NFL owners are expected to formally ratify the expanded playoffs, set to begin in the 2020 season, when they speak Tuesday via conference call, according to multiple people familiar with the league’s plans.
The vote is to include how teams will be seeded for the postseason and which TV networks will carry the games, and the discussion also is set to cover which days the additional games will be played.
The owners’ vote on the new playoff system, which increases the postseason field from 12 to 14 teams, is considered a formality. “Yes, it will pass,” one person familiar with the situation said.
The additional playoff games were included in the owners’ negotiations with the NFL Players Association on their recently completed collective bargaining agreement, although the owners maintained they had the right to unilaterally expand the playoffs under the previous CBA.
The details are expected to be formalized during Tuesday’s conference call. Under the proposed format, seven teams in each conference qualify for the postseason instead of the current six. Only one team in each conference, rather than the current two, receives an opening-round bye. That makes for six first-round games — three in each conference — instead of a total of four.
What is yet to be formalized: which networks will carry the extra games and when they will be played. The league could schedule three games for Saturday and three for Sunday on that opening playoff weekend. Or one of the games could be played on Monday night, although that might create a competitive disadvantage for that winner the following weekend.
The owners also are to be briefed during Tuesday’s call by Allen Sills, the NFL’s chief medical officer, and are to discuss the league’s plans for the upcoming draft. The conference call comes in place of the annual league meeting that had been scheduled for this week in Palm Beach, Florida, but was canceled by the NFL because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Commissioner Roger Goodell informed teams last week that the draft will be held as scheduled April 23-25. The live events in Las Vegas associated with the draft have been canceled, and it will be a TV-only event.
The owners are not scheduled to consider any rule-change proposals Tuesday. Those discussions have been postponed until the owners’ meeting scheduled for May 18-20 in Marina del Rey, California. That’s when the owners would take a renewal vote on the system that made pass interference reviewable by instant replay last season.
Coaches and general managers now are scheduled to attend the May meeting, because the March meeting was canceled. It’s not clear how the league would handle its rule-change consideration for this offseason if the May meeting also must be canceled.