2018 NFL season

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2018 National Football League season
Regular season
Duration September 6, 2018 (2018-09-06) – December 30, 2018 (2018-12-30)
Playoffs
Start date January 5, 2019
Super Bowl LIII
Date February 3, 2019
Site Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
Pro Bowl
Date January 27, 2019
Site Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida

The 2018 NFL season will be the 99th season of the National Football League (NFL). The season is set to begin on September 6, 2018 with the NFL Kickoff Game with the defending Super Bowl LII champion Philadelphia Eagles hosting the Atlanta Falcons. The season will conclude with Super Bowl LIII, the league's championship game, on February 3, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

Player movement[edit]

The 2018 NFL League year and trading period began on March 14. On March 9, clubs were allowed to exercise options for 2018 on players who have option clauses in their contracts, submit qualifying offers to their pending restricted free agents, and submit a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2017 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agent credit. Teams were required to be under the salary cap using the "Top-51" definition (in which the 51 highest paid-players on the team's payroll must have a combined salary cap hit below the actual cap). On March 12, clubs were allowed to contact and enter into contract negotiations with the agents of players who were set to become unrestricted free agents.

Free agency[edit]

Over 550 players were eligible for some form of free agency during the free agency period.[1] Notable players to change teams include:

Trades[edit]

Retirements[edit]

  • Kam Chancellor: The four-time Pro Bowler and two-time second team All-Pro safety retired July 1 due to a neck injury. He played his entire eight-year career with the Seattle Seahawks.
  • Antonio Cromartie: The four-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro cornerback, who shares the league record for most yards gained on a play (109 on a missed field goal return) and led the league in interceptions in 2008, announced his retirement after an 11-year career. Cromartie played for the then-San Diego Chargers, New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, and Indianapolis Colts over the course of his career, before spending the entire 2017 season as an unsigned free agent.[27]
  • Dwight Freeney: The 16-year veteran defensive end, who spent most of his career with the Indianapolis Colts, retired April 19. He appeared in seven Pro Bowls, was a four-time All-Pro and led the NFL in sacks during the 2004 season.[28]
  • James Harrison: The 15-year NFL veteran linebacker, four-time All-Pro, and five-time Pro Bowler who spent the peak of his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers announced his retirement, at the age of 39, on April 16.[29]
  • Devin Hester: The four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro return specialist holds the NFL record for most all-time return touchdowns (punt and kickoff combined) and most all-time punt return touchdowns.[30] He is widely regarded as one of the best return specialists in NFL history, and was the first person to return the opening kick of the Super Bowl back for a touchdown. Hester, who had spent 2017 out of football, played 11 seasons in the NFL, the majority of them with the Chicago Bears.[31][32][33]
  • Richie Incognito announced his retirement April 10. The retirement was part of a string of erratic behavior and inconsistent statements on Incognito's part, the only consistent thread being an ongoing contract dispute with his current team, the Buffalo Bills, who have listed him as retired on their roster. Incognito has appeared in four Pro Bowls over the course of a 12-season career with the Bills, Miami Dolphins and then-St. Louis Rams, with most of his success coming in Buffalo. He was released from his contract on May 21 and is free to sign with any team.
  • Nick Mangold: The seven-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro retired after 11 seasons, all with the New York Jets. He had spent the 2017 season out of football after the Jets released him.[34]
  • Carson Palmer: The 38 year old quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, who had previously played on the Cincinnati Bengals (who drafted Palmer first overall in 2003) and Oakland Raiders, retired after the 2017 season. The 2002 Heisman Trophy winner appeared in three Pro Bowls, was a second team All-Pro in 2015, and led the NFL in passing yards in 2005.[35][36]
  • Darrelle Revis: The seven-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro spent 11 seasons in the NFL, eight of them with the New York Jets. At his peak, he was one of the most dominant, well-paid, and awarded cornerbacks in the league (only Deion Sanders has had more All-Pro nominations at the position); his level of play had diminished rapidly by the time of his retirement. He announced his retirement July 18.[37]
  • Joe Thomas: The ten-time Pro Bowler and seven-time All-Pro offensive tackle retired after an 11-year career with the Cleveland Browns, a career in which he spent much of that time as the Browns' franchise player in an era where the team otherwise performed poorly on the field.[38] A deteriorating left knee contributed to Thomas's retirement.[39]
  • Jason Witten: The eleven time Pro Bowler and two time First-team All-Pro Tight end played 15 seasons, all with the Dallas Cowboys. He ranks second all time among tight ends in career receptions and receiving yards. He will be working for ESPN as their Monday Night Football color commentator.[40]

Other retirements

Draft[edit]

The 2018 NFL Draft was held from April 26 to 28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. This was the first draft to take place in an NFL stadium, and the first to be held in Texas.[57] The Cleveland Browns selected Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick.

