The NFL owners have voted to expand the playoffs from 14 to 16 teams this season if the COVID-19 pandemic forces the league to cancel games, commissioner Roger Goodell announced on Tuesday.
The owners already had voted in May to expand the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams. This latest decision comes on the heels of a rise in positive COVID-19 cases among the league’s players, and bleak predictions from the medical community of a surge in the disease nationwide over the next several months.
The owners also voted Tuesday to reward teams that develop coaches and executives of color with draft picks. Teams that develop a minority assistant coach or executive who is ultimately hired for an open head coach or general manager position with another team would be awarded a pair of third-round draft picks. The picks would be at the end of the third round.
Goodell said the NFL remains committed to finishing the season on time. The regular season is scheduled to end on Jan. 3, with the playoffs starting the next weekend. Super Bowl LV is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 7 in Tampa, Fla.
The expansion to 14 playoff teams means each conference will add a third wild-card team. If the playoffs need to be expanded to 16 teams, each conference will have four wild-card teams.