In the first season of a 14-team play-off field, NFL owners have approved a proposal to further expand the post-season to 16 teams if clubs are unable to complete the same number of regular-season games due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The submission, which passed unanimously, is a key contingency plan for the league aiming to complete its 2020 season on schedule.
Twelve teams qualified for the post-season until this campaign.
"Our objective is for all teams to safely and responsibly complete the regular season within our 17-week schedule and have a full post-season culminating with a Super Bowl – with fans in the stands – on 7 February in Tampa," Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters after the league's virtual meeting.
"We are committed to completing the season as scheduled. Today’s resolution was part of our contingency planning, should it be needed."
The NFL has seen numerous positive tests among players, staff and personnel this season, forcing delays and rescheduling of games. So far, through nine weeks of competition, no games have been cancelled outright.
The league enhanced its Covid-19 safety protocols last week, instructing teams to broaden the use of face coverings and expand the sideline area. It also stripped the Las Vegas Raiders of a sixth-round draft pick for repeated breaches.
The league also approved a proposal designed to boost diversity among head coaches and executive staff, which Goodell outlined as a key goal earlier this year amid criticism over the NFL’s largely homogenous coaching and executive ranks.
Under the plan, pending approval of the NFL Players Association, teams that develop minority employees who are then hired by another club as a head coach or primary football executive will receive third-round picks in the subsequent two drafts.
"Our effort here is to continue to look at everything we’re doing to try to improve our policies, our procedures, to encourage and to get the results we want, which is more diversity and inclusion within our ranks," said Goodell.