“DUMB”-Dan Fogarty, SportsGrid Editor-in-Chief
There probably isn’t a better word to describe what Roger Goodell wants to do to the NFL’s postseason, which is expand it from 12 teams to 14 or 16. Among other hot-button topics he addressed at the Special Meeting in Dallas earlier today, this was by far the silliest, and in a word, dumbest.
Of the four major American pro sports leagues, the NFL has arguably the best playoff format. It’s a more exclusive party than the NBA and NHL host for what seems like a second season, tight enough to ensure only the best of the best get in. You’ll get your years like 2010, where the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record and got to host a home game against the 10-6, defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, but that is an anomaly, one which could become routine should postseason expand to include half the league’s teams.
Major League Baseball’s postseason runs a pretty tight, fair ship. But many would argue a 162-game season gets seriously devalued in a five- or seven-game series, where even the best teams can hit a cold streak, rendering six months of stellar play and hard work all for naught. Thanks to the unique nature of the NFL season, no sour fans whose teams were eliminated, or players on said teams, could argue that — the quantity of games in an NFL season just doesn’t allow for it.
There are some flaws (division winners receiving an automatic home game regardless of record, for instance), but for the most part, the NFL gets the postseason right. It’s just tough enough to get into where the quality of teams is not sacrificed, the format in regards to the regular season is fair, and any team can still get in on the action in any given year (every team has made the playoffs at least once since 1999).
Now how could you go and fuck that up?
“Right now, we are at 12 teams, obviously,” Goodell said. “We will look at probably 14 or 16. The committee will be looking at that. “
First of all, for such a vehement activist for player safety, adding two games on Wild Card weekend seems like a step in the wrong direction. Since that won’t make such a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, let’s get to the real issue, which is letting half the league into the playoffs. Some years, there are more than six teams in each conference deserving of a playoff spot, with 10-6 teams and sometimes 11-5 teams on the outs. Most years however, six is just fine. Let’s say the NFL allowed for 16-team playoff this year. Here’s what the berths would look life if the postseason started today:
AFC: 1. Houston Texans (11-2), 2. New England Patriots (10-3), 3. Denver Broncos (10-3), 4. Baltimore Ravens (9-4), 5. Indianapolis Colts (9-4), 6. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6), 7. Cincinnati Bengals (7-6), 8. New York Jets (6-7). IN THE HUNT: Cleveland Browns (5-8), San Diego Chargers (5-8)
NFC: 1. Atlanta Falcons (11-2), 2. San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1), 3. Green Bay Packers (9-4), 4. New York Giants (8-5), 5. Seattle Seahawks (8-5), 6. Chicago Bears (8-5), 7. Washington Redskins (7-6), 8. Dallas Cowboys (7-6). IN THE HUNT: Minnesota Vikings (7-6), St. Louis Rams (6-6-1)
That’s right, the 5-8 Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers would be one game out of a playoff spot in Week 15. This is a good year for the NFC, and seeds 1-8 could all make noise in January, but the bottom chunk of the AFC field is pitiful. And if by some act of god the Jets would upset the Texans in the first round, then there would be a serious problem with undercutting the value of the regular season. It would be a crazy upset, sure, and some would argue if you won it, you deserved it, but the Texans don’t deserve to lose to a team like the Jets in the first place. Though you might then argue “Well they beat them, so they must be better. Why does it matter?”, remember that the Cardinals beat the Patriots not too long ago, and on any given Sunday, stranger things have happened. I know it sounds funky, but if a top seed should lose, they should be doing so to playoff-caliber talent. And if you’ve been watching the Jets this season, it’s clearly something they are not.
An expanded postseason is not the answer, Mr. Goodell. Keep January football the way it is, please.
[Shutdown Corner, Getty Images]