As expected, NFL owners have officially approved a 17-game schedule, effective for the 2021 season.
Although some players have already voiced their displeasure with an extra game, this was inevitable after the NFL Player Association members voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement in March of 2020 — the new CBA deal included the option for a 17th game beginning as early as the 2021 season. This is a significant change, as the NFL has played a 16-game schedule since 1978.
As for how this relates to the Jaguars, as we reported at the beginning of the month, Jacksonville will now have an extra home game against the Atlanta Falcons added to its schedule. This does not necessarily mean the Jaguars and Falcons will play each other in the season finale, as the official schedule does not come out until May, it just means the two franchises will now meet at some point during the 2021 season.
The reasoning why Jacksonville will host Atlanta is because the NFL has re-paired 2019 inter-conference divisional opponents to configure each team’s 17th game this coming season, but the specific matchups are based on on the final 2020 standings. Also, all AFC squads will host in 2021, while the NFC will host the matchups in 2022, and it will continue to rotate each year.
So, for example, the AFC South played the NFC South in 2019. In 2020, the Jaguars (1-15) finished in last place of the AFC South, while the Falcons (4-12) finished in last place in the NFC South. Therefore, Atlanta now meets Jacksonville at TIAA Bank Field in 2021. In the most recent meeting in 2019, the Falcons defeated the Jaguars by a final score 24-12.
The full list of added games for 2021 is below:
The 17th games for 2021 pic.twitter.com/G1SvzUoSPd— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) March 30, 2021
While the change in schedule does add an extra contest to the slate for each NFL team, it does not add a second bye week. The schedule will now be carried out by each team playing 17 games over 18 weeks. However, it is expected to push the the date of Super Bowl LVI from Sunday, Feb. 6, 2022 to Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022.
The extra regular season game will also cause the preseason schedule to shrink to three games for each club (except for the two teams playing in the annual Hall of Fame game, as those teams will play four preseason games).