Is expanding the NFL playoffs a good or bad thing?

Is expanding the NFL playoffs a good or bad thing?
February 1, 2014, 12:25 pm
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It seems like everything is constantly growing in today’s super-size culture, especially in professional sports where it’s the rule, not the exception and the bubble never seems to burst.

Major League Baseball added two teams to the postseason, inventing a dumbfounding one-game playoff in a sport that almost exclusively holds series of three games or more.

There are whispers of expansion in the NHL, a league that’s endured three lockouts in the last two decades because half of the existing teams already have trouble supporting themselves.

Compared to the above examples, this was eons ago, but the NBA changed its first-round playoff series from drama-filled five-game series to largely pointless seven-game sets.

There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it except cold hard cash. More games and more teams equal more events to televise which in turn equals more money.

The NFL is no different, constantly searching for new ways to squeeze more coin out of the most popular professional sports league in the United States. For instance, every year there is talk of going from a 16- to an 18-game season, an idea I lambasted in the past when it was a much hotter topic.

The 18-game schedule discussion seems to have died down for the most part, maybe because the players weren’t going for it, maybe because NFL commissioner Roger Goodell couldn’t convince fans that’s what they want, because by and large they don’t. That doesn’t mean the league is done trying to expand its TV offerings however.

The latest scheme would be expanding the playoffs, adding one team to each conference’s bracket, and before you groan, you should be aware this is likely going to happen, if not next season, soon. I don’t have any sources on that, I just firmly believe it’s going to happen because honestly, it’s not a difficult sell, not to the people who matter most—the owners and the players’ association.

And would it even be a bad thing? The NFL and MLB are the only of the big four that don't allow more than 50 percent of the league into the postseason, so naturally traditionalists are concerned an expanded postseason would result in a similarly watered-down playoff field.

Even Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie warned expanding the playoffs might not be the greatest, and he obviously only stands to benefit from the additional TV money and ticket sales. His thoughts on the topic via CSNPhilly.com’s Geoff Mosher:

"We've got to be careful,” Lurie said in an interview Friday with the NFL Network. “We've always wanted to be a league that it's not easy to make the playoffs. I think adding one team per conference might work. We've got to schedule it in a way where the follow-up games allow for equal preparation for all teams.

On the flip side, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones loves it, probably because his team goes 8-8 every year and would actually have a shot at sneaking in that way if there was an extra berth. Indeed, in 2013, the seventh representative from the AFC would’ve owned an 8-8 record.

Then again, the seventh representative from the NFC would’ve been the 10-6 Arizona Cardinals, a franchise that arguably got shafted by the current format.

Regardless, the last thing I would ever want to see is an 8-8 or 7-9 team playing in the Super Bowl, but then I don’t see that happening under normal circumstances. There’s usually a reason they finished with such a middling record, therefore the playoffs should sort it out and allow the cream to rise to the top either way.

And there’s actually something about the proposed format I like. By adding a seventh team, only one in each conference receives a bye. Why such a nice reward for a squad that finished second? Only the best team truly deserves to have the week off.

Unlike most expansions, I find myself not completely hating the idea because the format is sound and I’m not sure it makes much of a difference on the quality of the product. Essentially, we’re talking about two extra games. Total. That's it.

If that’s what’s going to break the system, then it’s probably already broken.

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