If the Super Bowl is not moved to a Feb. 3 date -- still a strong possibility -- a revised "Shanahan Plan" may reduce the wild-card playoff field from six teams to four teams, league sources indicated Thursday.
Under the revision, the wild-card playoffs would be played on Wednesday, Jan. 9. It would pit only four wild-card teams against each other, so as not to penalize divisional champions with a short-week schedule.
The Shanahan Plan, as proposed by Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, allowed for the traditional six wild-card teams; teams that advanced would be required to play three games in 12 days. Under this plan, the final regular-season weekend games involving potential playoff teams would be played on Jan. 4 and 5 (Friday and Saturday), with the four wild-card games slated for Jan. 9 and 10 (Wednesday and Thursday), and then the divisional playoffs going on Jan. 13 and 14 (Sunday and Monday).
||There are a few problems with a final-four round in New Orleans, but it's still a viable plan. Our hope is still with the auto dealers swapping dates. ”
||— An NFL official
Currently, two of the six division champions participate in the wild-card playoff round. League officials now believe the "Shanahan Plan" would be punitive to teams that win a division title. Nevertheless, the hope remains that the Super Bowl can be moved from Jan. 27 to Feb. 3, allowing for a traditional playoff schedule.
Negotiations between the NFL and the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) should provide a resolution by Friday regarding whether the Super Bowl will be moved to a Feb. 3 date in New Orleans. The league, along with city and state officials, has asked NADA to accommodate a switch.
If a deal falls through, the league will turn to the revised wild-card format or move the Super Bowl to Los Angeles, Miami or Tampa for a Feb. 3 game. It would offer New Orleans a "final four" NFC-AFC championship round on Jan. 27 and commit to a future Super Bowl in the city.
One problem that the league has discussed is the controversy such a "neutral site" offers for a final-four round in New Orleans. One scenario: The St. Louis Rams win home-field advantage in the NFC, and the Saints advance to the title game as a wild card. The Saints would then have home-field advantage.
"There are a few problems with a final-four round in New Orleans, but it's still a viable plan," said a league official. "Our hope is still with the auto dealers swapping dates."