If the Washington Football Team repeats as NFC East champions, it will not be with a record of 7-9. Or 10-6. Or 12-4.
That's because at the virtual owners meeting Tuesday, the NFL owners approved a 17-game season starting this fall, according to a league memo. It marks the first expansion of the regular season schedule in 43 years.
"This is a monumental moment in NFL history," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "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."
According to the memo, the NFL determined the 17th game by pairing teams from opposing conferences that finished in the same place in their division the previous season. The AFC team will host all matchups for the 17th game.
Considering these factors, Washington's extra game in 2021 will be away against the reigning AFC East champion Buffalo Bills. (See all of Washington's home and away opponents, HERE.)
While the 16-game, 17-week schedule has been in place since 1990, there has been interest in expanding the regular season for more than a decade. In fact, the owners pushed for an 18-game schedule during negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement in 2011, but they were unable to come to an agreement with the NFL Players Association on the matter.
But in March of 2020, the players voted to approve a new CBA that created a path to a 17-game season starting as early as 2021. The league's owners then approved the change Tuesday, which also decreases the number of preseason games from four to three.
The 2021 regular season will be played across 18 weeks, starting Thursday, Sept. 9 and concluding Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, according to NFL.com. Super Bowl LVI will be pushed back a week to Feb. 13, 2022 at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.
Looking even further ahead, the league memo states that every team will play at least one international game over an eight-year period beginning in 2022.