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Preps

Just for kicks: A couple of ways to expand the NFL season

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky looks downfield during the season opener against the Packers on Thursday at Soldier Field.
Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky looks downfield during the season opener against the Packers on Thursday at Soldier Field.

Yeah, yelling into the ether about cutting back on the NFL preseason isn't exactly the hottest of hot takes.

But allow me to toss out a plan to go with eliminating all but one NFL preseason game, one that on paper works but I'm sure would never get approval by the players, and for good reason. It's still fun to speculate about though – especially when you think how well three extra regular-season games could be put to use. And especially when you consider the owners want to expand the regular season, and in the end the owners tend to get what they want.

How about one preseason game and a 19-game regular season? Heck, throw in an extra bye week while we're at it.

The preseason is essentially meaningless. You know this, I know this. Matt Nagy knows this. Sure, Mitch Trubisky and the performance of the Bears last week seems like an easy "This is why we need preseason games." After not playing in the preseason, Trubisky let a out a stinker of a game against the Packers.

I'll let guys smarter than me break that down better for you. But I will say this much – if he played in the preseason, I don't think the result would have been any different.

So let's cut the preseason for everyone to one game. Play your starters for a quarter, a half, whatever. Figure out the back end of your roster afterwards. And now we have three extra games in the regular season, which creates limitless possibilities.

Well, two possibilities. But both are really cool.

For starters, you could play each team in your division three times. This boosts rivalries, and makes the winner of the division earn it within the division. The Steelers went 4-1-1 in the AFC North last year, missed the playoffs. The Falcons were 4-2 in the NFC South last year, same as the champion Saints, missed the playoffs.

And how much would Bears fans like two more shots at the Packers? Players, for that matter. Or how would the Patriots like two more chances to smack whatever division foe upsets them, as happens every year.

Of course, maybe you think that's overkill. Fair enough. So how about adding three more cross-conference games. Play the other three teams in the opposite conference that finished in the same spot in the their division as you did.

So take the Bears. They're already playing the AFC West this year. So these three extra games would be against the Texans, Ravens and Patriots. Ramp up the competitive balance even more.

The important thing is, the preseason is beyond worthless and only exists to give owners two extra home games per year. With 19 games, obviously, home-road balance would be impossible but that's easy enough to fix with the preseason game. If you have nine home games in a year, you get the preseason game at home plus 10 home games the next year.

It's easy to look at the proposition of drastically cutting back the preseason and getting excited. But given the health issues already surrounding the sport, expanding to 19 meaningful contests should never happen.

It's still fun to dream about the hypotheticals though.

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