If your favorite NFL team is always on the brink of the postseason, take solace. The league announced Tuesday that NFL owners have officially voted to expand the playoffs by two teams -- one from each conference, bringing the grand total from 12 to 14 -- starting with the 2020 season. The news was first reported by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
The NFL's expanded postseason proposal was initially agreed upon by both team owners and the NFL Players Association as part of the league's new collective bargaining agreement, which was ratified earlier this offseason.
Twelve teams will now play on Wild-Card weekend, while the two No. 1 seeds will receive a playoff bye. The three division winners that didn't receive the bye will host the three wild card teams, while the top seed will face the lowest remaining seed in the divisional round.
Wild-Card Weekend for the 2020 season will consist of three games on Saturday, Jan. 9, and three games on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. CBS will broadcast one additional Wild-Card game on Jan. 10 with kickoff at approximately 4:40 p.m. ET. The game will also be available via live stream on CBS All Access. Additionally, as part of CBS's coverage, a separately produced telecast of the game will air on Nickelodeon, tailored for a younger audience. NBC, its new streaming service Peacock, as well as Telemundo, will all broadcast an additional Wild-Card game on Jan. 10 with kickoff at approximately 8:15 p.m. ET.
The NFL last expanded its postseason for the 1990 season, increasing the number of qualifying teams from 10 to 12.
How drastically will the new format change the league? Let's consider what would've happened if the new format had existed in 2019: The No. 2-seeded Chiefs would have hosted the No. 7-seed Steelers in the Wild-Card round of the AFC playoffs, with the top-seeded Ravens awaiting the lowest remaining seed in the second round. On the NFC side, the No. 2-seeded Packers would have hosted the No. 7-seeded Rams, with the top-seeded 49ers playing the lowest of the remaining seed in the second round.
Considering the 8-8 Steelers and 9-7 Rams would have made the playoffs had the postseason been expanded this past season, it appears that winning 10 games would almost guarantee a playoff spot moving forward. Since 2002, 10 different 10-win teams failed to make the playoffs. Under the league's new format, only the 2010 Buccaneers would have still missed out on the postseason, with the other nine 10-win teams qualifying for the postseason.
The NFL will wait at least until 2021 to increase its regular season from 16 to 17 games. The only time the NFL extended its regular season and postseason in the same year was back in 1978, when the regular season went from 14 to 16 games, while the playoff field was expanded by two teams.