NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated yesterday that the league is contemplating adding two additional wildcard playoff teams (one for each conference):
Goodell believes one change the NFL could make is to expand the playoffs.
‘That is under serious consideration,’ he (Goodell) said. ‘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.’
Source: NFL.com / Kevin Patra
The Arizona Cardinals went 10-6 this year but did not make the playoffs while the Green Bay Packers reached the postseason at 8-7-1. Goodell believes adding an extra playoff spot to the current format would provide an opportunity for teams like the Cardinals to participate in postseason play.
With each of the lowest (#6) seeds in both conferences advancing during this postseason the idea of allowing another team a chance to play for a championship has become a hot topic. The thought is not only does another team to make the playoffs, but also may allow the NFL to push Super Bowl Sunday to the weekend of President’s Day, a move that most people would prefer.
Detractors have noted that the 8-8 Pittsburgh Steelers, who were tied with the Jets, Dolphins and Ravens, would have been the AFC team which would have gained a playoff berth under the proposed format. There is also the “watering down” effect upon regular season games as a higher percentage of teams would earn a playoff spot.
The idea will be discussed during the annual NFL owners meeting scheduled for March 23-26 in Orlando, Florida and if adopted could not be implemented until the 2015 season. The proposal is to eliminate one preseason game (from 4 to 3) and add one game to Wildcard Weekend. The top seeded team in each conference would be the only team to get the first round bye. The playoff scenario would look like this:
- #7 seed @ #2 seed
- #6 seed @ #3 seed
- #5 seed @ #4 seed
The next round would be the lowest seed visiting the #1 overall seed and the rest of the games would fall into place as “Quarterfinals Weekend.” The following week would be the AFC/NFC Championship, and the rest of the playoffs will run the same way as always (Pro Bowl/bye week then Super Bowl).
Now anyone can look at a calendar and figure out that this system would still be one week short of President’s Day weekend. This is where the preseason game would come in to effect. The NFL would have to either push training camp back one week or allow for one more week of training camp practice prior to the first preseason game.
With the amount of injuries that happened in training camp this year, I’m not so sure this is the best idea, but it would eliminate or postpone the talk of extending the regular season to 18 games. Former NFL team executive Bill Polian was on ESPN Radio Monday night supporting this plan. As a former front office employee, he stated that not only would more injuries occur in an 18 game season, but fans of teams who are out of playoff contention by Christmas would not even consider going to games in mid-January, especially in cold weather states. He is a proponent of the NFL’s plan to add the playoff team because it adds a “meaningful game to a city who deserves it.”
The Competition Committee will have support and will have opposition to this plan. The TV Networks would settle for this plan because they will make a substantial amount of money off of the additional playoff games. They would obviously benefit more from having two extra regular season games, but networks would more than likely settle for the extra playoff game in a heartbeat. Teams like the Steelers, and Cardinals would’ve benefited from it this year. The Steelers who beat two playoff teams, in the Bengals and Packers in two out of the last three weeks and the Cardinals who beat #1 seed Seattle in Seattle just a few weeks back. It gives another team an opportunity to have a chance. A team who maybe got hot at the end of the year, but peaked a little too late.
There are obvious positives and negatives to this plan, but in time, most fans would appreciate another excellent game as the ones that were played this Saturday and Sunday, regardless of if their favorite team was in it or not. If this is the plan and it nixes the idea of an 18 game regular season, it would no doubt have the support of the NFL Players Association. It’s a matter of NFLPA, owners, league officials, and TV Networks to decide if this idea truly has all the benefits that Roger Goodell thinks it has.