According to NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the NFL is progressing toward finalizing a new collective bargaining agreement that would include major changes to the current playoff format.
Under the proposal, the playoff field would expand to 14 teams, adding one additional wild card team per conference. Currently, the NFL postseason accommodates 12 teams–four division winners and two wild card teams per conference–affording the top two divisions in each conference a bye week as the remaining teams compete on Wild Card Weekend.
Under the proposed format, which Schefter states could be formalized as soon as next week, only one first-round bye would be available, awarded to the team with the best record in each conference. Players would still be compensated during the bye week.
Besides the additional wild card teams, the most notable changes to the current system are the two additional Wild Card Weekend games.
Had this rule been implemented last season, the Los Angeles Rams (9-7) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) would have each made the playoffs. The Steelers would have faced AFC West and eventual Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) in the first round while the Rams would have traveled to Green Bay to face the NFC North Champions (13-3).
Schefter reports that while other agendas are still being negotiated, such as a 17-game regular season, a consensus among owners exists in regards to altering the NFL’s current playoff system, which has been in effect for 30 years.
Though no vote came from Thursday’s continuation of CBA meetings, the agreement could be ratified as soon as the NFL Draft Combine next week. Should the parties come to an agreement, the changes could go into effect as soon as the 2020-2021 NFL regular season.