Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and NFLPA, football fans got to experience their first Super Wild Card Weekend. The CBA expanded the postseason field from 12 teams to 14, so we got to enjoy six games to kick off the playoffs.
By all acccounts, the move was a big success. Although it could have worked out better for the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints – the No. 2 seeds in the AFC nad NFC, respecitvely.
The old playoff structure allowed for two teams in each conference to have a first-round bye. This new structure allows for only one team in each conference to now have a playoff bye. The Bills and Saints both advanced this weekend, but they probably would have preferred the week off.
This change makes the No. 1 seed in each conference much more valuable. An extra week of rest and an extra week for the coaches to prepare for their upcoming opponent is one of the biggest advantages for playoff teams. The No. 1 seed also gets home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, another major advantage (although the home teams were 2-4 in the Wild Card round).
How will the new format affect the Bills and Saints? When looking back at teams that had first-round playoff byes from 2003-2019, we can see teams that had a first-round bye had much more success than teams that had not.
From 2003-2019, 68 teams had first-round byes in the playoffs. Of these 68 teams, 67.65% won their divisional-round matchup.
Of the 34 Super Bowl teams over that 17-year span, 26 (76.47%) of them had been teams that earned a first-round bye.
The Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) and Green Bay Packers (13-3) earned the first-round byes in 2020. The Chiefs will open their playoff run next Sunday at home vs. Cleveland, while the Packers will host the Rams on Saturday. Between his time with the chiefs and Eagles, K.C. head coach Andy Reid has had seven first-round playoff byes; his record off those byes is 5-2. Matt LaFleur earned a bye last season, his first as Packers head coach, and followed that with a win.
One interesting note: Many of the Chiefs’ starters have actually had two weeks off, as they didn’t play in the team’s Week 17 game because they had already clinched the No. 1 seed.