Just say no to NFL playoff expansion
During the offseason, the NFL is going to consider the merits of expanding the playoffs. Commissioner Roger Goodell, at the league’s fall meeting this week, said the NFL’s competition committee will examine the notion of changing the current 12-team postseason field to 14 or 16 teams.
I don’t get a vote. But if I did, I’d say don’t do it.
The NFL playoffs, as opposed to the NBA and NHL playoffs, are structured in a way that puts a premium on regular-season success. That’s why bye weeks are so precious. It’s the reason winning your division matters.
While we don’t know how an expanded playoff field would be structured, we can assume that teams that were extremely successful in the regular season will, in some fashion, be matched against marginal teams that make the revamped postseason.
Unlike in basketball and hockey, where teams advance only after winning best-of-seven series, football is a one-shot deal. An uncharacteristically bad day by a team deserving of the playoffs while playing against a lesser club would undermine everything that team has done in the regular season.
Currently, there are many elements built into the process that ensure the best teams have the best shot to advance to the Super Bowl. For example, a team that earns a bye must win only two games to advance to the Super Bowl. As a result of some of these devices, you rarely find anything approaching a disappointing matchup in the Super Bowl. Will these advantages remain the same?
And then there’s this question: Doesn’t increasing the number of teams in the playoffs cheapen what it means to be a playoff team? The answer would seem to be yes. In the NBA, which has 30 teams, 16 clubs make the playoffs. More teams make the playoffs than not.
The NFL has a good thing going. But in the interest of bringing in more revenue (ultimately, that’s what this is about), it will likely give this idea serious consideration.
Expanding the playoffs might make the NFL more profitable. But it’s hard to argue that it makes it fairer.