The current coronavirus pandemic is playing havoc with many sports leagues around the world, including the NHL and NBA, but the National Football League is benefiting from where we are on the calendar.
On Tuesday, the NFL announced that it will add two additional wild-card playoff teams for the 2020 season, a move that will raise the number of post-season spots to 14.
It marks the first time since 1990 that the NFL will expand its playoff format, when the league went from a 10- to 12-team tournament for the Super Bowl.
The new playoff system will grant only the top seeds in the AFC and NFC a first-round bye, while pitting the No. 2 team against the seventh-seed, No. 3 will host No. 6, and the fourth and fifth-seeded teams will meet.
It certainly gives teams added incentive to finish with the best record in each conference, knowing that they’re the only teams that will get a week off before the win-or-go-home scenario of football’s post-season.
The new format will also feature triple-headers on wild-card weekend on Jan. 9 and 10.
The schedule will be released in May and the 16-game regular season is tentatively set to start on Sept. 10, unless, of course, the COVID-19 crisis is still causing chaos in North America and around the world.
The pandemic has already forced the NFL to cancel its annual meetings, and the April 23-25 draft will be held remotely, with commissioner Roger Goodell announcing the first-round selections from a central hub instead of in front of thousands of cheering — and booing — fans in Las Vegas.
All NFL fans are hoping the coronavirus crisis is contained before kickoff in September, and if it isn’t, we will probably have bigger things to worry about than not having four-down football.