The more football the better right? Well…
To the delight of NFL fans, the football season could be getting longer in 2021. The new proposed schedule could add a Week 18 and two additional wildcard games. NFL teams have been playing 16-game seasons since the 1978 season, and the playoffs have included 12 teams since 1990.
The New CBA
The CBA, or the Collective Bargaining Agreement, is an agreement settled between the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association. The current NFL operates under the 2011 CBA, which ends after the 2020 season. The pressure is on for the NFL owners and players to solidify the new CBA as soon as possible. If no agreement is settled before the 2021 season begins, there could be another potential lockout, and both the owners and players would lose a lot of money.
The new CBA proposes the addition of an 18th week in the regular season and a 14-team playoff instead of the current 12-team playoff. In exchange, the players will increase their cut of the revenue from 47 percent to 48.5 percent. The NFL owners have already agreed to the terms of the new CBA, although not unanimously. Two-thirds of the NFLPA must accept the new agreement in order for it to be enacted.
Regular Season Change
Another week of football puts a lot of stress on the bodies of the players. Every time a player enters a game or even a practice, he risks a potentially season-ending injury. To compensate for that, the new agreement grants the players an additional one and a half percent cut of the NFL’s total revenue. At first, that doesn’t sound like enough to pay for Jameis Winston’s tab at Red Lobster. Upon further inspection, it’s a lot of money, even when divided by all of the players.
The NFL has been more and more profitable over the past few years. Over five years, from 2013 to 2018, total revenue increased by over 50 percent. In 2018, it was nearly $14.5 billion. Even one and a half percent of that is over $215 million. That figure increases every year, especially if you add another week of regular season play and two more playoff games. It’s speculated that the change to the regular season won’t be in effect until at least the 2021 season.
Unlike the new Week 18, the postseason change could happen as soon as next season. Based on my meticulous calculations, 14 teams divided by two conferences equals seven playoff teams in each conference. A seven-team bracket can take many shapes, and all of them stab my eyes with asymmetry (not that I’m complaining about more football). In short, the seventh seed will play against the second seed, meaning only the top seed gets a first-round bye. Some might argue that this just allows worse teams into the playoffs, but I’m a big fan of this change because I think it makes for better end-of-season football.
Every year, Week 17 contains several games in which at least one team is indifferent to the outcome. Teams firmly out of the playoffs are generally unmotivated, as are teams that have clinched playoff spots but cannot get a first-round bye. The teams that really care about the final week of the regular season are those fighting for byes or playoff spots. If the number of playoff teams is increased, then the number of teams with a chance in the final week is increased. Therefore, because the games are better and have higher stakes, fans are more interested and the NFL gains revenue. It’s a textbook win-win scenario. The only downside is that the road to the Super Bowl just got a lot bumpier for NFL teams outside the top seed in each conference. The Vikings haven’t been the top seed in the NFC since 1998, but who’s keeping track?