NFL approves COVID-19 contingency plan to expand playoffs

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins. (USA Today)
Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins. (USA Today) /

The NFL will expand to 16 playoff teams from 14 this season if meaningful games are canceled.

The NFL has approved a contingency plan to expanded the postseason field because of COVID-19.

Tom Pelissero of The NFL Network reports what the league plans to do with its postseason if it has no choice but to cancel regular-season games. If “meaningful” games are canceled, the NFL will allow an eighth playoff team to make the field in both conferences.

However, no reseeding will be possible in this contingency plan, which is a massive, massive win for the pitiful NFC East.

The NFL’s playoff expansion contingency plan is a huge win for the NFC East

So the idea behind approved playoff expansion from 14 to 16 teams makes sense in this scenario. If teams like the Cleveland Browns, the Las Vegas Raiders and the Miami Dolphins are duking it out for the No. 7 seed in the AFC, assuming an impactful game gets canceled off one of their schedules, two or possibly all three teams end up getting in the expanded eight-team AFC field.

Outside of teams in contention for the No. 1 seed, who would no longer have a bye in this expanded format, this feels like a heads-up contingency plan made by the NFL. This gives more than half of the league’s teams a shot at the postseason with have of them possibly getting in. However, the NFC East division winner keeping the No. 4 seed and a home playoff game is awful.

This puts teams like the Arizona Cardinals, the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers behind the eight-ball, as they will have to travel to presumably Lincoln Financial Field and play the expected NFC East winner Philadelphia Eagles in the elements in January. They have known this was the card they were dealt with the playoff route, but the NFL had a chance to rectify this.

Next. 3 reasons why Patrick Mahomes is the clear NFL MVP right now. dark

So while this stinks for high-end NFC Wild Card teams like the Buccaneers, the Cardinals and the Rams, this contingency plan is great for teams finding themselves in that No. 9 to No. 12 range in their respective conferences. Unless you are teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars or the New York Jets, you are really not that far out of it from getting that potential No. 8 seed. Again, this helps.

While we hope no regular-season games get cancelled, adding two more playoff teams suffices.