Owners Will Vote On Scenario Where Playoff Field Expands From 14 To 16 Teams

NFL owners will meet virtually on Tuesday at 1:00 EST. One of the topics that will be discussed and voted on is potentially expanding the amount of teams in the postseason if regular-season games are lost to COVID-19.

So far, the NFL has played all their games through nine weeks. They’ve had to move games around on the schedule but they’ve been able to get it done. With most teams already done with their bye weeks, moving games will become much tougher moving forward. It’s possible some teams won’t play a full, 16-game schedule.

The league is prepared to add an additional week to the regular season, Week 18, “if the 256-game regular season cannot be completed in 17 weeks but can be completed by adding one additional week to the regular season.” Owners are expected to confirm that tomorrow.

What if a game that won’t affect the playoff bracket can’t be played in 18 weeks: The proposal says that “clubs may play an unequal number of regular season games if postponed games cannot be played,” and that if a 256-game regular season gets played or “if games that are unable to played do not otherwise affect eligibility or seeding for the postseason,” the 14-team playoff will happen as planned. In other words, if COVID-19 doesn’t affect the playoff picture, everything will go on as planned with no changes. 

Here’s where things get interesting. What if a team in the playoff picture can’t get their full 16 games in after 18 weeks: Per the proposal, “If the 256-game regular season cannot be played in 17 or 18 weeks,” an alternate plan would be enacted, taking the playoff field to 16 teams. 

The plan would include eight teams from the AFC and NFC, respectively, with each conference’s four division champions and four wild-card teams.

No team would receive a bye in the first round. The first-round playoff pairings would be 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5 in each conference.

Ties will be broken using at least 10 different metrics, including head-to-head record, conference winning percentage, and strength of schedule.

And here’s a twist that could play a difference in the NFC East: The seeding 1-8 would be by winning percentage, regardless of whether they won their division. So the Eagles or whoever wins the NFC East will NOT automatically get a home game.

Again, this playoff contingency plan would only be enacted if a meaningful game cannot be played. If another outbreak like the Titans had would happen, then this scenario could end up occurring.

The NFL has shown us throughout the season that they are preparing for all circumstances. And they are already taking the steps to make sure this plan is only used in a football emergency.

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