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.
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