The NFL detailed its plans for “Super Wild Card Weekend” in a press release distributed Friday morning, announcing the debut of a Monday night playoff game to be aired January 17th at 7:15 PM CT on a still to be determined network. This year’s Wild Card round also calls for two Saturday games beginning with a 3:35 PM CT kickoff followed by a Sunday triple-header with games at 12:05 PM CT, 3:40 and 7:15.
From a ratings and marketing standpoint, squeezing another day out of Wild Card weekend is a shrewd business decision by the NFL, though many have argued it could put teams traveling on short rest at a competitive disadvantage. As noted by analytics guru Warren Sharp of Sharp Football and NBC Sports, Wild Card teams have historically fared poorly on short rest, losing nine of 12 games in that scenario since 2002.
While the press release didn’t specify, the assumption is Monday’s winner would have their Divisional Round game slotted for the following Sunday (January 23rd). The NFL hasn’t announced who will host the Wild Card finale on Monday night, though ESPN would seem to be the obvious choice, having held broadcast rights to MNF since 2006. Due to the NFL’s new 17-game regular season, this wouldn’t conflict with the network’s broadcast of the College Football National Championship, scheduled for Monday, January 10th at 8 PM ET.
As part of the new collective bargaining agreement passed in 2020, the NFL expanded its postseason field from 12 to 14 teams, necessitating two additional Wild Card games with only the top seed in each conference subject to a first-round bye.