A loss of NFL regular season games could result in an expanded playoff field. While no NFL games have yet to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NFL competition committee expects to present a resolution to the league’s 32 owners based on having a 16-team playoff if games are lost due to COVID-19, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.
The NFL‘s competition met virtually on Monday to discuss the resolution, according to Mortensen, who also noted that future loss of bye weeks could increase the odds of an extended playoff field. Several teams, including the undefeated Steelers, have already seen their bye weeks altered due to the pandemic.
By virtue of the league’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NFL was already set to go from a 12 to a 14-team playoff this winter. Under the 14-team field, only the No. 1 seed in each conference would receive a playoff bye, while the other six teams in each conference would play on Wild Card Weekend. If the playoff field is expanded to 16 teams, the top two seeds in each conference would likely receive byes. As it currently stands, the 7-0 Steelers would own the AFC’s No. 1 seed, while the 6-1 Seahawks would own the top seed in the NFC.
If the league expands to a 16-team playoff, it would mark the first time since 1982 that at least half of the NFL’s teams participated in the postseason. Following a strike shortened season in ’82, the league decided to include 16 of the NFL’s 28 teams in the postseason. Dubbing it the “Super Bowl Tournament,” eight teams from each conference participated in the playoffs that winter, with Washington winning the four-game tournament after defeating the Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII. John Riggins, named Super Bowl MVP after rushing for 166 yards and a touchdown, actually rushed for more yards during the ’82 playoffs (610) than he did during the nine-game regular season (553).
While there probably is not a fan base that is openly rooting for less regular season games, an extended playoff field would certainly help the Raiders, Dolphins, Bears and 49ers, four teams that would just miss the playoffs under the league’s current format.