The NFL playoff schedule is expanding to 14 teams beginning with the 2020 season following the players approval of a new collective bargaining agreement.
“This result comes after a long and democratic process in accordance with our constitution,” the NFL Players Association said in a statement. “An independent author received submitted ballots through a secure electronic platform, then verified, tallied and certified the results.”
Under the terms of the new CBA, the playoff field will expand by two from 12 teams to 14, which means seven teams per conference. The addition of two teams will reduce the number of first round byes from two teams to one team per conference.
Wild-Card weekend will now consist of three games on Saturday and three games on Sunday. Presumably, the lowest advancing Wild-Card seed in each conference will advance to play the top-seeded team, which would leave the other two winning Wild-Card teams to square off with each other.
Under this new scenario, we can take a look back at the 2019 NFL playoffs and see what that would have looked like. In the NFC, the Wild-Card round matchups would have been Packers-Rams, Saints-Vikings, and Eagles-Seahawks. In the AFC, the matchups would have been Chiefs-Steelers, Patriots-Titans, and Texans-Bills.
Teams with the first-round bye in 2019 would have been the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, both number one seeds in their conference.
Also part of the new collective bargaining agreement is the option to expand the NFL’s regular-season schedule by one to 17 games. NFL owners will have the option to add the extra game from 2021 through 2023, and it’s expected that they will make this move.
Moving to a 17-game schedule would create an imbalance each season with nine home/eight road games for half of the teams, with the other half playing eight home/nine road games. Multiple options have been discussed, one of which included one game at a neutral-site to keep the eight home/eight away balance.
Also being discussed is the possibility of adding an extra bye week to the schedule. Because of these unknowns, the addition of the 17th game is not expected until at least the 2022 season.
”We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the proposed new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs, ensure continued progress on player safety, and give our fans more and better football,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stated in a release. “We appreciate the tireless efforts of the members of the Management Council Executive Committee and the NFLPA leadership, both of whom devoted nearly a year to detailed, good faith negotiations to reach this comprehensive, transformative agreement.”