The Future of the NFL Schedule

According to NFL reporter Mark Maske, the NFL is expected to shave off the 4th and final week of the preseason in the future.

This would likely be negotiated as part of the next CBA, however, there is a caveat.

“[It} probably would need to be accompanied by an expansion of the league’s playoff field or regular season to offset the revenue lost from cutting one to two preseason games per team.”

-Mark Maske, Washington Post

Since the owners need their money, simply cutting games for the sake of player safety and/or eliminating a pointless game cannot just happen on a whim.

We’ve heard the idea of expanding the regular season schedule before, commonly in the form of two more games (18 in total), but the players have never been in favor of this.

Maske says current talks have included adding 1 to 2 more games, or, increasing the amount of playoff teams from 12 to 14 (7 per conference).

The latter proposal would mean that only one team per conference gets a playoff bye week as opposed to two.

This means the second seed in each conference would have to play during Wild Card weekend.

Based on last year’s standings, here’s how Wild Card weekend would have looked liked if this change came to fruition.

AFC:

(7) Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1) vs. (2) New England Patriots (11-5)

(6) Indianapolis Colts (10-6) vs. (3) Houston Texans (11-5)

(5) Los Angles Chargers (12-4) vs. (4) Baltimore Ravens (10-6)

*Kansas City (13-3) gets a bye week*

NFC:

(7) Minnesota Vikings (8-7-1) vs. (2) Los Angeles Rams (13-3)

(6) Philadelphia Eagles (9-7) vs. (3) Chicago Bears (12-4)

(5) Seattle Seahawks (10-6) vs. (4) Dallas Cowboys (10-6)

*New Orleans (13-3) gets a bye week*

As was the case before, the team that advances with the lower seed faces the number one seed, but as opposed to past years, the team with the higher seed advances, which is not a foregone conclusion to be the second seed.

Use last year’s hypothetical Wild Card round.

Say the Vikings beat the Rams, then (as was the case last season) the Eagles and Cowboys won their respective games.

In the divisional round, the fourth seeded Dallas Cowboyss would HOST the sixth seeded Philadelphia Eagles, and the Vikings would face the Saints in New Orleans.

There’s no way of knowing how often this would happen, but it would be an added layer of fun to the NFL playoffs.

In addition to the added layer of more teams fighting to make the playoffs at the end of the season, top teams would have a further incentive to play the season through and fight for the top seed in the conference, as opposed to having to play an additional playoff game, with an additional chance of losing.

This might be easier to digest than the prospect of an added 1-2 games to the NFL season.

Image result for nfl london
If the NFL expanded to 17 games, could the league use this as a way to expand their presence abroad, or would they package domestic neutral sites as well? (Credit: Today FM)

Maske brought up the idea that if there were 17 games in a season, this extra game could be played on a neutral site. This would mean each team still has 8 home games and 8 road games, but each team would travel to a neutral site.

The NFL could use this as a way to further their presence in England, maybe another country (Mexico, but it hasn’t worked out too good so far), or do something like the NHL and travel to different sites in the United States (Chargers vs. Rams at the Rose Bowl? Steelers vs. Eagles at Beaver Stadium?).

This would be interesting.

It is noted the previous idea of increasing the NFL schedule to 18 games, but limit the amount of regular season games players participate in to 16, has not gained traction.

Increasing the regular season would be dangerous regardless.

Fans might be for another week of competitive football in the regular season (with the subtraction of a preseason game), but is this the right direction for players?

Maske notes the retirements of Andrew Luck and Rob Gronkowski. Do we want to see a future where Carson Wentz or Cam Netwon retire early because of extra games being added?

Image result for andrew luck
Would an additional 1-2 regular season games make it more likely that the NFL loses talent players at younger ages? (Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Or, is this just the accepted reality of the NFL?

This will have to be addressed, because at the end of the day, the game needs the players on the field to make any money at all, and if you’re losing talented players and the product worsens, fans won’t watch.

It sounds like the NFL wants to change the schedule regardless, and once there is a new CBA (the current CBA expires in 2021), change will happen.

There are some other things the NFL should be doing to change the NFL schedule.

For example, based on the current schedule structure, a team like the Patriots only face an NFC team for a specific division once every four years.

If the NFL was ever willing to shave off in-division games (meaning there would be 3 divisional games per season versus 6), you could do something similar to the structure in place within the conference, and have a team from one conference play the teams in the other conference who finished in the same position in their division as they did.

Let me lay out what this would look like for the Patriots if it took place this season.

Hypothetical 2019 Patriots opponents:

AFC: Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Bengals, Browns, Ravens, Steelers, Texans, Chiefs

NFC: Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, Washington, Bears*, Saints*, Rams*

Instead of playing each the Bills, Dolphins, and Jets twice, they would do so once, and face off against the Bears, Saints, and Rams (the Ravens, Texans and Chiefs would face these teams – and the Cowboys – as well).

Image result for drew brees tom brady
Could the NFL consider cutting back on divisional matches in order to see players like Drew Brees and Tom Brady face off more often over time? (Credit: Bill Feig/AP)

It would add three more very compelling matches for teams at the top, making it that much harder to repeat your place in the division. It would give lower tier teams like the Jets an easier chance to pick up ground (who I’m sure would gladly give up a game against the Patriots in favor of playing the Cardinals) after a bad season.

Just a suggestion.

The NFL’s schedule will soon be changing, and we might be seeing more playoff teams.

At least the owners have said they’d be willing to concede and lighten up on the league’s marijuana policy, and the authority of Roger Goodell (per Maske).

Lets just hope they don’t go too overboard and change a good product, and keep the safety of players in mind.


Photo above via SteelersWire

Post from Mark Maske cited above here

Follow Nick on Twitter (@Nick_Collins14)

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