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Expanded playoffs vote set for Tues. conference call

A new playoff structure was approved by NFL players earlier this month in the new collective bargaining agreement, and Tuesday will likely bring its final approval.

In place of the NFL's traditional Annual League Meeting, which was canceled earlier this month as part of the league's response to the new coronavirus pandemic, a conference call will take place among league owners Tuesday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Four votes will take place, with the most important one being on expanded playoffs, which is expected to pass, Rapoport added.

The vote will require an approval of any potential changes to seeding and tiebreaking as well, NFL Network's Judy Battista reported, and will require a 3/4 majority vote.

The second vote will serve to approve the broadcast networks who will air the new playoff games, per Rapoport. The league and its players' union agreed to a new structure in the CBA that added one team per conference, creating six total wild-card games and just one first-round bye for each conference, adding two additional wild-card games to be broadcast. This vote will also include deciding on a new deal with Amazon that runs from 2020-2022 to continue distributing Thursday Night Football, Battista reported. An additional vote on health and safety game data involving performance tracker and sensor information is expected to occur, as well, per Battista.

The call will also include updates on preparation for the upcoming NFL draft, the league's COVID-19 response and other league matters (such as timing of the 2020 schedule release), per Rapoport, and will involve the NFL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Allen Sills and Duke infectious disease specialist Deverick Anderson.

A call with NFL team presidents will precede the call with owners, and will take place Monday afternoon. There will be no votes on playing rules -- which tend to take more time to discuss for obvious reasons -- with each call set for just one hour.

While there might be some concern about playoff expansion watering down the field with teams .500 and below, applying the 14-team format to the past 30 seasons says otherwise. Since 1990, the year the playoff field expanded from 10 teams to 12, 44 of the 60 teams that would have claimed the seventh seeds had winning records, including 10 different 10-win teams. Only one team, the 1990 Cowboys, would have made the playoffs with a losing record.

A move to 14 playoff teams would mean 43.7 percent of all NFL teams would qualify for the postseason, which remains greater than MLB (33.3) but still well behind the NHL (51.6) and NBA (53.3).

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