The NFL is ready to make changes to the 2020 season if needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This week, the NFL owners unanimously approved a contingency plan that will expand the playoff field from 14 to 16 teams if games with playoff implications can't be played, according to multiple reports. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said if the league is forced to expand the playoffs, it will not re-seed teams.
This will only happen if the NFL can't first complete the meaningful games that are rescheduled in a proposed Week 18. This season, the league has had its share of COVID-19 cases, and the Tennessee Titans had a coronavirus outbreak that led to multiple changes to the early part of the schedule. Currently, the NFL has managed to play all of its games on the schedule and is on track to play all the games this weekend. However, the number of coronavirus cases nationwide is growing as more than 100,000 people have tested positive for the virus for seven consecutive days, according to ESPN.
Before the start of the season, the league approved to expand the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams. A third wild card team will be added to each conference, and the top seed from the AFC and NFC will have a bye on the first weekend. When the playoffs were at 12 teams, the top two seeds from each conference would have a bye on Wild Card Weekend.
The NFL is more than halfway through the season, which means teams are looking to making a run to secure a playoff spot. If the playoffs were to start now, the Pittsburgh Steelers would be the top seed in the AFC, and the New Orleans Saints would be No. 1 in the NFC. The Steelers are the only undefeated team in the NFL at 8-0, their best start in franchise history. The Saints are tied with the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers for the best record in the NFC at 6-2. New Orleans wins the tiebreaker because they have a better conference record at 5-1.
If the playoffs were expanded to 16 teams. That would mean the Cleveland Browns would qualify as of right now. The Browns have a 5-3 record and are the No. 8 seed in the AFC. They haven't been to the playoffs since the 2002 season and haven't won a playoff game since 1994.