NFL anticipates season to start on time — with filled stadiums and expanded playoffs

Dave Uram
April 01, 2020 - 11:59 am
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As of now, the 2020 NFL schedule isn’t going to change because of the coronavirus pandemic.

NFL lead counsel Jeff Pash told reporters that the league’s focus is a 16-game schedule, in front of fans, in their regular stadiums, and a complete playoff format, which now has 14 teams instead of 12.

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NFL team owners voted Tuesday to expand the playoffs by one team in each conference for a total of 14 next season.

During a conference call to discuss league business after the annual meetings were canceled due to coronavirus, the owners also awarded one of those extra games to CBS and one to NBC. Three-fourths of the 32 owners needed to approve the change, and the vote was unanimous.

Pash also anticipates intentional games in England and Mexico.

“I expect that international games will be part of our schedule for this year,” Pash added. “We’re optimistic just as we expect conditions in the United States to permit playing a full season that will be the case for our international partners as well. Obviously, that’s something that we’ll have to work closely with the authorities, public health and other government authorities in those other countries to make sure it’s entirely safe.”

Former Eagle Troy Vincent, and now the league’s executive vice president of football operations, said all options are being looked at and they’re constantly contingency-planning.

The Eagles sent a letter to season ticket holders postponing their second payment installment to help fans during this uncertain financial period.

The NFL Draft, which will be virtual for all parties involved, will also host a fundraiser for those affected by this crisis.

Commissioner Roger Goodell will make the first-round selection announcements from a central hub, and the telecasts will have connectivity at the 32 teams and potentially at some players' or fans' homes.

As for the first expansion of the postseason field since 1990, when the NFL went from 10 qualifiers to 12, only the teams with the best record in the AFC and NFC will get a bye under the new format; the top two teams in each conference skipped wild-card weekend in the past. The seventh seed will play No. 2, the sixth will visit No. 3 and the fifth will be at the fourth seed for wild-card games.

Three games are set for Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 9 and 10 — pending the NFL schedule going forward as planned; that schedule likely will be released on May 9, according to Brian Rolapp, the league's chief media and business officer, to give the NFL “flexibility.”

CBS will broadcast one of the new games on Jan. 10 at approximately 4:40 p.m. EST. The game will also be available via live stream on CBS All Access. A separately produced telecast of the game tailored for a younger audience will air on Nickelodeon.

NBC, its new streaming service Peacock and Spanish-language Telemundo will broadcast the other new game on Jan. 10 at approximately 8:15 p.m. EST.

“It's definitely going to be different,” Washington Redskins linebacker Thomas Davis said. “It's going to be weird. Essentially, the second team (in each conference) is being penalized for being a good football team.

“It just makes it more competitive, it adds more teams in and it allows teams that are hot late in the season like the Titans to be able to make a run — a team that might not normally be in the playoffs are getting that opportunity. I like it, though.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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