Last season, the NFL added two more Wild Card games to the playoffs to turn the opening weekend into a “Super Wild Card Weekend” format that includes six total games. The ratings didn’t bear out the assumed interest in the expanded playoff schedule and it was notable that the first game of the weekend at 1 p.m. EST on Saturday was the least-watched as well.
Perhaps that’s what’s behind NFL insider Ian Rapoport’s tweet on Thursday that the league is planning to push that early Saturday game to Monday night instead, making it a three-day playoff weekend.
This is interesting: The NFL is tinkering with its Super Wild Card Weekend format, I’m told, likely to have it conclude on a Monday night. This means two games Saturday, three games Sunday… and one Monday with a broadcast partner to be determined. Fun change.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 24, 2021
It might indeed be a “fun change” for viewers as Rapoport says, but the immediate reaction from a lot of people was a concern for the team that wins on Monday night and has to turn around on a short schedule to play a road game against a high seed the following weekend.
It’s entirely possible that a team could play Monday and have to play on Saturday, and that does not bode well for their chances. It’s true that such is life for a Wild Card team and the deck is already stacked against you, but that’s potentially adding one more disadvantage to the mix for the sake of ratings.
making a Wild Card game winner play a divisional opponent on short rest is EXTREMELY unfair
records of Sunday winners of Wild Card games since 2002, by day of their next game:
SUN (normal rest) = 13-14 (48%)
SAT (short rest) = 3-9 (25%) https://t.co/FQqXJ4q1Ek
— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) September 24, 2021
Fun unless you’re playing Monday and then on a short week https://t.co/zmObPE29Fl
— Matt Verderame (@MattVerderame) September 24, 2021
I like the idea of having a Monday Night playoff game but it sucks for that team that wins to have to play on a short week. https://t.co/T9mEv2TA4s
— Matt Eurich (@MattEurich) September 24, 2021
Ultimately, if the league thinks it’s going to get more eyeballs and excite their broadcasting partners more, it’s almost certainly going to happen. And there are certainly plenty of people who see the benefits of another primetime playoff game instead of one that much of the country has to start watching in the morning.
Translation: networks hate the Saturday early game. https://t.co/tX2OVhom3m
— Mike Tanier (@MikeTanier) September 24, 2021
A game on a Monday night in Green Bay on Jan. 17 does indeed sound fun. https://t.co/tdDZKvHEsB
— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) September 24, 2021
This also isn’t new to NFL fans as NBC Sports’ Peter King talked about this possibility all the way back in February, saying a Monday Wild Card game was “somewhere between 50-50 and very likely.” He noted at the time that the league didn’t consider it in 2020 because it would have directly competed with college football’s national championship game. However, since the NFL added a 17th game this season, they won’t run into a scheduling conflict this time around.
We now wait for the NFL to make the official announcement about the change.