NFL adds 17th game to season, starting in 2021; Lions will play Broncos
In a move that's been anticipated since the NFL and its players brokered a new collective bargaining agreement last year, the league officially added a 17th game to the regular season schedule starting immediately.
“This is a monumental moment in NFL history,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans.
"And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world.”
The NFL has played a 16-game schedule since 1978. That setup called for teams to play division opponents twice (six games), as well as all four teams from rotating divisions in each conference (eight games). The final two games were against opponents from the other two divisions within your conference, correlating with where those teams finished in the standings the previous season.
That formula will remain in place with the additional game coming against an opponent from the opposite conference that similarly finished in the same place in their division standings the previous year. The AFC and NFC will rotate who will host the extra game each season, with the AFC getting the honors in 2021.
For the Detroit Lions, that means they'll be the road team when they play the Denver Broncos next season. That rounds out a slate that already was set to include home games against the Bears, Packers, Vikings, Cardinals, Ravens, Bengals, Eagles and 49ers, and road matchups against the three NFC North opponents, as well as the Falcons, Browns, Rams, Steelers and Seahawks.
The full schedule, with dates and times, will be released later this spring.
An additional change to the NFL schedule is all teams will now be required to play internationally at least once every eight years, starting in 2022.
According to a release from the NFL, the scheduling of up to four neutral-site games per year in a country outside the United States will focus initially on Canada, Europe, Mexico, South America and the United Kingdom. In addition, interested clubs can continue to volunteer to play home games internationally, as is currently the case.
The Lions haven't played an international game since 2015, when they met the Chiefs in London. They were reportedly scheduled to play a game in London last season prior to the pandemic forcing changes.
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