Officiating changes[edit]

Four referees retired during the 2018 off-season, the most to do so since records on the statistics have been kept.[58]

  • Ed Hochuli: At the time of his retirement, Hochuli was the league's longest-tenured referee, having served with the league for 28 seasons, 26 as a head referee. He will be succeeded by his son, Shawn Hochuli.[59]
  • Terry McAulay: McAulay spent 20 seasons as an official, 17 as a head referee, and officiated three Super Bowls. McAulay will work as a rules analyst for NBC's Sunday Night Football.[58] Shawn Smith, an umpire since 2015, was promoted to replace McAulay.[60][61]
  • Gene Steratore: Steratore spent 15 seasons as an official and was the referee of Super Bowl LII. Staratore was involved in the controversial ruling known as the Calvin Johnson rule, as well as the infamous use of an index card during a game between the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys. He was one of two officials who also covered NCAA Division I basketball games. Steratore accepted an offer from CBS to fill its rules analyst position, which had been vacant since 2015.[58] Umpire Clay Martin was promoted to referee to replace Steratore.[62]
  • Jeff Triplette: Triplette had spent 22 years as an official with the NFL, 19 as a head referee, and was pushed into retirement after experiencing confusion in several games late in the 2017 season. Alex Kemp will replace Triplette.[59]

Rule changes[edit]

The following playing rule changes have been approved by the Competition Committee for the 2018 season:[63]

  • Make permanent the current rule that changes the spot of the ball after a touchback on a kickoff to the 25 yard line. Prior to 2017, the ball was placed at the 20 yard line.
  • Update the standards for a "catch" to have:
    • Two feet down or any body part other than the hands
    • Control of the ball
    • Make a "football move" such as making a 3rd step, reaching/extending to the line to gain, tucking the ball away, warding off defensive players, or have the ability to perform such an act.
    The rule for receivers who were going to the ground during the catch process has been deleted. This is in response to several issues regarding the "going to the ground" rule, especially catches by Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant in the 2014 NFL playoffs and one by Pittsburgh Steelers TE Jesse James in 2017 that were overturned due to this rule.
  • Allow a designated member of the officiating department (For 2018, NFL Senior VP of Officiating Al Riveron) to instruct game officials to disqualify any player who commits a flagrant non-football act on the field for a foul called on the field. This is in response to a situation where New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski intentionally inflicted a late hit on Buffalo Bills defensive back Tre'Davious White causing a concussion to White. Gronkowski was not ejected for the foul on the field, but did receive a one-game suspension after the NFL's review of the play.
  • Illegally batting a ball on a scrimmage down will incur a loss of down in addition to the previous 10 yard penalty.
  • In overtime, when a team is ahead by 3 points, a down will run to its conclusion and all applicable points will score, even if there is a loss of possession. Previously, the offense of the trailing team could not legally score if they lost and regained possession and reached the opponent's end zone all on the same play. The rule remains that if there is a double change of possession on a play with one team in the lead, it is the last play of the game.
  • If a team scores a touchdown on the final play of regulation which gives them the victory, no extra-point conversion try will be needed.[64]

The following are points of emphasis for the 2018 season: [65]

  • Sportsmanship (particularly flagrant hits and non-football acts) will be strictly enforced by penalties and ejections.
  • Pass Interference (both offensive and defensive) will be more strictly enforced.
  • Runners (quarterbacks/running backs) who "give themselves up" will be down at the point the first body part (regardless if the slide is head first or feet first) hits the ground, and they must give themselves up early. If a defender is committed to a tackle when the runner gives himself up then it's a legal play. Late hits will be penalized 15 yards as they are currently.
  • Defenders are responsible to avoid landing on the quarterback when going to the ground.
  • Strictly enforcing the rule that initiating contact to the head/neck area of the long snapper on punts/PAT/Field Goals is a foul (15 yards).
  • "Gunners" on punts who go out of bounds must make an effort to get back inbounds, or risk a five yard penalty.
  • Players will avoid contact with opponents when hearing the whistle for stopping forward progress or the play is over. Unnecessary or forcible actions against an opponent after the whistle will result in a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.

