NFL Announces Monday Night Playoff Game During Super Wild Card Weekend

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 24, 2021

FILE - In this April 29, 2021, file photo, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, wearing a COVID-19 vaccinated sticker, speaks during the first round of the NFL football draft in Cleveland. The NFL has informed teams they could potentially forfeit a game due to a COVID-19 outbreak among non-vaccinated players and players on both teams wouldn’t get paid that week. Commissioner Goodell said Thursday, July 22, 2021, in a memo sent to clubs that was obtained by The Associated Press that the league doesn’t anticipate adding a 19th week to accommodate games that can’t be rescheduled within the 18-week regular season. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)
AP Photo/Steve Luciano

The NFL announced Friday it has added a Monday night game to its first-round playoff schedule to create "Super Wild Card Weekend" beginning with the 2021 season.

Traditionally, the wild-card games have been split between Saturday and Sunday. That will change Jan. 17, 2022 with a Monday game to determine the final qualifier for the postseason's Divisional Round.

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The NFL expanded the playoffs ahead of the 2020 campaign in order to create a third wild-card berth in both conferences, meaning 14 of the league's 32 teams make the playoffs. Only the top seeds in the AFC and NFC receive a bye. Previously, the top two teams in each conference earned a week off in the six-team playoff bracket.

Meanwhile, the league also increased the number of regular-season contests from 16 to 17 starting with the 2021 season.

"This is a monumental moment in NFL history," commissioner Roger Goodell said in a March statement. "The CBA with the players and the recently completed media agreements provide the foundation for us to enhance the quality of the NFL experience for our fans. And one of the benefits of each team playing 17 regular-season games is the ability for us to continue to grow our game around the world."

The playoffs will kick off Jan. 15 and run through Feb. 13, when Super Bowl LVI will be held at SoFi Stadium in California. It'll be the latest Super Bowl date in history.

One key question from Friday's announcement is how the playoffs will be structured to limit the chances of a significant rest disadvantage to the winner of the Monday night playoff game.

The NFL playoffs reseed after the first round, which complicates the situation because the league likely doesn't want the Monday winner to have the play on short rest against the No. 1 seed, which will have an extra week off before its first postseason game.

Based on the playoff seeding structure—2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5—it's impossible to completely rule out that possibility, however, because an upset could land a team from any of those three games in the matchup with the top seed.

For example, if the No. 7 seed upsets the No. 2 seed on Monday night, the seventh-seeded team would automatically slot in against the No. 1 seed. That game would be played on the following Saturday or Sunday, creating a significant rest disparity.

That's more of a concern in the postseason when a team's championship hopes are on the line than it is in the regular season, when teams can play Sunday and then again Thursday.