The Seahawks playing the Rams in Brazil? CenturyLink Field hosting a playoff game in February?
Both are among things that theoretically could happen if all of the items proposed by the NFL as part of a new collective bargaining agreement with league’s players are approved.
A half-dozen or so reports broke late Wednesday afternoon about what is included in proposals by the league. NFL owners voted to accept the terms Thursday, but the deal still must be ratified by the players’ union to go into effect.
The proposals include a 17-game regular season, expanding the playoffs to include seven teams in each conference (instead of the current six) and having only the No. 1 seed in each conference get a bye (instead of the top two seeds).
According to CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora, the extra regular-season game for each team would be played “out of market,” or at a neutral site, including the current international games in London and Mexico City. But there’s also the possibility of places such as Brazil, Germany, Canada or U.S. cities that don’t have NFL teams.
La Canfora reported the league has also proposed having just two preseason games but allowing each team to schedule a scrimmage with another team that could be open to fans and played in a stadium. There would be two bye weeks.
A consequence of lengthening the season would be a Super Bowl held on the final Sunday in February so the league could continue to start its season after Labor Day, which is preferred for TV ratings purposes (August traditionally is a slow TV time).
Many of these changes likely wouldn’t take effect until the 2021 season — the first official year of the new CBA — at the earliest.
But reports say the expanded playoff system could be implemented immediately. Adding a team and eliminating a bye would mean three games in each conference on wild-card weekend instead of two. One report said at least one of the wild-card games could be held on a Monday night.
As we wait to see if these proposals are approved over the next few days — which appears to be the goal, with the new league year and free agency looming March 18 — here are a few thoughts on how this could have impacted the Seahawks or could impact them in the future.
Interestingly enough, since the NFL went to its current playoff format in 2002, the Seahawks have never finished as the No. 7 seed. (Last year, that spot went to the Rams; more on that in a moment.) That’s in part because Seattle has made the playoffs 13 times since then, eight times by winning a division title, meaning one of the top four seeds.
But a seventh playoff bid could have made the Seahawks’ regular-season finale against Arizona in 2017 that much more interesting — and devastating.
The Seahawks’ playoff hopes were dashed that year when Atlanta beat Carolina, making the Seahawks-Arizona game irrelevant.
But under the new proposal, they would still have been alive, and if the Seahawks had beaten Arizona, they would have been 10-6 and had the No. 7 seed in the NFC.
Alas, Blair Walsh missed a 48-yard field goal with 37 seconds remaining and the Seahawks lost and finished 9-7 and No. 9 in the NFC.
Importance of No. 1
The Seahawks have also never been a No. 2 seed, which, since 2002, has meant getting a bye in the wild-card round and home-field advantage against any team except the No. 1 seed.
The Seahawks have been the No. 1 seed three times. In 2013 and 2014, they had to win the last game to get it (in 2005, they had already clinched it going into the last weekend). Getting the top seed will become even more important as it’s the only seed with a first-round bye.
Each time the Seahawks have been the No. 1 seed, they have advanced to the Super Bowl.
Hosting as No. 5 seed
Last year, when the Seahawks lost to the 49ers and fell to the No. 5 seed, it meant they had only one chance to host a home game — by winning two road games and advancing to the NFC title game and hoping the No. 6-seed Vikings met them there.
But if a seventh team were added and the second bye removed, they Seahawks could theoretically have hosted a game in the divisional round as the No. 5 seed. That would happen if the Nos. 6 and 7 seeds also won.
If the proposed format was in place last year, the Packers would’ve hosted the Rams in the opening weekend instead of getting a bye. The Packers were rested before facing the Seahawks, who beat the Eagles in Philadelphia and had to turn around and travel to Lambeau.
Under the proposed format, if the Rams had beaten the Packers and the Vikings defeated the Saints (as it actually happened), Seattle would have hosted the Vikings in the divisional round with the Rams playing the 49ers on the road.
As for the 17-game regular season, the thought is that one conference would play nine home games and eight road games one season, and the other eight home and nine road. They would switch the following year, so playoff races in each conference — and the fight for that oh-so-valued No. 1 seed — is equal.
Heading abroad more
As for playing internationally, the CBA proposals make it clear that’s something that is only going to become more common for all teams. When the Seahawks beat the Raiders in London in 2018, they were one of the last NFL teams to play an international game. Thousands of Seahawks fans appeared to make the trip.