On Tuesday, NFL owners unanimously agreed to allow two more teams into an already expanded playoff-field if the COVID-19 hampered season isn’t completed in the allotted 18 weeks. The contingency plan is set to put 16 teams into an action packed race for the league’s penultimate game, the Super Bowl.
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In a March vote among owners, the current playoff field was approved for expansion to 14 which is 1 more from each conference (from 6 to 7). This means 43.8 percent of the 32-team league would be postseason bound. But with it possibly moving to 16 that means 50.0 percent of the league would get a taste of the second season. This is highly plausible if the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the 2020 season.
The Steelers were rolling with the best start in franchise history (8-0) and have now placed star QB Ben Roethlisberger and three others on the reserve/COVID-19 list after they were deemed high-risk close contacts with tight end Vance McDonald, who returned a positive test for the virus Monday.
This is new as the NFL usually completes a 16 game schedule in 17 weeks, with each team receiving a bye week. The 18th week was added as a buffer if games had to be postponed amid the pandemic. If any of these games remain after the 18th week that’s when you’d see the expanded playoff field of 16 teams.
The original 16 game plan would’ve seeded teams by their record in their respective conferences from best to worst. That was changed Tuesday, and the division winners will now hold the top four seeds as they always have regardless of record, and the rest will be considered wild cards.
That particular decision has a real impact on the “NFC Least” formerly known as the “NFC East” whose division winner would still get a top four seed and a home game in the 16-game plan even though it’s highly plausible they could finish under .500. At issue is a scenario where upwards of 7-8 finish a better record than that “NFC East” winner.
The last team to win a division with a losing record was the 2010 Seattle Seahawks. They went (7-9) and shocked the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints (11-5) 41-30 in the Wild Card Round in Seattle. The “Marshawn Lynch” run game known as the “Beast Quake”.