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NFL owners are looking to make big changes to the playoff structure next season as part of their new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) proposal, according to multiple reports.
Under the new CBA, the number of teams who make the playoffs would increase from 12 to 14, which could happen as soon as the 2020 season. It would include seven teams from the AFC and NFC.
The sweeping changes would make it so only one team per conference would earn a first-round bye, compared with two in the NFL’s current format, which has been in place since 2002 when the league expanded to 32 clubs.
The increase in teams making the playoffs would mean a revised postseason schedule that would include six games on wild-card weekend.
If the format existed in 2019, the Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8) and Los Angeles Rams (9-7) would have made the playoffs based on their records at the end of last season.
NFL owners will meet Thursday in New York City to discuss negotiations with the players’ association about a new CBA before the current 10-year deal expires. The owners’ proposal will be discussed by players via a conference call Friday.
Some final issues both sides are working out include a proposed 17-game regular season, which wouldn’t take effect until 2021 at the earliest. The new playoff format could be implemented before the 17-game decision.
The proposed addition to the regular season would increase revenue for the league and owners but players argue it would likely increase wear and tear of on their bodies. To compensate, owners are proposing that preseason games be reduced to three per team, according to ESPN.
The current CBA deal was reached in the summer of 2011 after a lockout that began in March that year. No games were lost except the Hall of Fame’s preseason opener.
The NFL’s business season starts when free agency begins on March 18. Getting a CBA before that date would allow the league to focus attention to further broadcast and digital contracts as well as international initiatives.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.