The chances of the Cleveland Browns making a return to the playoffs for the first time since 2002 were improved on Tuesday.
And the team did not even have to really do much of anything to make that happen.
The league’s 32 owners formally approved a plan to expand the playoff field to 14 teams starting this season, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport:
The NFL owners have confirmed, via a vote on today’s teleconference, that there will be expanded playoffs after the 2020 season, source said. Expected and now official. One more team per conference.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 31, 2020
The expanded playoffs will add an additional wild card team in each conference, with the No. 2 seed hosting the No. 7 seed, the No. 3 seed hosting the No. 6 seed and the No. 4 seed hosting the No. 5 seed.
If the upcoming season starts on time, there will be three wild card games played on January 9 and three played on January 10. One of the January 9 games on CBS will also be broadcast on Nickelodeon and be a separate production “tailored for a younger audience,” according to NFL.com.
The No. 1 seeds in each conference will still continue to receive a bye for the opening weekend of the playoffs.
The league last expanded the playoff field in 1990, when it grew from 10 teams to 12. Since then, 44 of the 60 teams that would have made the playoffs as a seventh seed would have had a winning record, according to NFL.com, and 10 of those teams would have posted a 10-win season.
In that same time period, only the 1990 Dallas Cowboys, who finished the season at 7-9, would have made the playoffs with a losing record.
The Browns last made the playoffs following the 2002 season, when the lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 36-33. Cleveland’s last playoff win came after the 1994 season, when they beat the New England Patriots, 20-13.