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NFL owners approve 16-team playoff if Covid-19 forces game cancellation

The NFL has a contingency plan if they can’t complete the full regular season.

A general view of the Vince Lombardi Trophy during the second day of the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 26, 2020 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The NFL has managed to maintain its schedule through nine weeks, with a few postponements, but no cancellations. The league’s owners approved a contingency plan that would expand the playoff field from 14 teams to 16 teams if the full 256-game regular season schedule cannot be played. UPDATE: It’s being reported as missing “meaningful games.”

The rule will allow for the four division winners and then four wild card teams. Tom Pelissero is reporting the original proposal would have ranked the eight playoff teams in each conference based on record, rather than giving division winners the top four seeds. That was amended on Tuesday to division winners getting the top four seeds.

Here’s what the playoff picture looks like if it expands to eight teams in each conference.


1. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8-0
2. Kansas City Chiefs, 8-1
3. Buffalo Bills, 7-2
4. Tennessee Titans, 6-2

5. Baltimore Ravens, 6-2
6. Las Vegas Raiders, 5-3
7. Miami Dolphins, 5-3
8. Cleveland Browns, 5-3

Outside looking in: Indianapolis Colts (5-3), Denver Broncos (3-5), New England Patriots (3-5)


1. Seattle Seahawks, 6-2
2. Green Bay Packers, 6-2
3. New Orleans Saints, 6-2
4. Philadelphia Eagles, 3-4-1

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 6-3
6. Arizona Cardinals, 5-3
7. Los Angeles Rams, 5-3
8. Chicago Bears, 5-4

Outside looking in: San Francisco 49ers (4-5), Minnesota Vikings (3-5), Detroit Lions (3-5)