The NFL playoffs are likely to expand this season, and the league could move to a 17-game regular-season schedule beginning in 2021, according to a report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Playoff expansion has been discussed for years, but appears to be very close to reality. A new proposed collective bargaining agreement includes that expansion and, per the report, could be finalized within the next week.
If finalized, the NFL playoffs would expand from six teams per conference to seven teams beginning with the 2020 season. The addition of one team would reduce the number of first round byes from two teams to one team per conference.
In that scenario, there would be six Wild Card Round games, with three scheduled for Saturday and three on Sunday.
Another issue that the league and players are discussing is the expansion of the regular-season schedule by one from 16 to 17 games. This would reduce the number of preseason games by one from four down to three.
Expansion of the NFL’s regular-season schedule has also been discussed for some time. This wouldn’t happen in time for the 2020 season, but could be done for 2021.
The 17th game would also be played out-of-market in order to keep the balance of eight home and eight away games for each team. This would include the International games played in London and Mexico City, but would also open up the option to play games where the NFL doesn’t have a franchise, such as Alabama.
Here’s more on the proposed NFL regular-season expansion from a CBS Sports piece from November 2019:
The proposal includes Week 1 still beginning after Labor Day, and the Super Bowl concluding the final Sunday of February (which could be bad news for The Oscars). It would allow the NFL to have playoff games on air throughout the month of February — critical sweeps weeks for its broadcast partners — and would include two byes for each team.
The additional game for each club would be played out-of-market, the sources said, with a heavy emphasis on key international locales like the United Kingdom (London and Ireland, in particular), Germany, Mexico and Brazil. It also opens the possibility of a full eight-game regular season schedule of games in London – something commissioner Roger Goodell is very supportive of — with fans there able to buy a “season ticket,” which would include at least two Jaguars games.
The NFL has also talked internally about playing games in other cities in the U.S. which do not have pro teams, with some buzz about playing a game at Notre Dame or Alabama, as well as Hawaii and cities in Canada. It is viewed as a unique and profound way to grow the game globally and extend the reach of sales, merchandising and broadcast rights around the globe, with there only so much more room for growth within America.
Although not finalized, it’s good to see that the NFL will likely continue to begin their regular-season schedule after Labor Day weekend. Had they started Labor Day weekend, that would have pushed future college football games off of Sunday and Monday (Labor Day).