The NFL made it halfway through the 2020 season on Sunday. Of the 256 matches in its regular season schedule, 132 are already in the book. That landmark may have only one meaning. Yes, it’s time to start planning the knockout rounds.
Our weekly playoff visual analysis will be a little different this year. As you may already know, the NFL expanded the post-season field from 12 to 14 teams as part of the negotiations for a new collective bargaining deal last spring with players. This change increased the value of the top seed during each convention and decreased the value of seed 2, who no longer received a goodbye in the first round.
More recently, the NFL has discussed the possibility of further scaling up to 16 teams, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, if the COVID-19 protocols are forced to cancel a significant number of games over the next two months. It’s a myth to think about half of the league going to the knockout stages. For now, we’ll focus on the top seven teams for each conference while keeping an eye out for any challengers lurking nearby. As always, the ESPN’s Football Strength Index (FPI) provides important context. Let’s take a look at this field.
Go to: AFC | NFC
Chances of FPI make it to the knockout stages: 99.7%
FPI chance to win the split: 75.0%
It should not be until 2020 that the Steelers have an unbeaten start to the unexpected Cowboys, who have kicked off a third consecutive match with another quarter-final on Sunday. But their comeback victory allowed them to complete the first half of the season flawlessly and maintain their lead in the congress.
It is not entirely clear whether the home advantage during the knockout rounds will retain the same value as years ago, with limited ability or no fans in the stands. But that was a discussion for December. Immediately, the Steelers had a two-match lead over Ravens at AFC North, having won their first two regular matches of the season.
Next: compared to Bengals