Thursday, December 13, 2012

NFL playoffs should expand from 12 to 14 teams

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is again thinking about trying to push through an NFL playoff expansion, and I think it's a good idea.

"Right now we're with 12 teams obviously," Goodell said Wednesday in Dallas at an NFL meeting. "We'll look at probably 14 or 16 teams."

Now this idea has been run up the flagpole before in the NFL's competition committee, but to no avail. (Instead, dumb things like moving the kickoff up from the 30 to the 35-yard line have passed -- go figure).

But to me, 14 teams would be a fine expansion of the playoffs starting as early as the 2013 season. Sixteen is too many -- that's half the league and makes it seem too much like the NBA (which includes 16 of 30 teams in its playoffs).

With 14, you still have the first-round "you get a bye" incentive for the No.1 team in both the NFC and AFC. And everyone else has to play in the first round. More teams are involved in the postseason chase in December (and, of course, the NFL and TV networks are happy, because two extra playoff games bring in more money).

Some folks will argue that there are too many mediocre teams getting in the playoffs already, but that's usually because an 8-8 team winds up winning a division somewhere. That's going to happen with 12 or 14 teams, because the divisions aren't going to change and with eight division champs in a 32-team league, one is often going to have a fairly mediocre record.

But if you look at the No.6 seeds in each conference that have won the Super Bowl in recent years -- the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers have both won from that "last team in" spot -- you realize that pro football really is an "Any Given Sunday" sort of sport. A team that is hot at the end of a season can totally run the table.

Giving a No.7 wildcard seed to one more 9-7 or 8-8 team strikes me as a fair thing to do, because that team frequently will be able of pulling a first-round upset. For all you NFL traditionalists, remember that the league once had 14-game regular seasons, eight-team playoffs instead of the current 12 and no overtime at all except for the playoffs -- and tweaks to all of those items worked out OK.

Sports Illustrated's Peter King, however, hates this idea. And I like and respect Peter as one of the best writers and reporters in the NFL business. Part of one of King's tweets on the subject read: "I absolutely, positively oppose watering down the playoffs. Foolish, foolish idea."

On a side note: This isn't part of my reasoning on this, but such a move would undeniably help out a team like Carolina (although not this season). The Panthers will have missed the playoffs 14 times in their 18 seasons by the time the 2012 season concludes, several times by just a hair.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

I personally disagree. You would have a lot of 8-8 or 7-9 teams getting in and they would be undeserving.

NeedALaptop? said...

They would have to go to 28 teams for the Panthers to ever get in. But I am sure it has nothing to do with Cam or his inability to lead a team. Right???

J said...

I'm completely with you on this one. 14 teams is a good idea.

The players might oppose it similarly to their opposition of an 18-game season. I think an 18-game season and 14-team playoffs would be great. To address injury/safety concerns, I'd expand the rosters to 60, and all 60 can dress on game day; no required inactives. Expand the pracitce squad to 12. Set up a 3-tier injured reserve list - a 14-day, a 30-day, and season-ending. Like now, free agents or practice squad players could take the roster spot of a player on any level of the IR.

The additional money the league would get from the 32 additional regular-season games and 2 additional playoff games would be more than enough to cover the costs of 7 more players on the active roster and 4 more practice squad players.

Like George Carlin once said, "You see, I have all the answers. The problem is, no one ever calls me!"

Anonymous said...

I read somewhere that this may be a prelude to using expansion to put teams in L.A. and London. Thoughts, Scott?

Baaah! said...

I think they should adopt the college football overtime rule. OT in college football is exciting and still very challenging for both the offense and defense, with special teams automatically getting an opportunity to make an impact. The NFL's recent overtime changes still make it boring. If they want to make it more challenging for the NFL teams, start at the 40 or 35 yard line so 3 and out leads to a challenging FG.

dragoon said...

I disagree too. Leave it right where it is. He said having 16 would be like the NBA, where half the league gets in. Well, 14 is pretty close to half. And where would it stop?? 5 years down the road they would want to expand again. Start expanding amount of playoff teams then the regular season wont mean much. You'll see 7-9 and POSSIBLY 6-10 teams get in....LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE!!!

Anonymous said...

Leave it as is. The NFL playoff teams are at the perfect number now. If you open it to more teams then you'll start seeing 8-8 and 7-9 teams (or god forbid 6-10 team) make the post season more often. Sorry Scott, you're way off on this one.

Hansgruber said...

Let's go ahead and open the playoffs to all 32 teams. Watch out Goodell, you're going to oversaturate a great product.

Anonymous said...

Everybody read the article again. By going to 14 teams, it will not let in 7-9 or 6-10 teams. It will allow 9-7 or 8-8 teams get in that just miss it. Stop reading something into it that is not there.

Anonymous said...

You sold me on 14 teams. 16 would certainly be too many.

Anonymous said...

Scott I have to disagree here. The players union will have none of this idea because it will inevitably lead to more injuries at a time when the major focus is on player safety. The NFL playoff system is great as is, and there's no real reason to change it.

In addition, your allusion to the changes made to the number regular season games and 8-team playoffs is poorly placed. These changes were enacted as a result of the natural growth of the sport. The NFL's popularity began to dramatically increase along with the size of cities across the U.S. over the past several decades. This growth drove the need for expansion teams in different cities and the capacity for more games both in the regular season and playoffs. As fans of a recent expansion team we all should have a firm grasp on this concept.

dwil said...

