Report: NFL mulling 16-team playoff field if games lost to pandemic
The NFL has not yet lost any scheduled games because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But the league is constantly preparing in case it does.
The latest evidence is a plan that potentially could adjust this season’s playoff format to a 16-team field, with eight teams in each conference qualifying for the postseason, ESPN reported Monday.
The fall-back option was discussed on a conference call conducted by the NFL competition committee on Monday, with the purpose to soften some of the league’s financial blow in case multiple games are eventually canceled and bye weeks are lost due to COVID-19.
NFL sources were cited describing the idea that would hypothetically increase the numbers of playoff teams by two to 16, with one additional team each from the AFC and NFC. This postseason was already slated for a two-team playoff spike, with one more wild-card team in each conference, after the league approved the switch in March.
If approved and instituted, the seeding system would include no byes for division champions and instead rank each team by conference from No. 1 through 8. In the opening round, the top seed — the division champion with the best overall record — would face the wild-card team with the worst record as the No. 8 seed. Then the second seed would face the seventh seed, with No. 3 versus No. 6 and No. 4 against No. 5 in the opening weekend.
The league office has reportedly remained steadfast in its hopes to avoid any schedule changes that could threaten its current Super Bowl LV date, currently slated for Feb. 7, 2001 in Tampa. In case of major postseason scheduling changes, the NFL’s likely first move would be to eliminate the week off scheduled between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.
–Field Level Media