Sports Take: NFL schedule changes are unnecessary

FILE - In a Jan. 30 file photo, Eric Winston, president of the NFL Players Association, speaks at the annual state of the NFLPA press conference, in Miami Beach, Fla. NFL players have approved a new labor agreement with the league that features a 17-game regular season, higher salaries, increased roster sizes and larger pensions for current and former players. Associated Press

By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer

Last week, the NFL’s owners proposed a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which players just barely voted in favor of passing. This new CBA includes several significant changes to the league, including changes to the schedule, regarding both the regular season and postseason.

Starting in the upcoming 2020 season, the NFL will increase the number of playoff teams. Instead of six teams from each conference, or 12 total, seven teams will now make the playoffs from the NFC and AFC.

This is a change the NFL should not have made because it takes away from the importance of the regular season. Unlike the NBA or NHL where over half the teams make the playoffs, every week of the season matters in the NFL. This forces teams to play with urgency because of the scarcity of playoff spots.

Until this season, two teams from both the NFC and AFC would receive a first-round bye. Now, because of the extra wild card, only the top overall seed in each conference will have a bye.

This greatly lowers the difference between the division winner who earns the two seed and the other two division winners in each conference. It also decreases the reward for success during the regular season. Further, while we will get extra football on Wild Card Weekend, the quality of those extra games are not likely to be high.

Certainly, under the old rules, there were times when a good team was left out of the playoffs, such as the 11-5 Patriots in 2008. However, the importance of winning the division and the urgency of the regular season is what helps make the NFL so special. This new rule change takes away form that.

The other change to the schedule is that starting in either 2021 or 2022, the regular season will contain an extra game, meaning that each team will play 17 games instead of 16. This change should not have been made either, for two reasons.

First of all, an extra game will increase the number of hits NFL players will take in the season and will negatively affect player safety. While there will now be about 500 less practice snaps overall per season, current and former NFL players have been saying the extra game of hits, especially hits to the head, will outweigh the hits they would take in practice.

In addition, adding an extra week to the schedule means that each team will now play an odd number of games. The reason every professional league has an even number of games is so that each team plays an equal number of games at home and on the road.

Now, some teams will play one extra game at home, while others will play an extra game on the road. The impact that home-field advantage has on the outcome of NFL games is not something that can be dismissed. The teams that have an extra game at home will most likely have an advantage in that particular season.

While the NFL’s new schedule changes will provide more football games to watch, they will diminish the quality of the league.