NFL playoff picture 2020: Steve Kornacki is exactly what America needs


If there was an analytics MVP the landslide winner would be Steve Kornacki. The MSNBC political correspondent came in clutch during election season, breaking down the minutia of voting trends in obscure Pennsylvania counties with the rapidity of a blitzing linebacker. Now, he’s going to be gracing our screens for the rest of the year as part of NBC’s football coverage, and it’s a truly genius move.

This week NBC Sports announced it would continue its experiment of putting Kornacki on the air to break down the playoff picture, and that he would become an addition to Football Night in America broadcasts for the remainder of the season.

In addition, Steve Kornacki, NBC News’ celebrated political correspondent, returns to FNIA for the remainder of the season to analyze NFL playoff probabilities from the Big Board following the conclusion of the afternoon games. He will also appear at halftime of SNF, including SteelersBills this week. Kornacki’s inaugural appearance last week was met with widespread acclaim.

I absolutely, uncategorically love it. Kornacki became the steady, sexy meme of election coverage at a time where so much felt uncertain. We watched along as he furiously analyzed and projected races for 96 hours straight, wondering how he managed to always look the same — only to learn he kept more changes of identical clothes on set. If Kornacki was going to be with us while we couldn’t sleep, he wanted us to feel like he never slept. He was able to take something as intensely boring as slow-trickling election results, and turn them into must-watch TV. That’s why he’s perfect.

See, the NFL has this tendency to suck any potential fun out of a situation. There’s a veneer of seriousness cast over everything that happens in the league, as if it’s too good to be a little silly. Broadcasters follow suit as a result, and before you know it we get in these loops where everyone is making the sport less fun than it could be. The closest we get are canned “comedy” segments by Rob Riggle before FOX games on Sunday, with tenuous comedy value at best — but thankfully better than anything Frank Caliendo used to do.

Adding Kornacki to broadcasts is unquestionably a grab at capturing the audience that fell in love with him in November, but also makes a lot of sense. The NFL Playoff picture is extremely complicated this season. The new seven team in format, coupled with a really tight race to the end means we could see numerous tiebreakers in play across the NFC and AFC to make this all work. Just last week I looked at the Ravens chances of making the postseason, and that went to numerous tiebreaking scenarios, requiring a breadth of required information on common games and records inside the conference.

It’s too much work for the average fan to follow. Enter Kornacki, whose steadying hand and expert analysis giving us real-time breakdowns of each bubble team’s chance of making the postseason extremely fun. Judging from his reception following Sunday Night Football, fans loved the energy Kornacki brought to breaking down the playoffs and explaining the interweaved scenarios needed for each team to make it to the postseason.

This is the exact thing the NFL needed, especially right now when so much fun has been sucked out of everything. Kudos to NBC for making it happen, and I’m amped to see more Kornacki on my screen.





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