Sports | November 3, 2020 12:27 pm

NFL May Expand Playoffs to 16 Teams If Games Are Lost Due to Pandemic

The league's competition committee is proposing the expanded field as a contingency plan

The NFL logo covers part of the field during a game.
There will be little safety net for NFL teams that have Covid-19 outbreaks this season (if the players are unvaccinated)
Getty Images

After already agreeing with the NFLPA to expand the playoff field to include seven teams from each conference, 14 overall, the NFL is considering the possibility of implementing a 16-team playoff scenario in the event that games are lost due to the coronavirus pandemic.

That resolution was presented to owners by the NFL’s competition committee via a video call on Monday, league sources told ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

It is unclear whether owners signed off on the contingency plan, which could become more likely as bye weeks disappear from the schedule as games are postponed, or not.

In the new scenario, the expanded postseason would feature eight playoff teams from each conference — literally half of the teams in the league.

Under the current format, only one team from each conference is set to receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs. By adding another team into the mix, the NFL would have the option of awarding a bye week to a second team in each conference.

Since 1975 when the league instituted its current seeding system, the No. 1 or No. 2 seeds in each conference have reached the Super Bowl 71 times while all other seeds have made it just 17 times. In that same timespan, only 10 of the eventual 44 champions were seeded Nos. 3-6. That tells us that having a top seed and a first-round bye is nearly a prerequisite for making, and winning, the Super Bowl. 

So, even if the league does add to extra playoff teams, don’t expect to see them in the Super Bowl.