Obviously, nothing has been agreed to yet, so we won’t know the full extent of the changes until it’s been ratified, but word started leaking out yesterday, and I really only have thoughts about two things (so far): the 17-game schedule, and the new playoff format.
The additional regular season game would come at the expense of one of the pre-season games, which is fine. Whatever. I think the NFL is great with 16 regular season games; one more won’t kill me. With injuries the way they are as it is, I feel like the NFL should drastically consider expanding rosters a bit. Move from 53 players to maybe 60, and CERTAINLY increase the number of active players on gamedays from 45 to whatever the entire roster is. It’s ridiculous that we still have healthy-scratches in the NFL. But, obviously, no one is crying for the loss of a pre-season game. The fourth one is entirely worthless; NFL teams make the bulk of their roster decisions in practice/training camp anyway.
The headline to this story, however, is expanding the NFL Playoffs from 12 teams to 14 (from 6 per conference to 7).
Ever since the NFL went to 4 divisions, I’ve had a strong dislike for the way the playoffs have shaken out. It seems unfair – with 16 teams in a conference – to only have 2 wild card teams. Almost every year, you see an inferior division winner hosting a Wild Card game over a superior non-division winner (who had the simple misfortune of being in the same 4-team division as one of the Top 2 seeds in the conference).
Well, unfortunately, the divisional format isn’t changing anytime soon. But, it looks like we’ll be getting an extra Wild Card team, which could be fun.
What I like the most is reducing the BYE teams from two to one. It even further strengthens the importance of getting that top seed, while at the same time making the Divisional Round that much more exciting. Before, the BYE teams always held such a significant advantage by not having to play in the previous round; now the 2-seed will have to play both weeks (assuming they win the first one), making it far more likely that a lower seed goes in there and prevails in the Divisional Round.
This also takes care of eliminating a 7-seed that’s clearly better than the 4th-best division winner. I don’t think it happens all that often, but it does sometimes. Letting those teams participate is worth suffering a few years where an 8-8 team squeaks in. Even if you’re concerned about diluting the playoff pool with .500 teams, they SHOULD be easily dispatched by whoever ends up with the 2-seed anyway; and if they somehow win, then all the more exciting, right? If nothing else, with the 2-seed losing its BYE privilages, they deserve the occasional 8-8 cannon fodder as an easy path to the second round.
I think whatever outrage we’re seeing is from the simple fact that the NFL is changing, and a lot of people hate change. I get it! I tend to hate change myself, but we get used to it as time goes on. And then we forget we were ever mad about it in the first place.
I remember how furious I was when the Seahawks were moved to the NFC West; it turned out to be the very best thing that could’ve happened to this team (probably; who knows, maybe we would’ve won more than the one Super Bowl had they shipped the Chargers off to the NFC, but I like our reality either way).
The point is, I’m going to at least give it a chance. Of course, if they counter the 17-game regular season with two BYE weeks per team – thereby making my Fantasy Football life even more of a fucking never-ending misery pile than it already is – I might lose my God damn mind.