EAGAN, Minn. — The NFL announced Tuesday that there will be an additional playoff team in each conference, bringing the total number of postseason teams to 14 across the league.
The new format, which will immediately go into effect for the 2020 season, was approved by NFL owners on a conference call to replace the league's Annual League Meeting, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The expanded playoff format means that only the top seed will get a first-round bye. The previous playoff format, which had been in place since 1990, awarded first-round byes to the top two teams in the AFC and NFC.
With the top team in each conference getting a bye, the other six teams will play each other on Wild Card Weekend, with the three other division winners in each conference getting a home game.
The three Wild Card games in each conference will now feature the No. 2 seeds hosting the No. 7 seeds, while the No. 3 seeds host the No. 6 seeds. The fourth seeds will host the fifth seeds. The top four seeds will be division winners, and the bottom three seeds will be Wild Card teams.
The NFL also announced that Wild Card Weekend will include three games on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, along with three additional games Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021.
While the 2019 Vikings wouldn't have been affected as they were the No. 6 seed in the NFC, the 2018 team would have been a postseason qualifier under the new format. Minnesota finished 8-7-1 in 2018, missing the playoffs by a half-game, and would have traveled to Los Angeles to face a second-seeded Rams team that eventually represented the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The different playoff format was included as part of the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement that was voted upon and agreed to by NFL players. It still needed approval by at least 75 percent of NFL Owners (24 of 32).
The move to 14 total playoff teams now means 43.7 percent of the 32 NFL teams will qualify for the postseason.
That is the third-highest rate among America's four major men's professional sports leagues. Ten of 30 MLB teams (33.3 percent) currently qualify for playoffs, while the NHL is at 51.6 percent (16 of 31 teams) and the NBA is at 53.3 percent (16 of 30 teams).