The NFL Should Do Something Constructive with the 17th Game

London should just be the Beginning

We’re in the middle of back-to-back NFL games being in London. At the same time, the NFL is talking about possible games in Germany in former NFL Europe stalwarts Düsseldorf and Frankfurt, as well as Munich.

While I subscribe to the Father Kenau’s concerns about the quality (or lack thereof) of the games being sent abroad, I have a pretty simple solution to it.

Send everybody.

When the NFL expanded the schedule to 17-games this year, most teams wind up playing either nine home games or nine road games. We’ve seen the importance of home field in a lot of games this year. Is it fair for a team fighting for a playoff spot to have an extra home game while competing with a team who had an extra road game? Not particularly.

The NFL clearly wants to expand the international reach of the NFL. The best way to do that is to send meaningful football games outside of our borders. That seems to have worked in London, the quality of the teams and the games notwithstanding. But the NFL has only ever played international regular season games in London, Mexico City and Toronto.

Prior to 2006, the NFL hosted preseason games at a variety of cities. In addition to London and Mexico City, preseason games have been held in Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin, Göteborg, Monterrey, Montréal, Osaka, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

That’s fifteen different international cities that have hosted NFL football in some capacity.

That’s what I’m suggesting that instead of each team having nine home games every other year, the NFL should considering a schedule that sees each team play eight home games, eight road games, and one international game. This would eliminate the built-in advantage of half the league having nine-home games, but also allow the NFL to expand meaningful, regular season games to more places.

I could see the NFL deciding to follow a schedule that would continue with four games in London (as the league did in 2019) and hosting two games each in six other cities.

With the NFL already with an agreement in place to hold international games through 2025, the NFL could implement a new agreement in 2026 or even earlier if no changes are made to the London games.

I can imagine a future NFL schedule looking like this, with two games in each location:

  • Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London

  • Wembley Stadium, London

  • Estadio Azteca, Mexico City

  • Stadium Australia, Sydney

  • Waldstadion, Frankfurt

  • Merkur Spiel-Arena, Düsseldorf

  • Maracanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro

  • Japan National Stadium, Tokyo

Beyond that though, I could see additional cities considered. I can see the NFL considering games in Cape Town, Delhi, Dublin, Jakarta, Kinshasa, Kuala Lampur, Paris, Riyadh, Rome, São Paulo, Seoul, Toronto, and (yes) Beijing.

I’ll admit that my plan is ridiculously ambitious, especially for a relatively conservative-moving league like the NFL. Some of those cities on my secondary list may be years away from hosting any sort of NFL game (preseason or otherwise). But regardless, if the NFL wants to keep a 17th game and wants to grow the league internationally, what better way to do both it than by combining the initiatives to create a worldwide spectacle.