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It's Official: NFL - And Cardinals - Have 17-Game Season

Owners approve new plan; Cards will take trip to Cleveland in 2021

Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (left) and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (right) shake hands after the Cards and Browns last played, at State Farm Stadium, in 2019.
Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (left) and Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (right) shake hands after the Cards and Browns last played, at State Farm Stadium, in 2019.

It was inevitable after the players agreed to the new collective bargaining agreement back in March of 2020, but it became official Tuesday when NFL owners finally voted on the subject – the NFL will have a 17-game season in 2021.

The plan is for the extra game to be an interconference matchup between AFC and NFC divisions two years removed from their last meeting, and then going against the team that finished in the same spot in the division.

For the third-place Cardinals, that means a game against the AFC North's third-place Cleveland Browns, and another matchup with Oklahoma Heisman winners Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield.

The home teams will rotate, with the AFC teams getting the home game in 2021, so the Cardinals will have a ninth road game.

Part of the new 17-game season would be the reduction to three preseason games from four. With the extra regular-season game on the road, two of the Cards' three preseason games will be at home.

"It's an extra game, it's extra practice, a chance to get injured," new Cardinals cornerback Malcolm Butler said. "But I don't make the rules. I do my job and I just work. Whatever the situation is, you've just got to deal with it. Whatever helps the Arizona Cardinals win, it's what I'm going to do."

The NFL schedule usually is announced in April, but the Sports Business Journal has reported that the NFL is aiming for the second week of May, post-draft, to put out the 2021 slate of games.

The NFL last changed the length of the season in 1978, when it went from 14 to 16 regular-season games.

"This is a monumental moment in NFL history," commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. "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."

The Cardinals still have to play a "home" game internationally after getting another Super Bowl bid in 2023. They were supposed to play in Mexico City in 2020, but that was canceled because of the pandemic. Goodell said during his annual press conference at the Super Bowl that the league was planning to have international games in 2021.

There is a chance the Cards' game in Mexico could be part of the 2021 schedule. If so, with the new 17th game, the Cards would play 10 of their 17 games away from State Farm Stadium.

Starting in 2022, all 32 teams will play an international game at least once every eight years. The international games will focus initially on sites in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, South America and Europe. Teams can also continue to volunteer to play home games outside the country.

An updated look at the Cardinals' 2021 opponents:

HOME

  • L.A. Rams
  • Seattle Seahawks
  • San Francisco 49ers
  • Green Bay Packers
  • Minnesota Vikings
  • Houston Texans
  • Indianapolis Colts
  • Carolina Panthers

AWAY

  • L.A. Rams
  • Seattle Seahawks
  • San Francisco 49ers
  • Detroit Lions
  • Chicago Bears
  • Tennessee Titans
  • Jacksonville Jaguars
  • Dallas Cowboys
  • Cleveland Browns

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