DALLAS — Updated Tuesday after the NFL owners voted to add a 17th game.
The NFL has officially approved a 17th regular season game starting in the 2021 season.
The new collective bargaining agreement between the NFLPA and the NFL provided an option for the league to add a 17th game to the schedule. On Tuesday, the NFL owners voted to add a regular season. In December, they had approved a formula to determine the opponents for the 17th game while ensuring that it flows with the current scheduling formula.
The approved proposal will accommodate for Game 17 on the NFL regular season schedule by reducing the preseason slate to three games. The 2021 NFL regular season will start on Thursday, Sept. 9 and end on Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022.
Although Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy has not fielded any questions regarding the 17-game format in his media availability during 2021, he did go on the record at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis to explain how eliminating the fourth preseason game would be beneficial in getting ready for the regular season.
"When I think of the 17th game, and I also point to the preseason, I think going to the third preseason game makes total sense," McCarthy said on Feb. 26, 2020. "I think everybody is in agreement on that. The fact that you can potentially have two weeks to get ready for your opener, I like that."
In 2019, the last normal preseason in the NFL as the 2020 preseason was nixed as part of the complications surrounding COVID-19, teams would play their final preseason game on the Thursday before Labor Day weekend. By Saturday midday, they had to be at 53 players on their roster. Then, once the roster was finalized, they could begin preparations for their Week 1 opponent, possibly on Sunday if not Monday at the latest.
For a team playing in the Thursday night Week 1 opener, it means starting the season off on a short week. For a team playing on the first Sunday of the season, it still makes for a jam-packed week.
McCarthy likes having time to cogitate upon the roster moves and have more preparation for the first game's opponent.
"I think it gives you a chance to take a step back because that last week is difficult because you got a number of balls in the air where you're trying to pick your 53, make sure you're giving the young guys the opportunities, but you're also trying to get ready for the opener," said McCarthy. "I think going to three games makes perfect sense. I'm excited about that."
When the NFL finally approves the 17th game, McCarthy and the other coaching staffs from around the league should have plenty to be excited about. For McCarthy, the extra prep time will be especially beneficial as his team will have their slate of preseason games: the Cowboys open up preseason against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio.
In the 17th game of the season, the Cowboys would travel to Gillette Stadium to play the New England Patriots, who defeated them 13-9 in their last meeting on Nov. 24, 2019.
Do you want to see the NFL add another game that matters in the standings to the schedule? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.
Don't miss today's episode of Locked On Cowboys, as hosts Marcus Mosher and Landon McCool discuss the best way for the Cowboys to build their roster going forward and if they can afford to use the No. 10 pick on an offensive playmaker.