NFL owners and the NFL Players’ Association will continue to negotiate on Thursday and Friday, but it appears that the two sides are getting closer to striking a deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). In fact, the owners have agreed on the new proposal and will now wait for the NFLPA's response.
As ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported on Wednesday, there are two notable changes potentially coming to the format of the NFL season. The first is a 17-game regular season while reducing the preseason to three games, an idea that has been discussed for years now. According to Schefter, that part hasn’t been agreed to yet, and it wouldn’t go into effect until 2021 at the earliest.
That’s likely due to the ambiguity for where that 17th game would be played. In order to avoid giving half of the league an extra home game, the sensible solution would be to have each team play one neutral site game – whether it be abroad or in the U.S. Such option would take time to orchestrate and plan, making it an impossibility to implement prior to the start of the 2020 season. If this eventually gets adopted, players would receive a 48.5% revenue share (up from their current 47% share). That 1.5% would be worth roughly $5 billion, according to Schefter.
What has been agreed upon, Schefter says, is a new postseason format that will add an extra playoff team in each conference. This is expected to go into effect immediately as long as the new CBA is ratified before the start of the season. Assuming this is the case and the deal gets done, only the No. 1 seed would get a bye in each conference. That would add two extra games in the Wild Card Round (six instead of four).
Applying this format to last year’s playoff picture, the Rams and Steelers would have made the postseason as seven seeds and the Packers and Chiefs would have been stripped of their bye weeks.
In my opinion, both options are an obvious money grab for both sides, but the 17-game schedule is easier to stomach. The current four-game preseason is unnecessary, and I love the idea of each team playing one neutral site game.
The addition of a playoff team seems like fixing a system that isn’t broken. I’d actually say that the NFL currently has my favorite postseason format of any professional sports league. There are 16 playoff teams in the NBA and NHL, 53% and 52% of the league, respectively. That’s silly. Teams with sub-.500 records shouldn’t be in playoff contention. The NFL is currently at 37.5% of the league making the playoffs, and that number will jump to 44% under the new format.
The selling point is that more NFL markets will have postseason hopes alive throughout the entire season. That, in addition to the money, is surely why the NHL and NBA haven’t adjusted their formats.
But is there a point where enough is enough? The NFL is already generating north of $15 billion and seems hellbent on capitalizing on America’s unending appetite for football. Even those who bemoan the new playoff format, like me, will still watch every down. And I suppose that’s the point.
There’s not much else to do but shrug your shoulders and embrace the looming changes of the new CBA.