On Tuesday, NFL owners approved the vote to officially expand regular season games from 16 to 17 beginning this season.
The 17-game season was part of the new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, which was ratified last March. The incorporation of the additional game comes exactly 44 years to the date of when the NFL adopted the 16-game schedule from the previously arranged 14 games in 1977.
The season will now consist of 272 games (from 256), with each of the league’s 32 teams playing 17 games during an 18-week period with a standard Bye week. Given the expansion of the regular season, Super Bowl LVI will now be pushed one week later, from Feb. 6 to Feb. 13, 2022.
Additionally, with the added 17th game, the standard four-game preseason has been reduced to three games.
Of note, the league is looking to take this new inventory of games internationally in the future as well. All 32 teams will play internationally at least once in an eight-year period beginning in 2022.
“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.”
So, what does this mean for the 49ers? With the addition of the 17th game, the 49ers will now add a road game against the Cincinnati Bengals onto their slate of regular season matchups in 2021.
According to the league’s formula, the 17th game will be between two inter-conference teams who played one another two seasons prior and finished in the same spot in their own division the year prior.
This year, AFC teams were awarded the extra home game. Home games will rotate conferences each season.
In addition to San Francisco’s divisional opponents (Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks), the 49ers will also face the NFC North and AFC South in 2021. The 49ers will also see the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles, as both teams also finished last in their respective divisions last season. Click here to see a full breakdown of the 49ers 2021 opponents.
The official 2021 schedule, with playing dates and times, will be announced later this spring on NFL Network, NFL.com and 49ers.com.