The NFL and it’s Players Association are on the verge of agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement and in doing so, it’s going to increase the regular season and the number of postseason teams and games, as soon as this year.
ESPN NFL insider, Adam Schefter, reported on Wednesday evening that while the deal isn’t done it close to being agreed upon:
Details of the NFL’s new playoff structure that will take effect this season if the new CBA is approved in the coming weeks, sources tell ESPN:https://t.co/1eeUzVIbyB
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 19, 2020
As part of that new collective bargaining agreement, the league will get its wish to expand the regular-season to a 17th game. This will be the first time since the late 1970s that the NFL will increase the length of its regular season. That’s when the league expanded from 14 to the current 16 regular season games.
As part of that, the NFL will do away with one of the preseason contests for every team in August and start the regular-season sooner. It is also believed that part of the negotiation is for a second bye week for every team during the regular season, as well.
It has also been rumored that part of the discussions would include the expansion of playoffs from the current 12 team format with six from the NFC and six from the AFC that make the postseason every year to seven from each conference with a total of 14 teams.
The NFL went to its current playoff format, when the league expanded to 32 teams for the 2002 season and split off into four divisions in each conference. For the last 18 years, the four division winners plus the two next best Wild Card teams in each conference have advanced to postseason play. The top two teams with the best record have been given buys on the Wild Card Weekend and two games have been played in each conference on the opening weekend of postseason play.
Now, according to Schefter’s report, the new proposed playoff format will add a third Wild-Card team in each conference and only the top ceded team from the regular season in each conference will get a first round bye.
This will increase the number of postseason games from four to six on the opening weekend with three in each conference.
For the Florida teams, the Jaguars most recently made the playoffs as AFC South Champions in 2017. The Dolphins were last in the postseason as an AFC Wild Card in 2016. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers hold the dubious distinction of the longest playoff drought in the NFC, as they were last in as NFC South champs in 2007.
It’s also unclear as of yet as to whether the NFL will at the same time modify the current format of having division winners, no matter their record, still have home field advantage for a game.
There has been much complaining about this in repeated seasons where a division winner has been at least two, and sometimes three or more, games worse than a Wild-Card team that has to come to them to play the game.
The vote by the NFLPA is expected to come by March 18th.
Time for concern after XFL TV ratings declined again last week?
For the second consecutive week, the XFL televison ratings continued to slide in the wrong direction. And, the troubling part is that if the trend continues, the XFL will have no leverage for sponsors and revenue to keep it going long term.
First, here are the specifics on the bad viewership news: According to Showbuzzdaily.com all four XFL broadcasts last Saturday and Sunday afternoon had lower ratings in their slot than the previous week.
That includes the Tampa Bay Vipers home debut against Houston, which was the early game on ABC Saturday. And, while that window had 400,000 less viewers than week 2, the bigger concern is ABC has lost almost 40% of the audience from the 3.3 million average that watched their Week one debut game on Saturday afternoon.
The ratings downward trend is following the same pattern as last Spring’s Alliance of American Football, where the ratings dwindled to under a million fans for broadcasts by week five and eventually the league shut down after just eight weeks. This was in part because of concerns on how the AAF could make any revenue, through television in specific, if they had very little audience for the end of year one and to sell off of for year two.
Now, WWE owner Vince McMahon, who folded the XFL the first time in 2001 in large part because the television audience plummeted over the course of the first month or so of its existence and never recovered, has the same issue in 2020.
And, as we wrote previously, this audience decline while negative is far less McMahon’s original XFL and it’s first season of 2001. That’s when, it debuted on its first Saturday night on NBC with a massive 10.1 rating, which translated 18 years ago to more than 9.5 viewers on network TV. A Smashing success.
However, the XFL’s ratings plummeted starting the following week and had fewer than 25% of that opening night audience just a month later with the games still being shown on a Saturday night coveted slot on NBC. It doomed the league from a P.R. and sponsor standpoint and McMahon pulled the plug.
Now, in 2020, McMahon reportedly has money to burn and is apparently prepared to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in year one. So, even if the XFL TV ratings continue come down significantly, it will not spell the end of the XFL (like it did nearly 20 years ago) after just a single season.
At least, that’s what we think.
Vipers better but drop third straight game in home opener
Although their play was improved offensively, in the end it wasn’t enough for the Tampa Bay Vipers after they dropped their third straight XFL game to start the season 34 – 27 to Houston Saturday afternoon in Tampa.
Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, as Houston scored early in the fourth quarter to go up by seven and held off the Viper the rest of the way.
The Vipers offense came to life after they had failed to score in the offensive touchdown in either of their first two games. Both of which were losses on the road. Quarterback Taylor Cornelius, subbing for starter Aaron Murray who missed his second straight game with an injured foot, once again had modest numbers 16-31 for 193 yards 1 TD, 1 INT.
However, he did pull the game even at 18 – 18 at the half after scoring on a one yard QB sneak and Tampa Bay got the two-point conversion.
Still, the former Oklahoma State quarterbacks day was inconsistent and the home crowd at Raymond James Stadium began to chant the name “Flowers, Flowers” for former USF Star Quarterback Quinton Flowers, who played sparingly for the third straight game in a reserve role.
Flowers got Tampa Bay’s first offensive TD on the young season with a seven yard run in the first quarter, but only played QB sparingly in the game, again. He was just 4-6 for 57 yards passing with 29 yards on six attempts on the ground.
Meanwhile, the former Temple star Walker found receiver Cam Phillips for the third of their three touchdown hookups from 17 yards out to give Houston a 34 – 27 lead with just over 10 minutes to play. Phillips devastated Jerry Glanville’s Vipers defense for 194 yards receiving on eight catches with the three TDs.
The Vipers look like they were going to have a chance to re-tie the game when Cornelius (above) completed a pass to his top target on the day, Jaylen Tolliver, at the two-yard line. However just like a week ago in Seattle when a critical fourth quarter drive stalled and Tampa Bay came away with no points in a 17 – 9 lost the Dragons, the Vipers got no points after Cornelius threw incomplete on second, third and fourth downs.
Many in the crowd and observers in the media were curious, as to why coach Marc Trestman didn’t go to Flowers as the dual threat running QB to at least try something different on one of those plays? Flowers even questioned why he did not play more after the game to the media.
The Vipers got the ball one final time, but Cornelius was picked off near midfield with just over a minute left to seal the defeat.
The Vipers played the first spring professional football game in Tampa, since the closing of the USFL 1985 season. That’s when Steve Spurrier’s Tampa Bay Bandits were a popular item at Old Tampa Stadium. Saturday’s home opener drew and announced crowd of 18,117.
However it’s little consolation for former Bears and CFL coach Trestman and his team, as they remain winless on the season. The L.A. Wildcats playing Sunday are the other 0-2 team in the league, currently.
And, you have to wonder whether Trestman will be forced to go to Flowers for the start when they host the D.C. Defenders next week.