Despite numerous rumors to the contrary, NFL owners have decided to table talks of expanding the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams. There have been multiple reports over the years of adding two more regular season games and/or subtracting multiple preseason games, but the idea of allowing two more teams in the playoffs had not really seen the light of day until recently.
The proposal makes perfect sense for the owners because they would be afforded the luxury of another marquee game at no expense. The most likely plan would be to remove one bye leaving just a single team in each conference with a week off before its first playoff game. That leaves six teams in each conference with first round playoff games meaning six games in total on the first weekend of the postseason. However the NFL would decide to lay out the schedule, the league’s television rating dominance would expand over two additional three hour blocks.
But the one key aspect that will likely be overlooked when the vote does come to fruition is how the change would majorly water down the regular season.
The NFL, America’s premier sports league, currently allows 37.5% of its teams to continue playing after the regular season concludes. By adding two more teams the league would push that percentage up to 44%, much closer to the dreaded 50% number.
The 53.3% number that the NBA and NHL uses is far too high. The regular season in both leagues has really just become a tune up for the inevitability of a set of win or go home playoff series.
What makes the NFL so great is the fact that a lot of good teams are left out. Teams like the Cardinals, Steelers, Ravens, and Bears all were plenty deserving to play on, and could have likely won a playoff game or two, but were all sent packing in Week 17.
The low number of playoff teams makes every regular season game crucial. A one point loss in Week 2 can easily be the difference between your team qualifying or being on the wrong end of a complex tiebreaker. Allowing more teams in will not only water down the playoff field but it will make regular season losses much less important.
The current 12-team system essentially requires a 10 win season to make the playoffs. A 14-team system would lower that number to nine wins, and in many cases teams that are .500 will earn a spot.
NFL games are won and lost by a matter of inches every single week, and many teams’ hopes and dreams are either realized or crushed on those minute details. Add more teams to the playoffs and that one wrong bounce has to become two or three for a team not to qualify. The razor-sharp edge that separates a playoff team from one preparing for the draft becomes more of a saw blade that takes multiple strokes to knock a team out.
The league is at its peak, and no one can fault the owners for wanting to cash in every chance they get, but to stay at that peak the NFL has to make good decisions. Expanding the playoffs to 14 is a bad decision, unfortunately it’s going to happen because money always talks louder than competition.
Lucky for us it’s not happening just yet.