What Would Expanded Playoffs Look Like, and Would It Be Good for the NFL?

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IJanuary 8, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10:  The National Football League's (NFL) commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a press conference held by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, regarding Super Bowl XLVIII, which New York and New Jersey will host at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on October 10, 2013 in New York City.  Goodell was joined by Mayor Bloomberg, co-chairmen of the NY/NJ Super Bowl Host Committee, and various city officials.  (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

More teams in the NFL playoffs?

Yeah, it could happen.

The momentum for postseason expansion started in October last year at the annual Fall League Meeting when commissioner Roger Goodell commented on the idea, saying that discussion of adding two teams to the postseason was one of the "priorities" for the competition committee in 2014, according to Chris Wesseling of NFL.com

Here's another Goodell quote from October concerning the matter: "If expanding the postseason would allow other teams to get into the dance, and they have the potential of going on and winning the Super Bowl, that's a good thing for fans, that's a good thing competitively."

The 2013 regular season came and went—with loads of excitement and an assortment of teams vying for playoff spots in the final few weeks. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Andrew Perloff of The Dan Patrick Show sent the following tweet to his 70,000-plus followers: 

Dan Patrick says he's been told that the NFL will add a wild card team in both conferences.

— Andrew Perloff (@andrewperloff) Jan. 6, 2014

Soon thereafter, the NFL issued a formal statement on the matter, and Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated tweeted the e-mail he received from a league spokesperson: 

There been no such decision. It would require a vote of the clubs and it has not yet been taken up with them. If it’s taken up this year, it would happen at the annual meeting in March. The agenda for the meeting has not been formulated.

In a question-and-answer session with the media on Tuesday, Jan. 7, Goodell was asked about playoff expansion in the future: 

Goodell does, however, say there is momentum for expanding the playoff field.

— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) Jan. 7, 2014

If the NFL expands the playoffs, it would add a seventh team to each conference. Top seed would be the only team with a bye.

— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) Jan. 7, 2014

During his sit-down interview with former White House correspondent Ben Feller, Goodell made this statement about this postseason expansion topic, via Kevin Patra of NFL.com

That is under serious consideration. We think it's one of the great things about the NFL, besides the fact that it's unscripted. Every team and their fans start the season with hope. You mentioned the fact that for 11 straight years we've had a team go from last to first, that's unique to professional football and the NFL, that doesn't happen in other sports. And that's because we have such a competitive league and we want to keep that.

The races we had this past season, we had 16 games every weekend, the final weekend we have division games, so your opponent is a division opponent and 13 of those 16 games had playoff implications on the final day of the season. That's extraordinary and we want to keep that. If we could increase that, and again this is about believing in better, can you make it better, can you make those (division) races better by adding two more teams? That's compelling and that's what we're looking at.

While Goodell didn't make any definitive, positive statements about the league adding more playoff teams, he, at the very least, appears to be intrigued by the idea, and it seems to be an idea that will be discussed in the owners' meeting in late March. 

Here's a visual of how the new NFL playoff bracket could look, with the teams from each conference that would have made the postseason this year had the expansion already been in place: 



Clearly, the logistics would be rather simple.

Many will cringe at the idea of 14 teams in a 32-team league advancing to the playoffs, but as Goodell astutely remarked, an expanded postseason field would lead to even more teams fighting for their playoff lives late in the regular season.

It would almost assuredly keep more fan bases captivated in December. 

Based on that premise alone, the playoff expansion proposal is a good one.


Would the postseason be watered down though?

Eventually, "undeserving" 7-9 or 8-8 teams would sneak into the No. 7 seed in each conference, but if those clubs were not "truly" of playoff-caliber, then the No. 2 seeds should  have no issue dispatching them, at home, in the first round.

Furthermore, the altered bracket would make the race for the super-coveted No. 1 seed—the only bye—more compelling.

With its sights squarely set on creating as much parity, competition and widespread excitement as possible—which directly benefits advertising revenue—don't be surprised if the NFL adds another playoff spot to each conference. It'll be a controversial decision, but one we'll ultimately enjoy.