Jan 12, 2020; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws a pass against the Seattle Seahawks in the fourth quarter of a NFC Divisional Round playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Report: NFL mulling 16-team playoff field if games lost to pandemic

The NFL has not yet lost any scheduled games because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. But the league is constantly preparing in case it does.

The latest evidence is a plan that potentially could adjust this season’s playoff format to a 16-team field, with eight teams in each conference qualifying for the postseason, ESPN reported Monday.

The fall-back option was discussed on a conference call conducted by the NFL competition committee on Monday, with the purpose to soften some of the league’s financial blow in case multiple games are eventually canceled and bye weeks are lost due to COVID-19.

NFL sources were cited describing the idea that would hypothetically increase the numbers of playoff teams by two to 16, with one additional team each from the AFC and NFC. This postseason was already slated for a two-team playoff spike, with one more wild-card team in each conference, after the league approved the switch in March.

If approved and instituted, the seeding system would include no byes for division champions and instead rank each team by conference from No. 1 through 8. In the opening round, the top seed — the division champion with the best overall record — would face the wild-card team with the worst record as the No. 8 seed. Then the second seed would face the seventh seed, with No. 3 versus No. 6 and No. 4 against No. 5 in the opening weekend.

The league office has reportedly remained steadfast in its hopes to avoid any schedule changes that could threaten its current Super Bowl LV date, currently slated for Feb. 7, 2001 in Tampa. In case of major postseason scheduling changes, the NFL’s likely first move would be to eliminate the week off scheduled between the conference championships and the Super Bowl.

–Field Level Media

Is Playoff Experience an Indicator of Future Success?

Every postseason, young teams are counted out from contention because they don’t have “playoff experience,” but does that really matter?

To answer that question we first, we compared Super Bowl wins and playoff appearances. There are 9 teams that have made the playoffs at least 8 times since 2002. All but one of the teams won at least one Super Bowl. The only team missing was the Falcons and we all know how that turned out. 

Secondly, we compared Super Bowl Wins and Playoff Win Percentage. All of the teams that have won the Super Bowl since 2002 have won 50% or more of their postseason games, regardless of the number of playoff appearances they’ve had.

While it may not be the perfect indicator, Playoff Experience is certainly a strong metric for predicting the Super Bowl winner.

The graphic below compares the number of Playoff Appearances and Postseason Win percentage for each team, also indicating whether or not they’ve won a Super Bowl since 2002. Hover over the graph to split into 4 quadrants, revealing the number of teams, and the percent of Super Bowl winners.

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Teams That Can't Buy Success – A Look at the NFL's Longest Droughts

Days before Super Bowl III, Joe Namath famously guaranteed his New York Jets would defeat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts. His guarantee came true, and New York fans rejoiced. 49 years later, the Jets faithful have had little to celebrate, apart from their postseason win over the Patriots in January of 2011. It’s been a tough go of it, but maybe things will turn around for them soon.

The last time the Browns won their division, it was called the AFC Central, and the year was 1989. Since then, they’ve had only 3 winning seasons.

For most fans, it’s bad news to hear the term Drought and their favorite team in the same conversation. We’ve compiled data on each team, and how long it’s been since their last:

  • Divisional Title
  • Playoff Appearance
  • Playoff Win
  • Super Bowl Appearance
  • Super Bowl Win

Use the drop down menu to change categories.

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Wild Card Appearances (2002-2018)

Since the NFL was restructured in 2002, there are four teams that have not played in the postseason as a wild card. The Patriots, Bears, Texans and Buccaneers have either won their division or missed the playoffs completely.

In the same time frame, the Patriots have made 14 postseason appearances. Combined, the Bears, Bucs and Texans have made 10 appearances. 

Amount of wild card appearances is a good metric for the continued strength of a division as a whole. The graphic below displays each division and the number of wild card appearances since 2002. The AFC North comes out on top, boasting five consecutive seasons from 2008-2012 in which they sent at least two teams to the postseason. The AFC East and NFC West each finished with only six appearances.

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