ESPN’s Adam Schefter delivered some huge news Wednesday night, reporting that the current CBA proposal includes a change in the NFL’s playoff format. The change would increase the number of playoff teams in each conference from six to seven.
From the man himself:
NFL playoff structure is about to be changed. Under the current CBA proposal, seven teams from each conference will make the playoffs, with only bye per conference, sources tell ESPN. It would go into effect this upcoming season. More coming on https://t.co/rDZaVFhcDQ.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 19, 2020
More details: Under the current CBA proposal that NFL owners are pushing for, the playoff field would be expanded to seven teams, while the regular season would be increased to 17 games per team, and the preseason shortened to three games per team, per sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 19, 2020
That’s definitely a huge change, and while the 17-game schedule wouldn’t start until 2021, the altered playoff format could go into effect as soon as 2020 if the new CBA is ratified before the season. Of course, talks have been ongoing between the NFL and the NFLPA regarding a new agreement for a long while, but significant progress has reportedly been made. Schefter’s article on ESPN.com noted that there is “mounting optimism” that the two sides will get something finalized within the next week or so.
There is plenty that both sides still need to agree on, as Bucs Nation’s Evan Winter recapped this past Sunday. But with important meetings happening this Thursday and Friday, it’s possible we soon get a resolution that will prevent a 2021 lockout from happening.
Now, back to the playoff changes. The addition of an extra playoff team in each conference obviously impacts the Buccaneers, as their postseason chances—as with everyone else’s—would be higher (at least mathematically).
Ignoring the drawbacks of the new format (such as the potential of a team with an iffy record undeservedly making the playoffs, to name just one), Tampa Bay fans should welcome this idea, surely. The team hasn’t made the postseason since the 2007 season. If it takes earning the No. 7 seed to get back there, so be it, right?
If this format would’ve been in play in the past, the Bucs’ playoff drought wouldn’t be as long as it currently is. They finished 10-6 in 2010 and lost out on the No. 6 seed thanks to tiebreaker rules. Had a seventh NFC team gotten in that year, the tiebreaker would’ve come down to the Bucs and the Giants for that spot. Now, in 2016, Tampa Bay’s 9-7 record would’ve earned the No. 7 seed—no tiebreakers needed.
So, love it or hate it, the expansion of the NFL playoffs could help the Bucs as early as 2020 if they can get themselves on track. Hey, maybe they’ll become the first No. 7 seed to win the Super Bowl as well as being the first to win the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Dreams have to start somewhere, right? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