The following bylaws and resolutions were passed:[66]

  • Make permanent the liberalization of workout rules for draft prospects.
  • For a one-year trial period, liberalize the rules for re-signing a player on waivers.
  • Players on injured reserve can be traded.
  • Players with injuries deemed major can be placed directly on injured reserve without clearing waivers.
  • The 10-day postseason waiver claiming period has been reduced to 1 day.
  • Players can be activated from injured reserve after eight games instead of eight weeks.
  • Teams have seven business days to complete an injury settlement instead of five.
  • Players in certain reserve list categories cannot be reinstated after a team's week 13 game. This restriction was previously applied to the last 30 days of the regular season.
  • Clarify roster procedures for players with military obligations.
  • For a one-year trial period, teams may contact a player who has been publicly announced to be released before the NFL lists the transaction on a Player Personnel Notice.

The following changes to the kickoff rules were approved at the NFL Spring Owners' Meeting on May 23, 2018:[67]

  • Players are required to line up for the kickoff as follows:
    • Five players on the kicking team must be on either side of the kicker
    • Two players on each side must be lined up outside of the numbers and two additional players on each side must be lined up between the numbers and the hashmarks
    • Players on the kicking team (excluding the kicker) may only line up within one yard of the kickoff spot (currently this is limited to five yards)
    • The receiving team must have eight players in a fifteen-yard "set-up zone" (from the restraining line ten yards from the kickoff spot, fifteen yards back)
  • No wedge blocks. Players would only be able to do a double-team block within the "set-up zone".
  • Blocking is prohibited inside the restraining zone (10 yards from the kickoff spot) until the ball touches the ground or is touched in the field of play.
  • Once a kickoff lands in the end zone, it would become an automatic touchback. Players will no longer have to "kneel" in the end zone to stop the play.
  • Any player(s) being disqualified are subject to replay review.
  • It is now a foul (15 yards) for players to lower their helmet to initiate and make contact with an opposing player. The fouling player risks disqualification if:
    • Player lowers his helmet to establish a linear body posture prior to initiating or making contact with the helmet
    • Player delivering the blow had an unobstructed path to his opponent
    • Contact was clearly avoidable (player delivering the blow had other options)

In response to the recent National Anthem protests in the league the past two seasons, any player or staff member who is on the field during the performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" must stand for the duration of the performance. Such players and staff members are not required to be on the field at that time and may wait in the locker room as an alternative. The NFL will not directly fine offending players or staff members for defying the rule, instead fining the teams, who will in turn have power to fine the players or staff members at their own discretion. The National Football League Players Association filed a grievance with the league over the policy on July 11.

2018 deaths[edit]

The following people associated with the NFL (or AFL) have died in 2018.

Preseason[edit]

Training camps for the 2018 season will be held in late July through August. Teams start training camp no earlier than 15 days before the team's first scheduled preseason game.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, that featured the Baltimore Ravens defeating the Chicago Bears 17–16, was played on August 2;[68] and was televised nationally by NBC. The Ravens, who made their first Hall of Fame Game appearance, were represented in the 2018 Hall of Fame class by former linebacker Ray Lewis, while the Bears were represented by former linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Regular season[edit]

The 2018 regular season's 256 games will be played over a 17-week schedule that will begin on September 6. Each of the league's 32 teams plays a 16-game schedule, with one bye week for each team. The slate also features games on Monday Nights. There are games played on Thursdays, including the National Football League Kickoff game in prime time on September 6 and games on Thanksgiving Day. The regular season will conclude with a full slate of 16 games on December 30, all of which will be intra-division matchups, as it has been since 2010.

Scheduling formula

Under the NFL's current scheduling formula, each team plays the other three teams in its own division twice. In addition a team plays against all four teams in one other division from each conference. The final two games on a team's schedule are against the two teams in the team's own conference in the divisions the team was not set to play which finished the previous season in the same rank in their division (e.g. the team which finished first in its division the previous season would play each other team in its conference that also finished first in its respective division). The preset division pairings for 2018 will be as follows.

