Say hello to more high-stakes football.
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports, thanks to Sunday's vote in favor of the new collective bargaining agreement, the NFL will add a seventh playoff team in each conference effective in 2020, raising the total playoff bids available from 12 to 14.
Gone is the first-round bye for each conference's No. 2 seed, increasing the importance of the top position in the AFC and NFC standings. Another wild-card team joins the fray, giving us three for each conference and a visiting opponent for each division winner that didn't finish with the top seed on Wild Card Weekend.
This could make the regular season's final weeks much more interesting. Instead of debating whether teams with berths secured should rest starters in the final week or two of the regular season, those contenders will likely be playing for playoff seeding, battling for the lone bye and a more advantageous first-round matchup. The window increases for fringe teams, too, as the defending NFC champion Los Angeles Rams and gritty-but-undermanned Pittsburgh Steelers would've snuck into the playoffs at 9-7 and 8-8 last season under the new format.
The additional playoff team also gives us a better chance of a lower-seeded team running the table on a deep playoff run. As other sports' postseason tournaments have proven, all you need to do is get in. There's an increased possibility -- and a greater reason to watch all the way to the final week of the season (which can become a week later with the new CBA's option to add a 17th game) -- for those fighting for another opportunity to take the field. Intriguing football is always better football.