The 2020 NFL season brought the first expansion of the playoff field in 30 years, from 12 teams to 14. The 2021 season grew from 16 regular-season games to 17.
Now comes news of more growth: Another day of playoff football.
The league announced Friday morning that it is adding a Monday night game to the first-round docket. That means wild-card weekend is now scheduled for Jan. 15-17, 2022 — two games on that Saturday, three on Sunday and one on Monday night.
The NFL has not announced yet which broadcast partners will handle which games. CBS and NBC each will broadcast two games on the opening weekend, with Fox and ESPN/ABC receiving one game apiece. The Monday night broadcast network has "yet to be determined," according to the NFL's release.
Last season, the opening weekend featured two days of tripleheaders on Saturday and Sunday. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were forced to go on the road in the opening round last season en route to a Super Bowl victory, but they played at the Washington Football Team on the first Saturday, followed by a Sunday contest in the divisional round.
The NFL's last Monday playoff game was on Dec. 26, 1988, with the Minnesota Vikings beating the Los Angeles Rams. The Vikings played the following Sunday in the divisional round, losing to the eventual champion San Francisco 49ers.
There were three other Monday night games in the league's modern-era history prior to that — two in 1977 and one in 1983. All four of those games happened to fall on the day after Christmas. Coincidentally, the Rams have been featured in four of the six Monday playoff games, dating back to 1955.
Is there a disadvantage for the Monday winner?
The obvious first takeaway for the new format is that it means (at least) one fewer day of rest for the winner of the Monday night contest.
Will this be a detriment for that team? Perhaps if the winner plays the following Sunday in the next round, the effect will be minimal. But if the winning team is asked to turn around for a Saturday game in the divisional round, it could be a different story.
A league source told Yahoo Sports that the expectation is that the Monday wild-card winner would likely play the following Sunday. That would be the same length of rest as if a Sunday wild-card winner received a Saturday matchup in the divisional round, and that's been happening for years without issue.
Plus, the teams that receive the Monday playoff game also will be receiving an extra day's rest on the front end, so it's an even-sum game however you shake it out.
In the new playoff format, the only teams earning byes are the top respective seeds in the AFC and NFC. We don't yet know which seeds will face each other in the Monday game. Wild-card games in both conferences will pit the No. 2 seed against the No. 7 seed, the No. 3 seed hosts the No. 6 seed and the No. 4 hosts the fifth seed.
Will this be good for the NFL? It certainly doesn't hurt the league's exposure, adding another night of playoff football. But it will be interesting to see what effect there might be on the Monday night winner in the following round.