The NFL’s anticipated playoff expansion officially passed.
League owners voted to approve expanding the postseason to 14 teams beginning in the 2020 season, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source.
The decision came during a conference call Tuesday, which took place in lieu of the NFL’s Annual League Meeting, which was canceled earlier this month as part of the league’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Changing the playoff format required approval from three-quarters of the 32 NFL owners.
In the new format, AFC and NFC Wild Card games will feature the No. 2 seed hosting the No. 7 seed, the No. 3 seed hosting the No. 6 seed and the No. 4 seed hosting the No. 5 seed.
The league announced NBC and CBS would broadcast the additional wild card games. NFL Wild Card Weekend will include three games Saturday, Jan. 9 and another three games Sunday, Jan. 10. In addition to CBS’ extra broadcast on Jan. 9 — which also will be carried via a livestream on CBS All Access — the NFL noted a separately produced telecast of the game will air on Nickelodeon, tailored for a younger audience.
The NBC game on Jan. 10 also will be aired on the network’s new streaming service, Peacock, as well as Telemundo.
The expanded format, which was agreed to in the new CBA, added one team per conference, creating six total wild card slots. Per league data, since 1990, when the playoffs expanded from 10 to 12 teams, 44 of the 60 teams that would have claimed the seventh seeds had winning records, including 10 different 10-win teams. Only the 1990 Dallas Cowboys would have made the playoffs with a losing record over that span in a 14-team format.
Adding an additional playoff team in each conference means only the No.1 seeds in the AFC and NFC will earn a postseason bye, a massive advantage to the top club each year. While it’s been suggested that adding playoff teams could dilute the regular season, with the No. 1 spot earning an even bigger advantage than previous seasons, it could make the final weeks for vital for clubs battling for postseason position.
The move to 14 playoff teams means 43.7 percent of all NFL teams would qualify for the postseason, compared to 33.3 percent in MLB (33.3), 51.6 in NHL and 53.3 in NBA.
Voting on other potential 2020 changes, including proposed rule adjustments, is currently expected to take place at the league meeting presently scheduled for mid-May, NFL Network’s Judy Battista previously reported.