NFL Expands Playoff Field to 14 Teams, Chargers Among Prime Beneficiaries
Jason B. Hirschhorn
After completing a vote on Tuesday, the NFL's owners accepted the recommendation of the competition committee to expand the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams for the upcoming 2020 season. The decision marked the league's first playoff expansion since 1990.
For the Los Angeles Chargers, the additional playoff spot holds considerable appeal. They play in the same division as 24-year-old MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the defending-champion Kansas City Chiefs, a roadblock for any club with Super Bowl aspirations. While the Chargers have improved their roster in several areas during the offseason -- adding multiple major additions to the offensive line, All-Pro cornerback Chris Harris, and Pro Bowl nose tackle Linval Joseph -- they still have work to do before catching the Chiefs.
This also comes at a moment when the Chargers face an uncertain future at quarterback after the team failed to land Tom Brady in free agency. Tyrod Taylor looks like the odds-on favorite to start in Week 1. However, Los Angeles could still pursue a veteran such as Cam Newton or take a rookie in the upcoming draft. With the team entering a period of transition behind center, the extra playoff spot provides an opportunity to overcome a slow start.
Under the new playoff structure, seven teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs. The No. 1 seed -- the division winner with the best overall record with tiebreakers factored in -- will receive a first-round bye. However, the No. 2 seed will no longer receive the same week off, playing instead on wild-card weekend against the lowest-seeded team within the conference.
CBS and NBC will broadcast the additional wild-card games on January 10, according to a statement released by the NFL. Those games will take place at 1:40 p.m. PT and 5:15 p.m. PT, respectively.
The NFL's push for schedule expansion dates back to the last collective-bargaining agreement negotiation in 2011. Back then, the league wanted to increase the number of regular-season games to 18 and remove two preseason dates. Though those changes didn't occur, the new CBA negotiated over the past 12 months will include a 17th regular-season game as early as 2021 as well as the announced changes to the playoffs.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH