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’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.

Sixers-Thunder 10 observations: Joel Embiid electrifies in debut

Sixers-Thunder 10 observations: Joel Embiid electrifies in debut

Joel Embiid and Dario Saric playing in a regular-season game for the Sixers? Check.

Russell Westbrook being, well, Russell Westbrook? Check.

An overzealous fan giving Westbrook a crude salute and getting tossed from the arena? Yeah, check that one off too.

The Sixers' tight 103-97 loss to the Thunder in Wednesday night's season opener at the Wells Fargo Center had a little bit of everything (see Instant Replay).

Let's take a closer look at the action with 10 observations.

1. Embiid is already a rock star among Sixers fans thanks to his personality and social media antics, but if his game ever matches his fame, look out. When he caught the ball at the free throw line during the first quarter and did a mini "Dream Shake" to bury a jumper for his first NBA points and then followed it up on the other end with a massive swat of a Westbrook layup attempt, he gave the crowd an in impressive glimpse of his vast potential. He was even showered with “Trust the Process” chants when he stepped to the free throw line during the second half. Embiid finished the game with 20 points on 6 of 16 shooting and seven rebounds along with two blocks.

2. That's not to say the big fella was without his faults. After spending two years on the sidelines, Embiid was understandably amped up and tried to do too much at times on both offense (held the ball too much, four turnovers) and defense (over-helping on rotations, which left the paint open). Like anything involving Embiid, it's a process.

3. Note to fans: Westbrook is already a supremely focused and competitive player. He doesn't need any help to get going. However, one Sixers fan took it upon himself to rev up the Thunder's All-Star point guard with a special salute in the first quarter before being promptly ejected (see story). No wonder Westbrook scored 12 of his game-high 32 points in the first quarter and finished just one assist shy of a triple-double.

4. Saric didn’t have a great shooting night (2 of 12 from the field for five points), but he still looked relatively solid in the victory. The Croatian showcased the versatility that had the Sixers salivating over him for the past two years, including a number of pump/head fakes to get defenders off balance before he missed the ensuing shot. He was overmatched inside when OKC went to its super-sized lineup with mustache afficionados Steven Adams and Enes Kanter (combined 33 points and 17 rebounds) down low. But that’s more on Brett Brown leaving the rookie out to dry than Saric’s ability.

5. Speaking of Brown, I’m not sure if the Sixers will ever value possessions like they should under a head coach with his Spurs pedigree. However, just 14 for a squad that has finished 30th, 30th and 29th in that category during Brown's first three years at the helm is definitely a step in the right direction.

6. Surgery for a meniscus tear didn’t do anything to hamper Jahlil Okafor’s post moves. The second-year big man looked spry after playing in just one preseason game before the opener. His shot was a tad rusty (4 of 10), but Okafor managed eight points in 16 minutes.

7. I’ve been critical of the Sixers’ defense over the years mainly because … it was non-existent. That wasn’t the case Wednesday until the fourth quarter. They were outscored, 34-22, in the final period. For the most part, the Sixers closed out to shooters and rotated with purpose on the defensive end of the floor. They held the Thunder to 41.5 percent from the field and 27.3 percent from three-point range. Not bad when the “crown jewel” of the D in Embiid was limited to 22 minutes.

8. Jerryd Bayless might want to hurry back from that wrist injury. Sergio Rodriguez had the ball on a string all night long for the Sixers. The point guard had 12 points to go along with nine assists, zero turnovers and countless dribble moves that left Thunder defenders grasping at air. Not bad for a guy who hasn’t played an NBA game since 2010.

9. Sauce Castillo lives! OK, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but Nik Stauskas was excellent. He was decisive with his movements and got himself going by driving to the rim. The guard posted 13 points on 5 of 6 shooting off the bench. Perhaps coming into a season without the pressure of having to live up to being the No. 8 pick in the 2014 draft and playing with close friend T.J. McConnell are what the third-year player needed.

10. Wednesday’s game was a thriller down to the end, but you can’t help but feel that some of the extra juice that would have been in the building for No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons was missing. Instead of suiting up, Simmons held a press conference to discuss his health after foot surgery (see story).