Could the NFL expand the playoffs from 14 to 16 teams this upcoming season?
The 2020 NFL season was already going to feature a new playoff format moving into the new decade. Now, things might be changing again in favor of those fringe postseason contenders.
According to a report from ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the NFL met Monday to discuss the potential plan if NFL games are canceled during the regular season. While there has yet to be a cancelation due to COVID-19, there have been talks of potentially expanding the now 14-team playoff format to a 16-team system in replacement of rescheduling.
Part of the reason the league is open to changing their format is due to a recent trend of moved games. Teams like the Steelers already had their bye weeks altered due to the pandemic while others such as the Raiders couldn’t switch weeks due to other opponents’ conflicting schedules.
How would the new NFL playoff format work?
Under the new system set in place from the Collective Bargaining Agreement this offseason, only the top seed would receive a bye in the Wild Card Round while the No.2 seed would face the new No.7 opponent. If the season were to end today, the undefeated Steelers would hoist the title as the best club in the AFC while the battle for the NFC crown would go through the Seahawks in Seattle.
According to the report, if the playoffs were to expand to 16 teams, it’s assumed the top four teams in each division and four at-large bid teams would earn a spot in January football. From there, the top seed wouldn’t garner the first week of relaxation, but instead face the No.8 seed at home.
This wouldn’t be the first time in league history that 16 teams battled it out for the Lombardi Trophy. In 1982, the league had a shortened season due to a 57-day-long player’s strike, ultimately leading to a nine-game schedule. Out west in Pasadena, Calif. , the now-Washington Football Team would defeat Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins, 27-17 to be named the victors of Super Bowl XVII.
For teams such as the Raiders, Dolphins, Lions, 49ers and Rams this would actually help them stay in contention for what’s sure to be a race to the finish for the No.7 spot. The real question though: with the new format, can we leave out the NFC East altogether?