The NFL playoffs just got spicier. Because 12 participants apparently weren’t enough, the league is opening its doors to two additional playoff teams—one from each conference—beginning this upcoming season.
That adds two Wild Card games to this year’s postseason slate with first-round matchups taking place on January 9 and 10, 2021. Instead of two teams getting first-round byes, only the top seed in each conference will avoid Wild Card Weekend. With postseason breathers now harder to come by, the elusive playoff bye week will be more precious than ever under the league’s new guidelines.
Adding two Wild Card teams to future playoff proceedings, a change NFL owners confirmed via conference call Tuesday, was the expected outcome after the new CBA was ratified earlier this month. The newly-minted collective bargaining agreement also calls for a 17-game regular season, though that change won’t be implemented until 2021 at the earliest. Not everyone is on board with this particular stipulation—adding an extra game presents its own set of health and safety concerns. But America’s preferred sport has never lost sight of the bottom line and more games equals more money.
Under the new format, the second seed in each conference will host the seventh seed while three and six-seeds and four and fives will also square off on Wild Card Weekend. In hopes of appealing to kids as well as adults, the added game on Sunday, January 10 will be simulcast live on Nickelodeon with a broadcast catered toward younger viewers. That’s an interesting wrinkle, though whether it’s playing internationally, streaming the action online, flexing late-season primetime matchups or experimenting with Saturday games around the holidays, the forward-thinking NFL has never been afraid to blaze a new trail.
The coronavirus and its widespread effects have brought the sports world to a standstill, though the NFL still plans to release its schedule in the relatively near future. Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the NFL’s much-anticipated schedule release will occur no later than May 9.