Starting in the 2020/21 season fourteen NFL teams will advance to the playoffs, creating an extra two games. For many years six teams battled it out from the NFC and AFC in ten games, culminating in the Super Bowl and now with an extra two teams, we get two more playoff games.
The wild card weekend just became a flurry of football
The top seven teams from both conferences now make it to the playoffs . The first playoff weekend, the “wildcard” round, will now have six games played that weekend, up from four. Quite the weekend of football.
It used to be that the top two seeds from each conference would get a “bye” and skip the wildcard round, and also receive “home field advantage” through the playoffs. Now only the top seed skips the wildcard weekend, leaving six wildcard games. So we will see 2 Vs 7, 3 Vs 6 and 4 Vs 5 in the first round.
Top Seed priority
It is clear that over the years, being a top seed has brought a great advantage in getting to the Super Bowl. The bye week break and receiving home field advantage is a huge boost for teams. Plus if you have been so far ahead in the regular season and have received a top seed early (like the Baltimore Ravens last season) then you can also afford to play your reserves on the final game of the season to get that extra rest.
However now, only one team from each conference gets to skip the wild card weekend. I think this is a good thing, because if two teams are a lock in for the top two seeds come weeks 15 and beyond, both will have to play their starters to get that top seed spot. No more taking the last couple games off, unless there is genuinely just one team miles ahead. This makes it more interesting for the fans all the way to week 17.
While the last few weeks of the regular season becomes more exciting, the possible downside is that any team that is not a top seed will find it even harder to win the Super Bowl. The top seed now has a much bigger advantage, the only time they play another team that has also had a bye would be in the Super Bowl itself.
This avoids “dead rubber” games
Towards the end of the season, we see a lot of “dead rubber” games; matchups whereby neither team can make the playoffs, so both do not try and the result is meaningless. Now with an extra team making the playoffs, we should see a knock on effect down to the lesser teams; where more teams will be fighting right at the end for that seventh spot.
This will make the end of the season more exciting for more teams, which again is a really good thing.
I can see the NFL at the next CBA going one step further in the future, and possibly going with sixteen teams in the playoffs. The top two teams getting the bye and six others in the wildcard game, which would make 16 of the 32 teams in the playoffs. I think anything more than that would be ridiculous, unless they have more NFL teams.
Written by Adam Goldstein @TailgateKnight