    Intra-conference
AFC East vs AFC South
AFC West vs AFC North
NFC East vs NFC South
NFC West vs NFC North

   Inter-conference
AFC East vs NFC North
AFC North vs NFC South
AFC South vs NFC East
AFC West vs NFC West

The entire season schedule was released on April 19, 2018. Highlights of the 2018 season include:

Saturday flexible scheduling[edit]

When the entire season schedule was released on April 19, 2018, the league announced flexible scheduling for Saturday games in weeks 15 and 16. The final kickoff times for these games will be announced no later than week 8:[74]

  • In week 15, either the TexansJets or the BrownsBroncos game will kick off at 4:30 p.m. EST, while the other will start at 8:20 p.m. EST.
  • In week 16, two of the following four games will be moved to Saturday, December 22 on the NFL Network, with start times of 4:30 p.m. and 8:20 p.m. EST, while the other two will remain on Sunday: RavensChargers, JaguarsDolphins, GiantsColts, and RedskinsTitans. This is the first time that games will be rescheduled to a different day (excluding games rescheduled due to severe weather).

Postseason[edit]

The 2018 playoffs will begin on the weekend of January 5–6, 2019 with the Wild Card Playoff round the four winners of these playoff games will visit the top two seeds in each conference of the Divisional round games the weekend of January 12-13. The winners of those games will advance to the Conference championship games on January 20. The 2019 Pro Bowl will be held at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida on January 27. Super Bowl LIII will be held on February 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, on CBS.

Head coaching and front office personnel changes[edit]

Head coaches[edit]

Off-season[edit]

Team 2017 head coach 2018 replacement Reason for leaving Notes
Arizona Cardinals Bruce Arians Steve Wilks Retired Arians retired from coaching following the 2017 season, finishing the season with a record of 8–8 (.500) and a cumulative record of 49–30–1 (.619) with two playoff appearances.[75] Wilks was hired on January 22, after serving as a defensive coach for the Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, and Carolina Panthers since 2006. Wilks's only previous head coaching experience was at Savannah State in 1999.[76]
Chicago Bears John Fox Matt Nagy Fired Fox was fired after the final game of the 2017 season, finishing the season with a record of 5–11 (.313) and a cumulative record of 14–34 (.292) with no playoff appearances.[77] Nagy spent the past five seasons as an offensive assistant with the Kansas City Chiefs, the last two as offensive coordinator; the Bears hired Nagy on January 8 and this will be his first NFL head coaching job.[78]
Detroit Lions Jim Caldwell Matt Patricia Caldwell was fired after the final game of the 2017 season, finishing the season with a record of 9–7 (.563) and a cumulative record of 36–28 (.563) with two playoff appearances, but having never won a playoff game as head coach of the Lions.[79] Patricia was hired on February 5, the day after losing Super Bowl LII as the New England Patriots defensive coordinator. He had spent his entire NFL career with the Patriots, starting in 2004 as an offensive assistant before working his way up to defensive coordinator in 2012, winning 3 Super Bowls. This will be his first head coaching job.[80]
Indianapolis Colts Chuck Pagano Frank Reich Pagano was fired after the final game of the 2017 season, finishing the season with a record of 4–12 (.250), his first losing season as Colts' head coach, and a cumulative record of 53–43 (.552) with three playoff appearances.[81] The Colts signed Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, who was previously a Colts' assistant from 2008–2011. This will be Reich's first head coaching job.[82]
New York Giants Ben McAdoo Pat Shurmur McAdoo became the Giants' head coach in 2016, leading the Giants to a 13–15 (.464) record over parts of two seasons with one playoff appearance. After accruing a 2–10 (.167) record and benching starter Eli Manning during the season, he was fired on December 4, 2017, and replaced in the interim by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.[83] Shurmur was announced as the Giants' new head coach on January 22. He had previously served as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns from 2011 to 2012, compiling a record of 9–23 (.281), and an offensive coach for the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings since 2013.[84]
Oakland Raiders Jack Del Rio Jon Gruden Del Rio was fired after the 2017 season, finishing the season with a record of 6–10 (.375) and a cumulative record of 25–23 (.521) with one playoff appearance.[85] Gruden, who previously coached the Raiders from 1998 to 2001 and won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the end of the 2002 season, confirmed on-air on January 6, that he would be returning to the team as coach. He had spent the previous nine seasons as an on-air analyst for Monday Night Football.[86]
Tennessee Titans Mike Mularkey Mike Vrabel Mutual decision Mularkey and the Titans agreed to part ways after they "couldn't come to an agreement over the future," two days after the Titans' playoff loss to the Patriots. Mularkey had a cumulative record of 20–21 (.488) with one playoff appearance in parts of three seasons with the Titans and guided Tennessee to back-to-back 9–7 (.563) records in his two years as the team's full-time head coach.[87] Vrabel spent the past three seasons as a defensive assistant with the Houston Texans, the last as defensive coordinator; the Titans hired Vrabel on January 20 and this will be his first NFL head coaching job.[88]

