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ESPN -- If and when a transformational collective bargaining agreement is finalized -- and there is now mounting optimism it could be done sometime in the next week -- it is expected to change the NFL's playoff structure as it is currently constituted for next season, league sources told ESPN.

Under the current CBA proposal that NFL owners are pushing for, the playoff field would be expanded to seven teams from each conference, while the regular season would be increased to 17 games per team and the preseason shortened to three games per team, sources said.

As part of the proposed playoff format, only one team from each conference would receive a first-round bye as opposed to the two that currently do, league sources said. That would mean a revised postseason schedule that includes six games on wild-card weekend, with three on Saturday and three on Sunday.


The changes to the NFL's playoff format would take effect for the 2020 season, assuming the new CBA is ratified beforehand. Had the proposed format been in place this past season, the Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers would have been the next teams included in the expanded playoff field.

"That's been agreed to for a long time," one source familiar with the CBA talks said about the NFL's new playoff structure. "There wasn't a lot of disagreement to that issue."

Additionally, the players on teams that earn a first-round bye will receive postseason pay for that weekend. That was not the case under the current CBA, which has always rankled some players.

Now the sides are trying to work through the final issues, including getting the players to sign off on a 17-game regular season. That has yet to be agreed to, and it would not take effect until 2021 at the earliest.


Call me crazy, but I absolutely LOVE IT!  Give me more playoff games, give me more football!  It is obvious that the NFL is trying to add more games and revenue but the NFLPA is worried about players safety and health - so what is a perfect work around? MORE PLAYOFF TEAMS! No NFL player wants to play a week 19 meaningless game when they are 4-14 and not fighting for a playoff spot.  The players and teams who want that are the ones getting a major bonus and a chance to hoist the Lombardi. 


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ESPN -- No. 16 Seton Hall aims to rebound against No. 21 Butler

No. 16 Seton Hall returns home on Wednesday to face No. 21 Butler in Newark, N.J., aiming to snap a two-game losing skid that significantly narrowed the Pirates' Big East Conference lead.

Seton Hall (18-7, 10-3 Big East) pulled ahead three games of its nearest Big East challenger following its Feb. 8 win at Villanova.

However, dropping games at home to Creighton on Feb. 12, 87-82, and on the road against Providence on Saturday, 74-71, shaved the Pirates' advantage to just one game. Creighton is within striking distance, and it gets Seton Hall in Omaha to close the regular season on March 7.

Pirates coach Kevin Willard lamented in his postgame radio interview following the Providence loss that Seton Hall is dealing with "some guys with bad attitudes right now.

"When we lost to Creighton the other day and we played terrible, and I'm sitting in practice and I'm thinking, 'I've got a guy moody that doesn't want to go through practice who hardly played. I have another guy who played 25 minutes that can't make a shot and didn't have a rebound. I have another guy that got embarrassed defensively.'"

Willard did not single out any Pirates by name, but the apparent malaise probably does not extend to Myles Powell. The high-scoring guard finished with 27 points at Providence, and he added four assists and two steals.

In Seton Hall's last matchup with Butler -- a 78-70 win at Indianapolis on Jan. 15 -- Powell scored 29 points and made three steals.

Powell is one of four Pirates averaging more than a steal per game at 1.3. The others are Quincy McKnight at 1.6, Jared Rhoden at 1.2, Myles Cale at 1.1.

Along with the rim protection provided by Romaro Gill, who ranks second in the nation with 3.5 blocked shots per game, Seton Hall is No. 10 nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com. That adds to the unexpected nature of the losing streak, as the 87 and 74 points surrendered equal the Pirates' highest back-to-back point yields of the season.

Butler (19-7, 7-6) comes into Wednesday's matchup off of a 73-66 home loss to Georgetown on Saturday. That marks three consecutive games in which the Bulldogs fell short of 70 points, and five in the past six. Butler's record over that stretch is 3-3.

In Saturday's loss, however, Butler coach LaVall Jordan pointed to defensive struggles.

"(The Hoyas) were prepared and they answered every run we had," he said in his postgame press conference. "In this league, you can't afford to not play well, and we didn't today. We really struggled to guard them off the bounce all day."

Georgetown's dribble-drive penetration freed up shooters from long range, resulting in a 10-of-15 shooting day from behind the 3-point arc. Butler's defense has been outstanding inside the arc on the year, limiting opponents to 43.3 percent shooting, but the Bulldogs rank just No. 138 nationally defending the 3-pointer with opponents hitting 32.4 percent of their attempts.

The story has been reversed on the other end of the floor: Butler is shooting 53.3 percent inside the arc, college basketball's 37th-best average, but a middling 34 percent beyond it.

--Field Level Media

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