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NFL officially expanding to 14-team playoffs in 2020

The NFL owners have approved the expansion, which takes effect immediately.

David Eulitt/Getty Images

On Tuesday afternoon, NFL owners voted to expand the playoff field from 12 to 14, effective immediately, as first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

We knew this was coming, but there was some thought it might arrive in 2021. Now the NFL seems keen on getting an expanded playoff out the door immediately, likely to pump up excitement for a season that’s still not certain to happen.

This was one of many stipulations in the new collective bargaining agreement. The new structure will allow for 7 teams to now represent each conference, as opposed to the usual 6 which has been in place since 1990. To accommodate for the odd number of teams per conference, a bye week will now only be awarded to the No. 1 seed in each conference. The rest of the playoff field will play in Wild Card weekend.

For the Atlanta Falcons, it’s an improved chance for the team to qualify for the playoffs in a year where everyone is likely again on the “hot seat” following back-to-back 7-9 seasons. I doubt anyone in Flowery Branch is all that unhappy with the opportunity.

Here’s the full statement from the NFL:

NFL clubs voted today to expand the postseason by two teams beginning with the 2020 season.

Expanding the NFL postseason was addressed in the new NFL-NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement. Players and clubs both recognized that nothing energizes fans like the chance to see their team qualify for the playoffs and compete for the Super Bowl.

Today’s vote during a league meeting held remotely follows the recommendation of the Competition Committee, Management Council Executive Committee and Media Committee on increasing the number of playoff teams from 12 to 14.

Two additional Wild Card teams – one each in the American and National Football Conferences – will qualify for the playoffs. The No. 1 seed in each conference will receive a bye in the Wild Card round. The remaining division champions in each conference with the best records will be seeded 2, 3, and 4, followed by the next three teams per conference with the best records seeded 5, 6, and 7.

AFC and NFC Wild Card games will feature the 2 seed hosting the 7 seed, the 3 seed hosting the 6 seed and the 4 seed hosting the 5 seed. Wild Card Weekend for the 2020 season will consist of three games on Saturday, January 9, and three games on Sunday, January 10, 2021. ​

CBS will broadcast one additional Wild Card game on January 10 with kickoff at approximately 4:40 p.m. ET. The game will also be available via a livestream on CBS All Access. Additionally, as part of CBS’ 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 January 10 with kickoff at approximately 8:15 p.m. ET. ​

​The NFL last expanded the playoffs for the 1990 season, increasing from 10 to 12 the number of teams to qualify for the postseason. Since 1990, at least four new teams have qualified for the playoffs that missed the postseason the year before – a streak of 30 consecutive seasons.​