You guys are going nuts over this for nothing. 14, 16, so what? And to the folks worried about 8-8 or 7-9 or even 6-10, I took a cursory look at the standings at the end of 2011, 2010, 2009. A 14 team playoff would have allowed, 2011 - Titans (9-7), Bears (8-8);2010 - Chargers (9-7), Bucs (10-6), 2009 - Steelers (9-7), Atlanta (9-7). So what are you talking about?? Let them expand and decrease the preseason. You would really rather have 4 preseason games vs. more playoff football. You guys aren't thinking about this. And respectfully to Peter King, you get a lot of things wrong. Do you recall your thoughts on the panthers a few years back being best team in the NFL.

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with any expansion of playoff teams. The season drags on too long and they should reduce the number of teams back to four. The Division champs and the alternative with the best record.

Anonymous said...

I think they should keep the current 12 playoff spots and eliminate the divisions and conferences, the 12 teams with the most wins should go to the playoffs, that way no mediocre teams would get to the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Worthless article. Thanks for regurgitating the same things that every other sports agency is reporting. Why don't you report on the fact that the Panthers won't be in that mix for awhile because....(insert drum roll here)...they are so far over the salary cap for the next two years that they can't afford to make ANY big moves, thus stuck with this 5-11/6-10 caliber team for the next 2 seasons!!! Yeah!!! Thanks Marty Hurney for sticking us with these ridiculous contracts. Panther fans, none of these 'esteemed' sports writers are telling you, so I guess I have to: The Panthers are sitting at approx $117 mil for 2014 against 26...yes, read that again..26 players. Oh, by the way, the salary cap for that year is anticipated around $124 mil. In the words of Jim Mora Senior...Playoffs?!? PLAYOFFS?!? Thanks for the 'valuable' info Scott and Charlotte Observer...

Shane P said...

What's wrong with more football? Nothing!

Anonymous said...

The number of winning non-division winners should dictate the number of playoff teams, between 2 and 4.

If the AFC or NFC has x2 "wild card" teams with winning records, only x2 get in. Regardless of the number of wild cards in the other conference.

If the AFC has x3 "wild card" teams with winning records, all x3 should get in. Regardless of the number of wild cards in the other conference.

If the NFC or AFC has x4 "wild card" teams with winning records, all x4 should get in. Regardless of the number of wild cards in the other conference.

Anonymous said...

Obviously it would help feed an expansion of NFL teams to expand playoffs and allowing the structure to already be in place. "J said" had some good comments about expanding rosters...this too would help with future expansion...

Anonymous said...

The problem is you have 7 NFC and 7 AFC teams so how would bye's work?

1 and 2 get bye's
3 plays 7, 4 plays 5, 6?

Unless 1,2 and 3 get byes...
then 4 plays 7 and 5 plays 6.
But then you have to give the 1 seed a bye again?

Don't tell me you haven't worked this out Scott!

Anonymous said...

Let's just ditch Thursday night football. It's awful.

An 8-8 team has nu business being the the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

Scott you ignorant slut, this is another bad idea from Goodell who can crank out bad ideas with the best of them. Leave it like it is and by the way leave the kickoff alone too. This idea is all about one thing, MONEY.

Point-counterpoint Dan Aykroyd

Anonymous said...

More wildcard teams would lessen the importance of excelling in the regular season. This reminds me of how the NCAA began greatly expanding those who got into the tourney, and took away the drama of the ACC tournament. esivalv 4765

William said...

J's idea is exceptional in theory. I've never seen it in practice, so I wouldn't know how it would work. I think that having 10-team playoffs, 16-game seasons, and overtime in the regular season was contested just as hotly in the 70s as 14-team or 16-team playoffs, 18-game seasons, and no kickoffs is now. And tiers of IR would be really useful, although I'd add a 60-day tier.

Anonymous said...

You don't mess with perfection and that's what we have now. Plus with 14 playoff teams you will have season ticket holders getting letters saying....hey we know the team has a losing record with a month to go, but we might still host a playoff game so send in your $$$ for those tickets now. If we don't have one at home or at all then we will apply that $$$ towards next season's tickets. And fyi there is part of the owner's motivation for expansion. More chances to get more of your money or hold it for longer.

Scott Fowler said...

Hi, guys, it's Scott. Lots of good debate on this issue, thanks for all the comments. Normally I don't let words like "ignorant slut" get into a comment -- remember, I moderate them all -- but I'm a big "Saturday Night Live" fan so most any SNL reference gets in. As for the bye system for a 14-team playoff split into two 7-team playoff brackets, it's simple. No.1 gets a bye. No.2 plays 7, 3 plays 6 and 4 plays 5. The winner of 4-5 plays No.1 seed; the winner of 3-6 plays 2-7. Homefield advantage always goes to the higher seed.

Anonymous said...

Scott, you haven't worked out the MOST IMPORTANT part of expanding the playoffs. How would you work the tv schedule? TV money is the most important source of revenue for the league. Remember, networks don't like it when games overlap.

banks said...

Stupid idea, just plain stupid. I have sworn off baseball COMPLETELY for doing the same thing--that was the final straw. And they better not try to add another regular season game, either.

Don't jump the shark, NFL.