November 27, 2019
WHAT CHANGES, IF ANY, WOULD YOU IMPLEMENT IN THE NFL’S SCHEDULE/PLAYOFF FORMAT?
Increasing the number of regular season games is a non-starter. The players do not want to increase their chances of injury by increasing the number of regular season games.
Putting a cap on the number of regular season games any given player can play in is not viable. Players like Tom Brady and Aaron Donald would not want to sit out games because of an arbitrary limit. Fans and coaches would not like the limit either.
It would be possible to increase the weeks in the regular season from 17 to 18 by adding another bye week. But the television networks would not like fewer games each week. Coaches would not like the interruptions an additional bye would create.
Preseason games have become meaningless. Teams like the Rams do not play their starters at any time during the preseason. Currently, season ticket holders must pay for preseason games. Owners do not want the loss of revenue caused by fewer preseason games. One possible compromise is to decrease preseason games in return for more playoff games.
International games will increase because of the increased revenue that can be made if more people in other countries watch games on television and buy NFL apparel. I can see a time when every team plays one international game every year.
As to reducing the number of Thursday night games and/or increasing the number of Monday night doubleheaders. The ratings (and revenue) from Monday and Thursday night games will determine what the NFL will do.
The NFL calendar starts the Thursday after Labor Day. Starting earlier would put the first games on Labor Day weekend, when many viewers are doing other things than watching football. Fans who are traveling would not be able to attend games. So starting earlier is not a good option. The season could be extended by moving the Super Bowl later into February or having only one week instead of two between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.
Changes to the conference/division structure (including realignment and/or reducing the number of divisions) will happen only if the NFL expands beyond 32 teams. The NFL will eventually expand, probably internationally. Are you ready for the Beijing Dragons?
Both the owners and players would like more playoff games and the revenue they would produce. More playoff games are possible if the NFL eliminates the first round playoff byes that four teams currently receive. This change in format would also increase the number of wild card teams, a change that would also be popular.
The NFL should definitely reduce the number of preseason games. If it increases the number of regular-season games to 17, then each team should play one international game during the season. I would not favor a limit on how many games an individual player can play during the regular season – doing so would, by definition, dilute the NFL’s on-field product.
Above all, the change I would most like to see is a change that’s never discussed: the concept of a playoff “draft.” When teams qualify for the playoffs, instead of having their seed represent a predetermined spot in the playoff bracket, the seed would merely represent their playoff draft order. Starting from the top of the list, teams would either select a first-round bye or their most favorable first-round opponent. After first-round match-ups are set, the draft would start back at the top of the list, and teams would select potential second-round match-ups, and so on until the bracket is fully developed. From a practical standpoint, this would further incentivize regular-season performance by giving top teams greater control over their postseason fate, and would rightly place greater emphasis on team strength (rather than geography and division/conference affiliation) in determining one’s postseason path. From a purely fun standpoint, the playoff draft would make for one helluva made-for-TV event, and would introduce a number of juicy storylines at the outset of the playoffs. It’s a concept I believe should be implemented in every major sports league, and it’s especially conducive to the NFL.