The NFL is currently looking to revise its current playoff structure, opening it up to more teams and more games during Wild Card weekend. On Thursday, NFL owners approved the new terms, which are awaiting approval by the Players Association. Under the new collective bargaining agreement on the table, proposed changes include expanding the playoffs, allowing seven teams from each conference. Only one team would earn a bye, meaning fans would get six Wild Card games instead of just four.
When the Houston Texans joined the league in 2002, the NFL reorganized into eight divisions consisting of four teams each. Six playoff teams in each conference have been competing for a playoff berth since 1990. The Texans have made the postseason in six of their last nine seasons, but how would this new rule have altered the course of history?
Let's take a look.
In 2007, Houston finished at .500 for the first time in team history. Still, they finished eighth overall in the AFC, so the new rule changes would have left them on the outside looking in and not a Wild Card contender. Instead, the Cleveland Browns would have snuck in with a 10-6 record.
In 2008, the Texans still would have been unaffected by an extra Wild Card spot. The 11-5 Patriots would have clinched the final playoff berth, despite losing the AFC East to the Miami Dolphins, for a perfect playoff attendance rate between 2003 and 2019.
In 2009, Houston finished with its first winning record in franchise history, finishing 9-7 but the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens snagged the Wild Card spots with a 9-7 record and a better conference record. Under the proposed new rules, the Texans could have earned their first-ever playoff appearance two years sooner. Houston finished seventh in the AFC, same as the Pittsburgh Steelers, but would win the common opponents' record as the tiebreaker to earn the final Wild Card spot.
In 2014, Bill O'Brien, in his first season head coach, helped the Texans bounce back to a 9-7 record after a dismal 2-14 season in 2013. Imagine if they made the postseason just months after earning the No. 1 overall draft pick? It would have been possible back then with seven-team expanded playoff structure. Houston finished seventh in the AFC with the same record as the Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills. However, the Texans had a better conference win record and therefore, the tiebreaker to earn that third Wild Card spot.
But instead, the Texans won four of the final five games to close out the regular season, needing additional help to make the playoffs. Ultimately, a 20-10 Ravens' win over the Browns would end the Texans' hopes for a postseason run.
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, according to ESPN. The changes to the NFL's playoff format would take effect for the 2020 season, assuming the new CBA is approved beforehand.