NFL Makes Major Change to Playoff Schedule

The NFL playoffs will be a little longer starting this season. On Friday, the league announced that Super Wild Card Weekend (January 15-17) will end with a game on Monday night. This means that there will be two Wild Card games Saturday and three Wild Card games on Sunday. 

Last season, the NFL expanded the playoffs for the first time since 1990, adding a third Wild Card team in each conference. For the 2020 season, three Wild Card games were played on Saturday and three were played on Sunday. This season, NBC and CBS will broadcast two Super Wild Card Weekend games while Fox and ESPN/ABC will each have one. The network that will air the Monday night game has yet to be announced. 

The playoffs now feature a total of 14 teams - seven from the AFC and seven from the NFC. The No. 1 team from each conference gets a bye in the first round while the other six teams will play during Super Wild Card Weekend. The teams who won the division but don't have the best record in the conference will be seeded two, three and four followed by the next three teams with the best records seeded five, six and seven. 

Back in 2016, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell talked about how the playoffs will eventually expand. "It works so well right now [with 12 teams]," Goodell said.  "I think that what makes the NFL great is every game means so much. You don't ever want to lose that. You don't want to lose the fact that every regular-season game is important. Only having 12 teams qualify, which is the smallest of any of the professional leagues by far, that's a good thing for us."

The interesting thing about this is the playoffs could get bigger down the road. In November, the owners approve a contingency plan where the playoffs can expand from 14 to 16. However, that was for the 2020 season as the team battled through COVID-19. The league stuck with a 14-team playoff field last year. 

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The NFL owners also approved the move before the league expanded the regular season. Along with the addition of a Monday night playoff game, the NFL expanded the regular season to 17 games. This led to the league cutting the preseason for a week, and the addition of an extra playoff game gives teams on the playoff bubble an extra chance to clinch a spot to the dance.