Is expanding the NFL playoffs a good or bad thing?

Is expanding the NFL playoffs a good or bad thing?

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.

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

Best of NHL: Lee scores 2 power-play goals, Islanders beat Kings

NEW YORK -- The New York Islanders are on quite a nice roll.

Anders Lee scored two power-play goals to lead the Islanders to a 4-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, giving New York its third straight win and fourth in the last five games.

"We've been keeping it simple of late," said Lee, who has four goals in two games against the Kings this season. "We've been getting shots on net and being more effective. I'll do my thing down low."

John Tavares had a goal and an assist, Jason Chimera also scored and Jean-Francois Berube stopped 34 shots to earn his first win in his third start of the season (see full recap).

Hartnell snaps tie as Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Blue Jackets would just as soon forget the second period of Saturday's game, when the Carolina Hurricanes rallied from a 2-0 deficit to tie it.

Columbus didn't play much better in the third but withstood 15 shots and killed three penalties. Midway through, Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game , and the Blue Jackets beat Carolina 3-2.

Columbus got the win despite being outshot 37-20.

Hartnell scored in the first period and then netted the tiebreaker, helping the Blue Jackets overcome a horrendous second period - in which they managed only two shots on goal - to beat Carolina for the second time this week (see full recap).

Beagle scores in overtime, Capitals beat Stars 4-3
DALLAS -- Jay Beagle scored 19 seconds into overtime and the Washington Capitals rallied to beat the Dallas Stars 4-3 on Saturday night.

Evgeny Kuznetsov skated behind the net and put the puck in front to Beagle. His wrist shot beat goalie Kari Lehtonen, who got tangled with a defender and lost his footing.

The Stars led 3-1 and didn't allow Washington a power play until the third period, but then Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie scored with the man advantage in the first 5:26 of the period.

Adam Cracknell and Jamie Benn scored for Dallas on plays that originally were ruled no goal. Patrick Eaves had a goal and an assist for the Stars (see full recap).

Bogosian scores in overtime, Sabres edge Canadiens 3-2
MONTREAL -- The Sabres couldn't score from in close on All-Star goalie Carey Price late in regulation Saturday night.

So Zach Bogosian teed it up from a ways out in overtime to lift Buffalo.

Bogosian scored his first goal of the season in overtime and the Sabres beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams.

Buffalo nearly broke through against Price near the end of the third period. Price made a pad save on Matt Moulson on a breakaway at 19:40, and then with six seconds remaining, he robbed Rasmus Ristolainen with a windmill glove save (see full recap).

 

Best of NBA: Kawhi Leonard scores 41, Spurs down Cavaliers in OT

Best of NBA: Kawhi Leonard scores 41, Spurs down Cavaliers in OT

CLEVELAND -- Kawhi Leonard scored a career-high 41 points, LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points and 12 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 118-115 in overtime on Saturday night despite missing starters Tony Parker and Pau Gasol.

Leonard scored six in OT, including a game-sealing dunk with 4.9 seconds left, as the Spurs regrouped after a late collapse in regulation.

David Lee, making a rare start in place of the injured Gasol, added 14 points as San Antonio improved to 18-4 on the road.

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving scored 29 apiece for the Cavs, who had the last shot in regulation and had plenty of opportunities in the extra five minutes. Cleveland still had a chance to tie it in the final second of overtime, but Kevin Love missed a 3-pointer (see full recap).

Lillard, McCollum carry Portland to OT win over Boston
BOSTON -- Damian Lillard had a three-point play with 47 seconds left in overtime and finished with 28 points to lift the Portland Trail Blazers to a 127-123 victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night, snapping their four-game losing streak.

CJ McCollum scored 35 points to lead Portland, which lost in the closing seconds in Philadelphia on Friday night. Lillard added seven assists.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 41 points, his 14th time this season with 30 or more points. Marcus Smart and Al Horford each scored 17 for the Celtics, who have lost two straight after winning 13 of 16.

Thomas nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:24 to play in OT, pushing Boston ahead by one, but Al-Farouq Aminu was fouled on the next possession and hit both free throws to move Portland back in front.

Lillard then drove the lane, was fouled and hit the free throw. Mason Plumlee had a short jumper in the lane and a free throw in the closing 24 seconds (see full recap).

Booker scores 26 as Suns edge Knicks 107-105
NEW YORK -- Devin Booker scored 26 points and made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 31 seconds left, and the Phoenix Suns beat the New York Knicks 107-105 on Saturday night.

Carmelo Anthony's attempt at a winning 3-pointer rimmed out as Phoenix snapped a two-game losing streak and handed New York its second loss in a row.

Eric Bledsoe added 23 points for the Suns, while P.J. Tucker and Marquese Chriss each had 15.

Anthony led the Knicks with 31 points, Derrick Rose had 26 and Kristaps Porzingis scored 14 (see full recap).

Dekker scores career-best 30 leading Rockets past Grizzlies
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Sam Dekker scored a career-high 30 points, James Harden added 29 points and 10 assists and the Houston Rockets leaned on their usual 3-point offense to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 119-95 on Saturday night.

Eric Gordon added 21 points as the Rockets built the lead to as many as 20 in the fourth quarter before easily coasting home.

Dekker, making his first career start in place of the ill Ryan Anderson, made 12 of 19 shots, including 6 of 11 from outside the arc. Houston shot 51 percent overall and 38 percent from distance.

Marc Gasol scored 32 points and Mike Conley added 15 for the Grizzlies, who lost for the third time in the last four.

Memphis struggled shooting the entire night, finishing at 37 percent and unsuccessfully tried to follow the Rockets' long-range attack but converted only 9 of 34 from outside the arc (see full recap).