final five weeks.

For those teams that would have gone 12-4 in previous years, that extra week more than likely adds a loss to the record. That team – like a Washington – that could be headed to 9-7 is now going 8-9 thanks to the addition of another grueling week in what was already a grueling schedule. 

Fans have already seen those losses. Buffalo falls to Jacksonville. Houston beats Tennessee. There are more to come too. The NFL sees the benefits of the extra game in the form of more revenue. For the best teams in the NFL, the extra game offers no benefit to offset the cost. It’s just one more chance they have to lose. And lose players in the process. Just ask Carolina. They have 12 players on injured reserve…with five games yet to play.