The NFL season could soon be undergoing some major changes.
According to the Washington Post, the NFL and the NFLPA have made some serious progress in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and there's now a possibility that a new deal could be in place by the time the Super Bowl is played on Feb. 2.
As the two sides get deeper into negotiations, the Post has reported that it's looking "increasingly likely" that the new CBA will expand the regular season from 16 games to 17 games and cut down on the total amount of preseason games that each team would play. The new CBA would also expand the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams. Since the current CBA runs through the 2020 season, the changes wouldn't kick in until the 2021 season, which means a 17-game season wouldn't actually happen until September 2021.
The NFL has been trying to expand the regular season for years, but the NFLPA has continuously shot the idea down due to multiple reasons, including player safety and the fact that they want to make sure that players are fairly compensated for playing an extra game.
The NFL had originally been hoping to get the NFLPA to agree to an 18-game regular season, but theand started focusing on a 17-game season. Although player safety is a serious issue for the NFL, Roger Goodell why he would be on board with expanding the regular season.
"We've had very fruitful discussion on it, discussing the positives and negatives, and the changes to the game that we've made over the last 10 years, which I think are really important as it relates to the safety of the game and how we're preparing and practicing, and training our players," Goodell said in October. "I think those changes have made a significant impact in a positive way, and so that is something we'll continue to discuss."
To get the NFLPA to agreed to an expanded regular season, the NFL had to make several concessions. According to the Post, it's not yet clear what the concessions were, but it's possible the NFLPA could look to get the NFL's marijuana policy changed and to get the league to change the rookie compensation system, a system that hasn't been working out so well for mid-level players.
Although it's not completely clear how a 17-game season would work, it's likely that each team would play one neutral site game, which is an idea that Packers President Mark Murphy.
"There's some things that we can do in the season structure that would allow us to play more games at neutral sites, either internationally or non-NFL cities that would help us grow the game," Murphy said in July.
The other big change that could be coming with a new CBA is playoff expansion. Once the new CBA kicks in, the league is hoping to expand the postseason from 12 to 14 teams. If that happens, a total of seven teams from each conference would make the playoffs, instead of six, which is how many make it under the current format. As, a new playoff format would mean that only one team from each conference would get a bye.
For instance, here's what the wild-card round would look like in each conference.
- No. 1 seed: Bye
- No. 2 vs. No. 7
- No. 3 vs. No. 6
- No. 4 vs. No. 5
The new format would mean that there would be a total of six games on Wild-Card Weekend, which would be two more than we currently get now. With more games, the NFL has been floating the idea of moving at least one game to a Monday night, according to the Post.
As crazy as a Monday playoff game sounds, Goodell has actually suggested it before. During an interview in 2014, the NFL commissioner said that we could eventually see playoff games being played on Monday or Friday if the league ever expanded.
"The big discussion would be the first weekend," Goodell said. "The Wild Card Weekend of the playoffs. How would you structure that? We're looking at every alternative. Could you play a game on Friday night? Two on Saturday, two on Sunday and another one on Monday. You want to balance all that with the competitive issues that come with that. Is that a smart thing for us to do. Those are the things that we're going to be studying."
The league could also skip the weekday games and hold a triple-header on both Saturday and Sunday. If playoff and regular season expansion happens, that means the NFL would play an extra week or two into February, because Goodell has made it clear that the regular season will still kick off the week after Labor Day no matter how the CBA shakes out.
No matter what happens, the league is going to undergoing some big changes in the next year or two. As long as things don't fall apart at the negotiating table, it's looking more and more like a 17-game season and a 14-team playoff field will be coming to the NFL in the near future.