By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
The NFL has seen no structural change since the addition of the Houston Texans led to league realignment in 2002. That could change in a big way as early as next week.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the latest CBA proposal could add an 18th week to the NFL’s regular season, and bump the number of playoff teams from each conference from six to seven. That change would go into place for the 2020 season.
The new format would see just one team from each conference get a bye, while the second seed would play on an expanded Wild Card Weekend featuring six games instead of the current four. The new Wild Card Weekend would look like this for each conference:
No. 1 seed-Bye
No. 7 @ No. 2
No. 6 @ No. 3
No. 5 @ No. 4
The top seed would then play the lowest remaining seed in the Divisional Round, and the process is unchanged from there. If this had been the case in 2019, the Rams and Steelers both would have made the playoffs as Wild Card teams, while the Chiefs and Packers would not have received first-round byes.
This latest proposal also includes a shift from the 16-game regular season schedule, which has been in place since 1978, to a 17-game schedule that would simultaneously eliminate one preseason game. While the playoff change has “been agreed to for a long time” according to one of Schefter’s sources, the added regular season game is one of the final sticking points in the discussion. Where the game would come from in the context of the NFL’s scheduling formula has yet to be reported.
Enticing players to agree to the added games is a reported revenue shift worth $5 billion. Their share would go from the current 47 percent to 48 upon agreeing, with a bump to 48.5 if and when the schedule moves to 17 games.
If the final details can be ironed out, a vote is expected as early as next week’s NFL Combine. While the sides have set a soft deadline of March 18, the current CBA technically runs through this upcoming season. If no agreement is reached after next year’s Super Bowl, there would be a work stoppage.
Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Hate mail? Let him hear it on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at Alexander.Barth@bbgi.com.