League owners on Tuesday voted to expand the NFL playoffs from 12 to 14 teams, beginning with the 2020 season.
The new playoff format will add one extra game in each conference during wild card weekend, with the second seed hosting the seventh seed. In the past, the top two seeds had a first-round bye. But now only the No. 1 seed in each conference will earn the first weekend off.
The expanded playoff format was part of the new collective bargaining agreement that the NFL Players Association voted to ratify March 15.
The owners approved the measure during a conference call Tuesday. The call was held in place of the annual league meetings that were scheduled for this week in Florida but cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. The change required approval from at least 24 of the 32 NFL owners.
Of the 20 teams that would have qualified for the playoffs as the seventh seed over the past 10 NFL seasons, none had a losing record. Of the 20, 15 had winning records and five were 8-8.
The last time the Bears finished seventh in the NFC and would have reached the playoffs in the new format was in 2012 when they went 10-6 in Lovie Smith's final year as coach.
This season wild card weekend will feature three games on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, and three contests on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. Previously there were two games played on each of those days.
With the new format, 43.8 percent of the NFL's 32 teams will now make the playoffs. That's still the second lowest percentage among America's four major sports. Major League Baseball has the fewest playoff teams at 33.3 percent (10 of 30), while the NHL is at 51.6 (16 of 31) and the NBA is at 53.3 (16 of 30).
This is the first time the NFL playoff field has expanded since it went from 10 to 12 teams in 1990. Click here to read about the history of playoff expansion.