The NFL playoffs may look a little different next season. While nothing has been set just yet, it looks as if a new postseason format will be in place when the NFL kicks off its 101st season this fall. But one has to wonder, would the new format have made any difference had it been in place this past season?
What will the new NFL playoff format look like?
As first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter, a new collective bargaining agreement from NFL owners is proposing a new playoff format. Under the new structure, the number of teams to make the NFL playoffs from each conference would expand from six to seven. Assuming a new CBA can be ratified in time, which it’s expected to be, the new format would begin next season.
What that means for the NFL playoffs is that just one team from each conference, as opposed to the current two, would receive a first-round bye. That would expand wild card weekend from four games to six. Three would take place on Saturday and three would take place on Sunday.
While the 17-game regular season schedule that is also being proposed might not sit as well with the NFLPA, the new NFL playoff format is reportedly something that both sides have been in agreement on for quite a while.
When was the last time the NFL playoffs were changed?
If the new NFL playoffs format goes into effect, it will mark the first time since 2002 that the structure has been altered. 2002 was the year the league expanded from 31 to 32 teams with the addition of the Houston Texans.
Before the Texans joined the league, three division winners and three wild card teams from each conference made the playoffs. When Houston was added, the NFL realigned to eight total divisions, meaning there were four division winners and two wild card teams on each side.
The total number of teams to make the NFL playoffs has been 12 since 1990.
What would this year’s playoffs have looked like under the new format?
Under the newly-proposed format, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Los Angeles Rams would have made the NFL playoffs this past season. Remember, only the No. 1 seeds in each conference would have gotten the first-round bye, meaning that the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs would’ve had to play on wild card weekend.
- NFC No. 1 seed: San Francisco 49ers
- (7)Los Angeles Rams at (2)Green Bay Packers
- (6)Minnesota Vikings at (3)New Orleans Saints
- (5)Seattle Seahawks at (4)Philadelphia Eagles
- AFC No. 1 seed: Baltimore Ravens
- (7)Pittsburgh Steelers at (2)Kansas City Chiefs
- (6)Tennessee Titans at (3)New England Patriots
- (5)Buffalo Bills at (4)Houston Texans
While things still could have easily gone down the same way that they did, it’s interesting to look at what could have happened. There were no regular season games with the two and seven seeds in this scenario but one just never knows what can happen from week to week in the NFL. Could the Rams have gone into Lambeau Field and beaten the Packers? Certainly. That would’ve given the 49ers a different opponent in the NFC Championship.
Would that extra game for Kansas City have played a role in the playoffs as a whole? Would they have been a little more tired after playing the Pittsburgh Steelers? Sure, maybe they still win the Super Bowl, but maybe not. Maybe they don’t even win the wild card game.
Perhaps adding just a couple of teams to the NFL playoffs won’t make a difference. But it could end up making all the difference in the world.