While there might not be any professional sports happening right now, it’s impossible to avoid dreaming of some on-field action. Although things can still change, the NFL is hoping to get their season underway as planned. That would mean kicking off the preseason in early August; the regular season and the newly-expanded NFL playoffs would then follow in turn.
The 2020 NFL playoffs, of course, will be a bit different. Not only will the postseason field be expanded, but that reality could give rise to one unexpected scenario.
The 2020 NFL playoffs will feature more teams than ever before
Over the years, the NFL playoff format has changed as more and more teams joined the league. This postseason, however, will include an even more drastic change.
Under the league’s new CBA, 14 total teams will make the playoffs. In order to make those numbers work, only the first overall seed in each conference will receive a bye rather than the top two; the others will battle it out in six total Wild Card Weekend games.
While the finer details of that expansion are still coming to light—on the television front, for example, we know Nickelodeon will be involved—we’ll have to wait to see how things play out on the field. With only two total teams getting a bye, will coaches prioritize resting their players over securing a better seed? On the opposite end of the spectrum, how many teams will consider themselves contenders with an additional Wild Card spot up for grabs?
Under the expansion, an entire division can make the NFL playoffs
As with virtually every other major decision, the NFL’s playoff expansion has divided public opinion. Some fans are happy to watch more postseason football, even if it arose through a significant change; others are concerned that adding an extra team will dilute the field even further.
One unintended consequence of the expansion, however, caught the attention of NFL fans on Reddit. With three Wild Card teams coming out of each conference, an entire division could theoretically the playoffs.
While it wouldn’t be easy, the feat would still be mathematically possible. In theory, the four teams could split all of their divisional games, ending up with identical 3-3 records; if everyone won out from there, they’d all finish the season 13-3. All four teams could still make the playoffs if some of them finished with lesser records, but it wouldn’t be a sure thing.
Don’t expect a clean divisional sweep anytime soon, though
If you’re a fan of a team that just missed the playoffs, an expanded field must look like a dream opportunity. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for all three Wild Card teams to come from the same division.
In order for an entire division to make the playoffs, all four teams have to be very good, but not unbeatable; remember, to guarantee a berth, they need to evenly split their divisional games but run the table against the rest of the league. That reality, in of itself, makes things incredibly tough. If you look at the current NFL, virtually every division has a team who’s either too good or too bad for everything to break perfectly. Everything would also have to fall into place for all four teams—no one, for example, can lose a game due to bad luck or injury—upping the difficulty factor even further.
The NFL’s playoff expansion will definitely allow more fans to dream of making the postseason, but it’s not a magic bullet capable of carrying an entire division to the promised land. While it might be cool—or boring, depending on your perspective—to see an entire division make the playoffs, don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.