NFL Smart to Consider Playoff Expansion

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IFebruary 27, 2014

Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League, speaks to the media during a news conference at the Super Bowl XLVIII Media Center at the Sheraton hotel, Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, in New York. The Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos, 43-8. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

Expanded NFL playoffs?

I'm game. 

The more football, the better—that's how I look at it. 

Many think it's not that simple and believe my viewpoint is unquestionably untrue. 


Well, the theory centers around the idea that more teams in the postseason would equate to a catastrophic watering down of what currently is a playoff bracket consisting of 12 of the 32 teams in the league. 

I'm not so worried about that. 

Check these tweets from Washington Post NFL writer Mark Maske, who reported on the league's growing interest to enlarge the playoff field: 

One source said "there’s a lot of momentum" for expanding the NFL playoffs.

— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) February 27, 2014

Owners potentially could vote at league meeting on expanded playoffs. Even if they do, measure unlikely to take effect until 2015 season.

— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) February 27, 2014

With one playoff spot added in each conference, the percentage of the league's teams in the postseason would jump from 37.5 to 43.75, a modest increase. 

But my advocacy of playoff expansion isn't solely based in numbers. 

From a fan perspective, my advocacy is due to the tremendous league-wide parity in existence today. From an NFL front-office perspective, it's based on the assurance that more teams involved in playoff races in December and more teams actually in the playoffs in January will yield more dollars for the multibillion-dollar mega business. 

As a follower of the NFL since my diaper days—I could count by multiples of seven and three before I was confident in my ABC's—my initial loyalty lies with the desires of the diehard, jersey-buying, tailgate-going fan.

Dec 23, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers fans and members of the Atlanta-based Spartans of the Niner Empire organization tailgate before the final regular season game at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Because of that, I understand the popular notion that more teams in the playoffs would lead to a diluted regular season loaded with ultimately "unworthy" teams receiving berths in the second season.

I just don't think either of those scenarios will materialize enough to harm the quality of the NFL as we know it. 

By now, most football patrons realize there's a minimal discrepancy between going 7-9 and 9-7. Almost every fan of every 7-9 team can instantly rehash the few "what if?" plays that essentially ruined the season and were major influences on playoff elimination. 

A dropped pass here. A missed field goal there. A fumble that wasn't recovered. You know what I mean. 

Occasionally, a downright stinker of a team will sneak into the postseason. Just as frequently, though, a seemingly worthy club—like the 2013 Arizona Cardinals, the 2008 New England Patriots or the 2007 Cleveland Browns—will make the playoffs under this new format. 

Dec 23, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers fans and members of the Atlanta-based Spartans of the Niner Empire organization tailgate before the final regular season game at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We should approve of that. 

But those polar opposites won't happen often in the long run. 

And when the inferior 7-9 squad undeservingly gets in, shouldn't it be easily dispatched by the higher-seeded team?

From that, isn't the perpetual embrace of the underdog an inherent trait of the American sports fan anyway? 

Dec 22, 2013; Seattle, WA, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Michael Floyd (15) catches a pass for a touchdown over Seattle Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell (41) during the second half at CenturyLink Field. Arizona defeated Seattle 17-10. Mandatory Cr
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Adding one team to each conference's playoff bracket wouldn't water down anything, believe me. 

For the NFL, playoff expansion is ingenious, pure marketing gold. Frankly, it's a continuation of the initiative to sustain excitement for the duration of the regular season that kicked into gear a few years ago.

Before the 2010 campaign, commissioner Roger Goodell announced a scheduling tweak that would pit divisional foes against each other in Week 17. 

Since then, we've been fortunate enough to witness some de facto "divisional title" games to end the year, and the fans who followed teams already out of playoff contention were at least treated to the consolation prize of a familiar, heated rival in the season finale. 

Another playoff spot up for grabs will give way to even more teams and fanbases clinging to postseason aspirations for longer—picture more meaningful games in more cities.

Who loses? 

Dec 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy (25) runs with the ball against Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus ware (94) in the fourth quarter at AT&T Stadium. The Eagle beat the Cowboys 24-22. Mandatory Credit: Matt
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Those games will generate more ticket, merchandise and beer sales, deepening the NFL's already seemingly bottomless pockets. 

Remember, too—if the NFL goes to 14 total teams in the playoffs (43.75 percent of the league), it'd still have a lower playoff admittance rate than the NBA and NHL. 

Lastly, the No. 1 seed will become even more of a magnificent regular-season reward, especially if it represents the only chance at a bye week.

The NFL hasn't gotten everything right, and it'll probably continue to make mistakes in the future. 

But expanding the playoffs should be welcomed, not criticized.