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NFL might retain 16-game schedule

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NEW YORK — The NFL is leaning toward keeping a 16-game schedule but reducing the playoff field to make up for the postponement of this weekend's games after the terrorist attacks.

Under the plan, this week's schedule would be played the weekend of Jan. 5 and 6, which was slated for wild-card games. The postseason then would begin the following weekend with eight playoff teams instead of 12 — there would be just one wild-card team from each conference instead of three.

League and team officials and others closely connected to the NFL, speaking on condition of anonymity, said discussions were continuing. Another plan was still under consideration, they said, but the league seemed to be leaning toward the 16-game plan for two reasons: continuity, and so players are paid for an entire season.

The second option would simply erase the games scheduled for this weekend. That would mean 30 teams would play 15 games this season and the San Diego Chargers, who were scheduled to be off this week, would play 16.

Under that scenario, the 12-team playoff format would not be reduced.

Others around the league noted that rarely under the 12-team playoff format have the fifth- and six-seeded teams advanced very far in the playoffs. Last season, for example, all four of the lowest seeds were eliminated in the wild-card round.