The NFL’ owners have approved a new labour agreement which would see the regular season extended to 17 games and expand the playoffs to 14 teams among other changes.
These include only allowing the top seed from each conference to earn a first-round bye in the playoffs and reducing the pre-season to three games.
The owners met at a New York City hotel for two hours where the new terms of the collective bargaining agreement were agreed, despite the vote not being unanimous.
Now, the deal will have to be agreed by two thirds of the 32 players’ union representatives and then a majority vote by all the players in the league before it can be put into effect.
If the players do not approve the changes, the NFL has confirmed the existing conditions will continue.
But the changes have not gone down well with players, pundits or fans and when you look at the details, it’s clear to see why.
What’s wrong with the NFL Owners proposed changes?
The biggest concern over the NFL changes is the extension of the regular season to 17 games.
In a sport already plagued with injury problems and in near-constant discussion about player safety, the extension of the regular season is not a popular move.
To mitigate this, the NFL owners have proposed shortening the pre-season to just three weeks instead of four.
But the problem there is, few teams actually use their starters in the league’s warm-up games anyway so this would do little to ease concern over the longer season for players.
There is no indication at this stage that the NFL owners will be adding an additional bye week so the 17th game will result in nothing more than additional stress on players’ bodies and team rosters.
Several top players, including Jaguars’ Leonard Fournette and the 49ers’ Richard Sherman, have come out and voiced concern with the proposed changes.
Sherman, who is a member of the NFLPA’s Executive Committee, said the changes “spit in the face” of the supposed focus on player safety.
He told 95.7FM The Game: “It’s odd to me – and it’s always odd – when you hear player safety is their biggest concern.
“But it seems like player safety has a price tag. Player safety, up to the point of, ‘Hey, 17 games makes us this much money, so we really don’t care how safe they are, if you’re gonna pay us this much money to play another game.’ “
Another major concern over the NFL changes is the fact that, by increasing the playoff field from 12 teams to 14 teams, the quality and competitiveness of the playoffs will be reduced.
Even in its existing format, it’s all too easy for a mediocre team to sneak into the playoffs – just look at this season’s 9-7 Philadelphia Eagles.
Do we really want to see teams who are going with just eight or nine wins in the regular season make it to the playoffs?
According to football analyst Warren Sharp, the team who would have benefited the most from this change in the last ten years would have been the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Sharp calculates that the Steelers would have been 10/10 for playoff trips had this change been in place despite only getting 10 or more wins once in 2015.
The bye week is vital
By only allowing the top seed from each conference to earn a bye-week in the playoffs, the NFL owners would be drastically reducing the competitiveness of the league.
Getting a bye week is one of the most important factors going into the playoffs, allowing teams more planning time and allowing players that all-important rest.
The stats speak for themselves that teams who have won the bye do better than those that don’t.
Not to mention, while the top seed can often be a clear victory, the battle between second and third seed is often the most exciting part of the regular season for fans.
If you remove that incentive from the second-seed spot, this won’t be the case.
If you consider the fact that NFL owners want to extend the regular season to 17 gamesvthen that bye week becomes even more important. Removing it for two teams makes zero sense.
Is there anything good about the proposed NFL changes?
From a fan’s perspective, losing a week of the pre-season is always going to be a good thing.
The pre-season always feels laboured and pointless given the amount of time NFL starters actually spend on the field.
Similarly, not many will complain about getting to watch an extra week of real football should the season be extended to 17 games, especially if your team is not a playoff regular.
And it’s easy to see why Pittsburgh Steelers fans, for example, may herald these changes as important if it means their team starts making the playoffs regularly.
But for the integrity of the game, these minute positives do not outweigh the negatives that would be brought about by the NFL changes should they be agreed.
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