Front office personnel[edit]

Off-season[edit]

Team Position 2017 office holder 2017 interim 2018 replacement Reason for leaving Notes
Cleveland Browns VP/GM Sashi Brown John Dorsey Fired Brown was fired on December 7, 2017. He had been the team's attorney since 2013 and de facto general manager since 2016.[89] Dorsey was named the new general manager hours later.[90]
Green Bay Packers GM Ted Thompson Brian Gutekunst Reassigned Thompson, who had been the team's general manager since 2005, became the team's senior advisor to football operations.[91] Brian Gutekunst, who had been the team's director of player personnel since 2016, was promoted to become the team's new general manager on January 7.[92]
Houston Texans GM Rick Smith Brian Gaine Medical leave Smith announced that he would take a leave of absence to care for his wife, who is battling breast cancer. He will remain Executive Vice President of Football Operations.[93] Former Buffalo Bills' vice president of player personnel, Brian Gaine, was named the new general manager on January 13, 2018. Previously, Gaine was Texans' director of pro personnel and then director of player personnel from 2014 to 2016.[94]
New York Giants GM Jerry Reese Kevin Abrams Dave Gettleman Fired Having been in the organization since 1994, Reese was the Giants' general manager since 2007, leading them to two Super Bowl championships and several years of success. He was fired on December 4 along with head coach Ben McAdoo. He was replaced in the interim by assistant general manager Kevin Abrams.[95] Dave Gettleman, previously general manager of the Carolina Panthers and a 14-year veteran of the Giants' front office (from 1999 to 2012), was hired on December 28, 2017.[96]
Buffalo Bills President Russ Brandon Kim Pegula Resigned Brandon resigned his position on May 1, 2018. A newspaper report claimed that Brandon was the subject of an internal investigation regarding his personal conduct and workplace behavior, which neither the Bills nor Brandon mentioned in separate statements regarding his departure; Brandon stated he is seeking other opportunities after spending 20 years with the Bills franchise. He was immediately succeeded by co-owner Kim Pegula.[97]

Stadiums[edit]

Two teams, the Carolina Panthers and Oakland Raiders, are entering the final year of their lease agreements with their current stadium.

Carolina Panthers[edit]

On December 17, 2017, Jerry Richardson, the Panthers' founding owner, announced he was putting the team up for sale.[98][99] Richardson had previously indicated the team would be put up for sale after his death,[100] but Richardson was accused of paying hush money to cover up questionable conduct, including racial slurs and sexually suggestive requests of employees, hastening Richardson's decision.[101] The Panthers' lease on Bank of America Stadium expires after the 2018 season,[102] which would allow any incoming owner to relocate the team out of Charlotte, North Carolina, to another market if they so desired, only being liable for the remaining debt from stadium renovation. At an estimated $35 million, the debt payment would be a small expense compared to the relocation fee the NFL charged for the two teams that relocated in 2016 and 2017.[103] The two most likely candidates to buy the team as of May 2018 were David Tepper, a hedge fund manager with a higher net worth and a minority stake in the Pittsburgh Steelers but fewer ties to Charlotte; and Ben Navarro, a financial services CEO based in Charlotte who had the backing of Richardson's only living son.[104] Tepper was announced as the new owner on May 16, with the announcement coming in time for the league to vote on his bid at the owners meeting on May 19.[105] The sale closed on July 9 with Richardson-era chief operating officer Tina Becker (who ran the franchise after Richardson stepped away from operations) resigning. Tepper immediately stated the franchise would retain the Carolina Panthers name for the time being, but that a new stadium would likely be necessary; he stated that he hoped to build said stadium in Charlotte but would not guarantee the team remains there, claiming he did not know enough about the situation to guarantee the team stays in the Charlotte area.[106]

