Could the NFL expand the playoffs with Bills-Bengals called off?

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences.
Update your settings here to see it.

Could the NFL expand the playoffs with Bills-Bengals called off? originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Could an expanded 16-team playoff format save the chaotic and upended NFL standings following the cancellation of Monday night’s game between the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals?

It’s one of the possibilities in consideration as the league deals with the fallout from a Week 17 contest that will never be played. 

If it does opt to go toward the expanded playoff model, the NFL would need to have eight teams to qualify from each conference.

“Winning percentage becomes the most obvious method,” wrote NBC Sports’ Mike Florio on Thursday as he weighed a non-playoff expansion option for the league. “But there are concerns about equity, given that the winner of the Bills-Bengals game would have been in position to be one of the top seed AFC seeds.”Florio arrived on adding an eighth team to the playoff field in the AFC. 

“This would eliminate the bye for the No. 1 seed,” he wrote. 

Of course, it wouldn’t come without complications. 

“To ensure competitive balance, there would have to be eight teams in the NFC, too,” Florio said. 

How many teams make the NFL playoffs?

Fourteen NFL teams qualify for the postseason. 

The NFL expanded its playoff format before the 2021 regular season to include an extra Wild Card team from each conference. Under the current playoff rules, each conference has seven playoff teams – four division winners, three Wild Card teams.

A temporary expansion to an 8-team playoff as the league heads into an unprecedented Week 18 finale won’t come without some resistance, Florio predicted. 

“The NFL Players Association would have to agree to a temporary expansion of the playoff field,” he explained. 

“Discussions also are continuing on the possibility of making the AFC Championship a neutral-site game,” he added.

There might not be a need for that though, if a team other than the Bills, Chiefs or Bengals qualifies for the game.

One thing is certain: If the NFL playoff field makes an unexpected expansion in 2023, then the decision better come within the next 24 hours as teams continue to prepare for a Week 18 shrouded in uncertainty.  

“It changes the dynamics for the teams vying for playoff positioning,” Florio said.