There is a very good chance that the NFL expands its playoff field from 12 teams to 14 teams, and for at least two very good reasons: 1) Happy fans in two more NFL cities spending money in January; 2) Happy network executives willing to pay the NFL more money to broadcast two more games because they’re selling more advertising.
In the NFL, as in life, follow the money for the reason why anything will or won’t happen.
But prepare for more mediocrity.
The Washington Post reported Thursday that there’s growing support within the league to add two playoff teams. The new format would mean only two teams (one in each conference) would draw first-round byes. The other 12 teams would play six preliminary round games (three in each conference). This possibility isn’t a new story but it’s clearly gaining momentum.
The Falcons would’ve loved an expanded format back in 2009. At 9-7, they were the only NFC team over .500 that season to miss the playoffs. They would’ve traveled to play the 12-4 Minnesota Vikings.
The problem with the potential new format is it would frequently allow a .500 team into the postseason, and that’s not what playoffs in any sport should be about. I looked at the standings in the last five seasons to find the teams with the best records in each conference that would have made the playoffs. (I’m not going to get into tiebreakers.):
• 2013: NFC: Arizona 10-6. AFC: Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Miami and New York Jets 8-8.
• 2012: NFC: Chicago 10-6. AFC: Pittsburgh 8-8.
• 2011: NFC: Chicago, Arizona, Philadelphia and Dallas 8-8. AFC: Tennessee 9-7.
• 2010: NFC: N.Y. Giants and Tampa Bay 10-6. AFC: San Diego 9-7.
• 2009: NFC: Falcons 9-7. AFC: Houston and Pittsburgh 9-7.
Are you OK with an expanded playoff system if it means a greater chance that .500 teams will get in?