Tuck: NFL Playoffs Expansion

So NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners have discussed the possibility of expanding the NFL playoffs.  Goodell says it would be either 14 or 16 teams.  Let’s examine.

If 14-team playoff:

Then you’d have just the top team in each conference receiving a first round bye.  Then in the first round, the other three division winners would host the 3 wild card teams.  The lowest seeded team to win would then travel to the top seed the following week with the other two wild card winners playing each other with the higher seed hosting that game.

Advantage: Suddenly the top overall seed in each conference means so much more being the only team to receive a bye.  Based on the history of the success of teams with the bye week, it would be a huge incentive to teams to play out the regular season to insure that off week.  Plus having the “best” team with the best opportunity to reach the Super Bowl is a good thing I think.  More teams would still have hopes to make the playoffs in most cases.  You also would have triple-header action (I assume) on Saturday and Sunday of that first weekend.

Disadvantage: Potentially a .500 team or worse could make the field watering things down.

If 16-team playoff:

Then you’d have 8 teams in each conference in the tournament.  The 4 division winners would host the 4 wild cards in the opening weekend and nobody would get a bye.  Half of the league would make the playoffs, much more similar to the NBA and NHL.

Advantage: More teams would still be in the playoff hunt at the late stages of the season.  For example, in the NFC a couple of more good teams would have access to the playoffs.  The Redskins, Cowboys, Vikings, and Rams would have 2 spots extra for them to get in.  Less tanking at the end of the year (if there is such a thing in the NFL) for draft picks as average teams would still be in the playoff race.

Disadvantage: There would be no advantage to having the best record with no bye weeks.  There would be more football, but there would have to be overlapping of games on TV.  Maybe a good team or two extra gets in, but in the AFC this year one of the Jets, Dolphins, Bills, or Chargers would actually get in too.  That seems very watered down.


My take:

I can get on board with the 14-team playoff.  It makes sense in a few different ways.  More often a good team is left out than a bad team gets in with the current 12-team format.  If it gets an extra good team in, then I am okay with that idea.  It also promotes earning the top seed more.  It gives us a triple-header of football on Saturday and Sunday, and that is a great thing.

A 16-team playoff waters things down too much and complicates the broadcasting of the games.  It also provides no advantage to the best team(s) they way the current and possible 14-team formats do.  In football, I am in favor of such an advantage.

If they stand pat with 12 teams I am okay with that, but I like the idea of expanding to 14 teams for the NFL.