Upon the conclusion of the of the NFL’s league meetings in Dallas this week, it came to light that the league discussed the safety of Thursday night games for players, the bounty punishments that were vacated, and that the commissioner is mulling over an expansion to the current playoff system.
The current NFL postseason involves 12 teams, six from each conference. Currently, the teams that win their respective divisions take the first four slots available. After those divisions spots are filled, the two teams with the best records overall in the conference, but did not win their division, are entered into two Wild Card spots.
The top two seeds (teams with best records) sit out of the first round of playoffs to rest up and allow the other teams to battle it out on the field for supremacy. The winners of the Wild Card round then move on face the top two seeds and from there the winners advance to the conference playoffs.
The new NFL playoff system, if adopted, would allow 14 or 16 teams into the postseason. This would ultimately take away the bye week for the top two seeds and would allow more teams the opportunity at a playoff spot.
For instance, this year’s AFC Playoff picture leaves Cincinnati at 7-6 and the New York Jets at 6-7, just on the outside of the brackets. If the playoff format were to be updated to 14 teams, those teams would have automatic bids into the playoffs and would probably face a Patriots or Texans team in the first round.
If the format was expanded to 16, it would also allow for the Cleveland Browns and the San Diego Chargers to get their shot at the postseason with just 5-8 records. Again, those teams would probably go on to face the number one and number two seeds in the Wild Card round.
Neither one of these scenarios is in serious discussions at this time. It is currently just an idea that Roger Goodell is considering. If the NFL were to change to playoff format as we know it now, how would that affect the regular season?
Will it take the excitement and viewers out of the end of the season equation? Now we are all on the edge of our seats, watching every game in the AFC North and NFC East. Every game matters. In the new scenario, there would be nothing to get pumped up about if our team had already been in for weeks. Will it take the meaning out of late season games?
An argument for the other side could be that it gives opportunities to teams like the Browns. Cleveland started the season slow, but have now pulled it together in the end. Do they deserve a spot in the playoffs as well?
Whatever side of the fence you are on, it would be a big change if the league and the players were to adopt the new format. It could change the way we look at the NFL season forever.