Big NFL changes could be coming in 2020


by - Staff Writer -
Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports
Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports

About a week ago, I wrote an article about the NFL new year and how important it was for both the NFL and the NFLPA to reach a new CBA before that date.

Although the sides appear to be heading in the right direction, there is still a month to go before the new year officially starts. What we do know is that talks are, ongoing and it appears that plenty of changes are set to take place as soon as the 2020 NFL season that could drastically impact the way the game is played.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that of expanding the NFL postseason from six teams in each conference to seven. I am one of the few people that has wanted an expanded playoff field, but I have wanted it to go from six to eight teams in each conference, which would eliminate the first-round byes for the top two seeds. With the NFL having the most teams of the professional sports, expanding the playoffs is long overdue.

When you look at the nature of the NFL, often you have a division that has three teams that could be 10-6 or better with two of those teams making the postseason and one missing out. That is because you have division winners going 8-8 or 9-7 that takes a spot away from a better team. Adding at least one team to the playoff would give another team a chance to make the postseason that comes from a difficult division. Ultimately there would still be one team getting a bye, but this could be the start to an eight-team format down the road.

Had this playoff format been created last year, the Bears would have still been on the outside looking in, but teams like the Rams and Steelers would have gotten in as the seventh seed. That would also mean that both the Chiefs and the Packers would not have gotten a first-round bye, so that could have made things interesting.

The other big debate going on with the new CBA is that of the regular season schedule with hopes of it going from 16 to 17 games. The NFL is all about money, and adding a regular-season game certainly would bring in more. For that to happen, there needs to be some give and take, which falls on the preseason.

For the longest time, nearly every fan has said a four-game preseason is way too long. With the new proposed 17 game schedule, preseason would be cut down to three games, while I still think a two-game preseason is plenty long enough. Talks of extending the regular season has been going on for some time, and players have even tried to propose an 18-game regular season over a 17 game.

Although an 18-game season seems a bit farfetched, does the 17-game season along with a shortened preseason and extra playoff team move the meter on a new CBA? Players want to get paid just as much as the owners do, so the more regular-season games they play, the more they get paid. That could also lead to a bigger increase in cap space, which could go a long way in determining future signings.

As for getting the new CBA done before the March 18 new year, both sides seem very optimistic that it will happen, and some say it may even get done by next week. What we know right now is that owners and other important executives are heading to New York, which only makes sense if they are on the verge of agreeing on something.

It appears significant progress has been made as opposed to where it was a few weeks ago, but the 17- game season still seems to be the main hurdle to clear. As we approach the new NFL year, both sides want to get this done as quickly as possible. It looks like all parties are moving in the right direction now, which bodes well for the two sides to agree.

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