The Side That Always Wins
(Disclaimer: This is for the players. At least the ones that voted against the new rule.)
This isn't an accident. The NFL is never known to shy away us, only to grab even more attention. Announced this Tuesday, March 31st, the way we see and have adapted to football as we know it has changed. A new participant will be introduced into the wild-card rounds of the NFL; and home field for 2 games will be the reward for ‘a job well done.’ Given a long enough timeline nothing stays the same. But mementos and keepsakes are mere objects to remind you of past times. Unfortunately they only tell one side of the story. The winning side. The problem is, one side has continued to win every argument. The NFLPA is pushing player safety in one hand, while force-feeding equipment to players for the impact their bodies will be embracing. Ask the players; the NFL could easily stand for Not For Long. If it's possible, to relate to an NFL player and the potential toll his body is sure to take, it would be the equivalent of being stuck in a space for an extremely long amount of time without being able to travel. Better situation, an additional car wreck. But tugging on the heartstrings of every NFL fan is the wish that the season will not be affected by the realities of the world; because to many football is their only escape.
End of May/ Beginning of June is when battle-mode starts to set in. OTA’s, chemistry with the team. July, practice, heat, separation of who is real and who wont make the cut. August: know your playbook. Positioning, depth chart. And a dress rehearsal. September, well that's when the fun starts.
Thanks to the newly agreed upon NFLPA agreement, besides practice and OTA’s, 24 weeks have been agreed upon for a standard NFL season.
2 Pre-season games
17 regular season.
#1’s get an additional bye week, 3 standard playoff weeks
Then here comes the NFL Combine to start this journey all over again.
Its going to be up to the players to find the resolve to stay and keep in shape during the little downtime the will have. It is now survival of the fittest; and cities will be watching a bit more intently to see if their city is competing. Don’t think so? Below is a list of teams that would have made the playoffs if there were a 7th seed implemented the last 5 years:
2019: 8-8 Steelers, 9-7 Rams
2018: 9-6-1 Steelers, 8-7-1 Vikings
2017 Ravens, 9-7 Detroit (Caldwell would have made the playoffs again.)
2016: 9-7 Titans, 9-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2015: 10-6 Jets, 8-8 Falcons
But the shift goes even deeper than that. Since 2006, 3 divisions have had 3 teams represented in the playoffs, only to have the 2007 New York Giants being the only successful team to reach and win the Super Bowl. It happened in 2013, but that Denver Bronco squad was decapitated by the Seahawks in the big game. But now, the probability of dominant divisions representing the Wild Cards are more than just a dream. By the earlier stats, the Pittsburgh Steelers wouldn’t have missed the playoffs for a decade. The NFC North would probably get more respect; Minnesota and Detroit probably wouldn’t have gone through changes. Maybe Tampa keeps Winston; there’s a lot to digest.
The additional team now means that there is room for rivalries in the playoffs. Pittsburgh versus Baltimore. Kansas City and the Chargers could be a second playoff week matchup. The Bills could eliminate an up and coming Miami squad merely for division bragging rights. With the use of players as pawns in this financial chess game, the possibilities are endless. Imagine a dominating NFC West with 3 teams in the playoffs? The scores, merchandise sales and television ratings would be through the roof.
As a player, was this decision that they have signed their body to worth the risk? With more cases of CTE and retirements coming from every level, is playing an additional game good for one’s well being; let alone psyche? An argument can be made that additional games lead to additional Antonio Browns. Or Cleveland offensive lineman who choose to take shortcuts to make money matters meet… Anything is possible. Speaking of Cleveland, they benefit the most from a 43% chance to play. With the new offensive additions and new playoff format, the Cleveland market, along with Cincinnati, can now see brighter days ahead as far as ticket sales are concerned. Who wouldn’t want to see a 9-8 football team play an additional game before their city’s season ended?
involuntary OTA’s, the lack of the bye for the 2nd seed, and actual time away from football. Inspiring Modeling careers will probably be traded in for personal time away to unwind from the gruel of an NFL season. But we must rush to adjust: accept this as the new normal. The 14 playoff teams now ensure that 43% of the league makes the playoffs, while TV, jersey, merchandise and cable sells skyrocket to the stars. The lion’s share always belonged to the Lions. A 50.5% owners versus a 49.5% for the players ensures that it remains with the Lions. With the new signed deal into play, the rich get richer, and the millionaires work just a tad bit harder for their money. So, for the players that agreed to the deal, ask yourselves, “Was it worth it?” But hey, let's look at the bright side; at least now you can get away with smoking.
Only time will tell!!
I still am on the fence about how I feel about the new format.