The proposal of an 18 game season for the NFL has generated a lot of opinions and arguments, both in favor and against. Some of the arguments are intelligent, well articulated, and debatable. Some of the arguments, though, are a whole lot of horse shit, and that's being generous. It's the latter group of straw men that I want to quickly address here, so we can move on to the more important discussions without these distractions.
One of my favorite BS arguments against an 18 game schedule is how this is just another way for the NFL owners to line their pockets. Really? You mean the billionaire pro sports team owners' club is filled with greedy people? How do you think they got to be billionaires in the first place? More importantly, what exactly does the owners' (and players') greed have to do with whether or not an 18 game regular season will be more enjoyable for us? Nothing. Owners have always been greedy - look at the typical salary of players prior to free agency. The fact that owners are greedy in no way affects the quality of an 18 game season. It may affect your enjoyment of it if you long for the old days, when guys played just for the love of the game. But in that case, you should probably be more concerned about the players' greed and the fact that a rookie quarterback that's never taken a snap in the NFL can get a $50 million contract. If the commercialization of the NFL makes you sick, well, all I can say is, that's why it's called professional sports. Also, stay tuned, as I'm planning an entire article dedicated to greed and the NFL.
Another of the truly laughable arguments is that football should start in September, or that it will be too cold for regular season games in January, or too hot in August. I almost didn't even include this because it's so ridiculous, but I've seen variations on this theme too many times not to include it here. They already play football in August - it's called the preseason! And they already play in January - it's called the playoffs!
What about the history books and statistical records? In nearly every discussion of the 18 game season, someone always bring this up. Every single season record will be shattered and less meaningful. First of all, so what? Records, as they say, are meant to be broken. Does anyone think less of Marino's 5084 passing yards because it happened in a 16 game season instead of 14 or 12? Or do they think less of Tomlinson's 28 rushing touchdowns? I don't know any reasonable person who does. When we look at the record books, we take these things into account, and know that it's impossible to compare Brady's 50 TD passes to anything Unitas did, and not just because of the number of games they played in one season. Perhaps more importantly, though, the idea that every single season record will be broken is just not true. I seriously doubt anyone will ever break Night Train Lane's single season record of 14 interceptions (which he accomplished in 12 games! as a rookie!), even if they went to a 20 game season. There are in fact quite a lot of single season records, by both individuals and teams, that will remain standing for quite some time, if not forever.
Earlier this week, Carson Palmer said, "With 16 games, every game is important and therefore the fans are very into it ... I think if you go to 18, each game kind of loses a little bit of its significance." This is an oft-repeated argument against an expanded regular season. Some fans have gone so far as to compare it to MLB's 162 games, which is absolutely ridiculous. One game in an 18 game season is the same as 9 in a 162 game season. In other words, losing one football game would be the same as getting swept in three successive series in baseball. When that happens to a playoff hopeful team chasing a division leader in baseball towards the end of the season, their season is pretty much over (as it should be). Carson's point that each game loses a bit of significance, though, is at least mathematically correct. Each game of an 18 game season will be about 10% less "significant" than in a 16 game season. Of course, the same argument could be made about going from 14 to 16 games, or from 12 to 14 games, but I don't hear anyone pining for the good ol' days of a 12 game season. Practically speaking, every game will still be critical in getting to the playoffs. If anything, getting in to the playoffs will be harder. I would give good odds no team will ever make the playoffs with a 9-9 record, whereas teams with 8-8 records have done so numerous times (including the Saints). An extra two games will help separate the wheat from the chaff, and will give better teams just a little more time to prove it. After an 0-6 start behind Kerry Collins last year, Vince Young led the Titans to an 8-2 finish and just missed the playoffs. How much would they have loved another two games to beat out the Ravens or Jets for a wildcard spot? And considering how the Jets fell ass-backwards into the playoffs last year, would that really be a bad thing?
The Jet's entry into the playoffs last year brings me to the final silly argument against the 18 game season. (There may be others I'm either unaware of or are just so ridiculous as not to merit a mention.) Opponents claim that there will be more meaningless games at the end of the season when an undefeated team rests its players for as many as four or five weeks before the playoffs. Consider what that implies. Assuming a team were undefeated in their first 14 games, they could only afford to lose the last four if no other team in the conference had more than nine wins. The chances of the second best team in a conference being only 9-5 with four weeks left must be absurdly small. (I did a quick survey of #2 seeds since the division realignment, and only once has a team finished with fewer than 11 wins. That was the 2006 Saints, and they rested their starters and gave an easy win to Carolina in week 17.) The initial instinct of more games will mean more meaningless games at the end of the season isn't just wrong, I think it's very probably backwards. The addition of two games will make it less likely for a team to rest their starters for more than one, maybe two, weeks, because there are more games for others to catch up.
I've covered what I believe to be a series of straw man arguments against the 18 game season, and in the process I'm sure I've insulted some people, bruised some egos, and maybe even made myself look foolish in the process. Feel free to rake me over the coals and explain why any of these arguments are not just reasonable but correct. I won't it take it personally. But please, please, please, keep the comments on point, and don't bring up other arguments against the 18 game season (unless it's to point out another straw man). I promise, I will cover what I think are the legitimate arguments in upcoming articles.