How paths might have changed under expanded NFL playoffs

Lovie Smith’s coaching tenure in Chicago might not have ended had the Bears made the playoffs his final three seasons instead of missing out by one spot his last two years. Playoff droughts in Cleveland and Tampa Bay wouldn’t be nearly as long or painful had the Browns and Bucs sneaked their way into the postseason as the third wild card in 2007 and ’16, respectively. The last two Super Bowl champions could have had a tougher time winning titles if Kansas City (2019) and New England (2018) had to play games on wild-card weekend instead of earning byes.

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