Oakland Raiders[edit]

The Raiders, prior to the 2017 season, committed to relocating to Las Vegas, Nevada, once a new stadium is constructed for them in 2020. In 2016, the Raiders signed a three-year extension with the Oakland Coliseum.[107] The Raiders could choose to stay in the Oakland Coliseum for 2019 with another year-to-year extension or move to Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, which is undersized but (because of the Los Angeles Chargers' use of the even smaller StubHub Center) would not be the smallest stadium in the NFL. Management at the Oakland Coliseum has indicated they are unwilling to extend their agreement with the Raiders after 2018, which could force the team to move to Sam Boyd Stadium in 2019.[108] In order to secure another season in Oakland, California, Coliseum management indicated in September 2017 that the Raiders would need to offer major concessions to compensate for the financial losses the Coliseum incurs by hosting Raiders games.[109]

Naming rights agreements[edit]

Denver Broncos[edit]

On June 20, the Denver Broncos' home stadium was renamed Broncos Stadium at Mile High.[110] The sporting goods chain Sports Authority had held naming rights to the stadium's field (as "Sports Authority Field at Mile High") but had gone out of business in 2016. The previous signage referring to Sports Authority was removed in March.[111][112] The Broncos hope to resell the naming rights to the stadium to another corporate sponsor in the near future.[110]

Jacksonville Jaguars[edit]

On February 16, EverBank Field, the home field of the Jacksonville Jaguars, was renamed TIAA Bank Field, after TIAA's 2017 acquisition of EverBank. The naming rights agreement was for 10 years and $43 million.[113]

Uniforms[edit]

Color Rush discontinuation[edit]

The Color Rush program has been discontinued, and teams will no longer be required to wear the special uniforms for Thursday Night Football. Initial plans, which were finalized at the league's owners meeting in May, are for teams to have the option to continue using the existing Nike designs for the program as standard third jerseys. [114][115]

Uniform changes[edit]

  • Chicago Bears: The Bears brought back their orange alternate jerseys that the team wore from 2005–2009 and 2011. The team announced that the orange uniforms will be worn twice in 2018, and the team will use the navy blue "Monsters of the Midway" throwbacks for one undetermined game.[116]
  • Jacksonville Jaguars: On April 19, the Jaguars simplified their uniforms to resemble their original teal jerseys used in their early years. Gold was also eliminated from their previous jerseys.[117]
  • Los Angeles Rams: On July 27, the Rams announced that due to overwhelming fan demand the NFL relaxed their alternate uniform policy and has permitted them to use their royal blue and yellow throwbacks as their color jerseys for the next two seasons until they present entirely new ones in 2020. When using their white jerseys, the team will still have to use their current set carried over from St. Louis albeit from slight modifications they made to them in 2017.[118]
  • Miami Dolphins: On April 19, the Dolphins altered their jerseys to more take after their classic aqua-and-orange look.[119]
  • Tennessee Titans: On April 4, the Titans introduced new uniforms. Most prominent among the changes is the helmet, which is changing from the white color the team had used since the 1970s (as the Houston Oilers) to navy blue. The color patterns are also simplified, with a new number typeface inspired both by Greek lettering and the shape of the state of Tennessee.[120]

Throwback uniforms[edit]

  • Pittsburgh Steelers: On May 30, the Steelers unveiled a throwback uniform, that was worn in the late 1970s. Team owner Art Rooney II announced that the team will wear the uniforms for one game.[121]
  • San Francisco 49ers: On May 23, 49ers unveiled a new all-white throwback uniform, that was worn in 1994, the year the team won its most recent Super Bowl. The team announced that they will be worn for two games.[122]

Patches[edit]

Media[edit]

Broadcast rights[edit]

Television[edit]

This will be the fifth year under the current broadcast contracts with ESPN, CBS, Fox, and NBC. This includes "cross-flexing" (switching) Sunday afternoon games between CBS and Fox before or during the season (regardless of the conference of the visiting team). NBC will continue to air Sunday Night Football, the annual Kickoff game, and the primetime Thanksgiving game. ESPN will continue to air Monday Night Football and the Pro Bowl. CBS will broadcast Super Bowl LIII.

