NFL could add more playoff teams as a COVID-19 contingency

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The NFL is making contingency plans for the postseason in case COVID-19 disrupts the regular season again.

While the league already voted to expand the playoffs to 14 teams entering this season, it could adapt a 16-team playoff if teams are not able to play their full schedule because of the pandemic, ESPN reported. The NFL competition committee was expected to present the plan to owners, according to the report, though it was not clear how many cancelled games would force a change.

The current setup sends seven teams to the playoffs from each conference, with the top seed in each conference receiving a first-round bye. By adding an extra wild-card team in each conference under the contingency plan, the four division winners would play the four wild cards in the first round. Before this year, 12 teams made the postseason with two wild cards in each conference.

With Week 8 just completed, all 32 teams are still on track to play 16 games in 17 weeks. But there have been disruptions along the way with some teams having to take their bye week early to coincide with multiple COVID-19 positives on their team or their opponent’s roster.

The expanded playoffs would not add an extra week to the postseason, meaning the Super Bowl could still be played on Feb. 7 as scheduled.

ESPN previously reported that if the NFL needs to add a Week 18 because of enough postponed games having to be made up, it would not delay the Super Bowl. Instead, the league would eliminate the bye week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.

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