On January 31, the NFL announced that Fox had acquired the broadcast television rights to the Thursday Night Football package under a five-year deal (aligned with the remainder of the NFL's current broadcast contracts). Fox will air 11 games, along with the 2018 NFL Draft (the first time the event has aired on over-the-air television),[125] in simulcast with NFL Network,[126][127] with the remaining games in the package airing exclusively on NFL Network to satisfy its carriage contracts.[128] CBS and NBC had made bids to renew their previous contracts (CBS had held the rights since 2014, joined by NBC since 2016), but were reluctant to pay a higher rights fee due to the league's ratings downturn.[129]

Digital[edit]

The NFL agreed to an extension of its digital rights agreement with Verizon Communications under a 5-year, $2.5 billion deal. Unlike the previous deal, it no longer includes exclusivity for streaming in-market and nationally-televised NFL games on mobile devices with screens 7 inches (18 cm) or less in size (such as smartphones), in order to account for changes in viewing habits, but still includes enhanced access to highlights and other digital content for Verizon-owned properties. In addition, Verizon announced that it would no longer make these streams exclusive to Verizon Wireless subscribers, and would leverage its portfolio of media brands (such as Yahoo!, which it acquired in 2017) to distribute them to a larger audience.[130][131] All of the NFL's current television partners have added mobile streaming rights (which were previously reserved to Verizon) to their existing contracts for the 2018 season.[132][133]

On April 26, 2018, the NFL announced that it had reached a two-year extension of its agreement with Amazon for shared digital rights to the Thursday Night Football games simulcast with Fox, with a 15% increase in rights fees. To fulfill a request that the streams be available freely, the games will also be made available on Twitch, an Amazon-owned streaming service that was originally designed for video game streaming.[134]

Radio[edit]

Both of the NFL's national radio contracts, Westwood One for English language[135] and Entravision for Spanish language,[136] expired after the 2017 season. Westwood One's parent company Cumulus Media filed for bankruptcy in November 2017[137] and began terminating national broadcast contracts and sports agreements in January 2018,[138][139] putting any contract extensions on hold. The company emerged from bankruptcy on June 4, 2018.[140]

With the release of the 2018 schedule, NFL.com listed ESPN Deportes Radio (which had shared NFL rights with Entravision in 2017 and had carried Super Bowl LII[141]) as the league's national Spanish-language broadcaster. The national English-language broadcaster was still identified as Westwood One, which Westwood One has also confirmed;[142] no press release has been issued in regard to a contract extension with that network, and it is unknown when the current arrangement was signed or when it will end.

Personnel changes[edit]

All four broadcast partners will employ rules analysts for the 2018 season, citing changes in the league's rules that have become too complicated for its broadcast teams to handle.[58]

ESPN will introduce a fully new broadcast team for Monday Night Football. Joe Tessitore will replace Sean McDonough as lead play-by-play man; McDonough will remain with ESPN as a college football announcer.[143][144] With previous color analyst Jon Gruden returning to coaching, Monday Night Football will return to its traditional three-person booth, with Jason Witten and Booger McFarland joining the broadcast team as analysts, while Lisa Salters, the sideline reporter, carries over from the previous broadcast team.[145] Jeff Triplette will replace Gerald Austin as rules analyst.[146]

Fox initially had planned to hire a new broadcast team for its Thursday Night Football, making an overture to Peyton Manning to serve as color commentator. Since Manning declined the offer, the network announced that it will be placing its existing lead broadcast team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman on the package (with an alternate play-by-play announcer during October and Buck's duties for the Major League Baseball postseason), reducing the number of games the duo will call on Sundays.[147] A version of Fox NFL Sunday will serve as the lead-in to Thursday Night Football, albeit without Curt Menefee or Jimmy Johnson; the show will instead be hosted by panelist Michael Strahan from New York City, displacing Rich Eisen, the studio host for Thursday night pregame since the package's inception in 2006.[148] Strahan will be joined by fellow Fox colleagues Terry Bradshaw and Howie Long.

Start time changes[edit]

The start times for Thursday, Sunday, and Monday Night Football broadcasts will be moved up 5 to 15 minutes. Thursday and Sunday Night games will now kick off at 8:20 p.m. ET, while Monday Night games will now kick off at 8:15 p.m. ET.[74]

References[edit]

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