Right now twelve teams make the NFL playoffs, with four teams getting the first week off. Is this format in the best interest of the teams its fans, and its business partners?
No other major sport utilizes a playoff system in which the top team gets a bye. As it is now four teams and their fans are denied an extra home game, and those business partners – the networks and all the advertisers – are excluded from what would be four additional highly watched games. Think about how much fun this weekend would be with four playoff games on both Saturday and Sunday to kick off the post season! Each of the four networks would get two games: one exclusive, and one head-to-head against another game. If nothing else it would be a huge improvement over the BBVA Compass Bowl and GoDaddy.com Bowl being broadcast this weekend in those time slots.
Now I realize that the reward for teams doing well is to earn an extra week off, but this could add some extra strategy as well. If teams still feel that is important they could go ahead and play their backups – and be second-guessed when they drop in the playoff seedings, and potentially have to play on the road as a result. Instead more teams would likely give full effort through the final week, minimizing the possibility of one team backing into the playoffs because another lost due to starting their reserves.
Roger Goodell and the NFL made a lot of noise the last two years about wanting to expand to an 18-game regular season schedule. Something tells me we have not heard the last of that, even though both fans and players think it is a bad idea. Now I don’t doubt that that talk had more to do with CBA negotiations – ‘okay, we’ll give that up; now you give us something back’ – but I also don’t doubt for a second that they would love to find some additional revenue streams; this to me is a good compromise.
And based on the absurd amount of money the networks just agreed to with their last set of contracts with the NFL, they too would love to find a source of some extra money to justify those business decisions.
Aside from giving teams with a bye such an advantage from having to win one less game (and yes, I know all about the winners of the 2005-06-07 Super Bowls, as well as Arizona being 35 seconds away from making that four in a row; it doesn’t change the advantage of having to win one less game or the high percentage of bye teams that have won it all), it does help to insure that deserving teams are not excluded from the playoffs. Prime example would be the 11-5 2008 Patriots, the 10-6 2007 Browns, and the 10-6 2005 Chiefs. To me the positive of those teams getting to play in the post-season outweighs negative of an 8-8 team making it in – and having to face the best team in the conference.
In 2003 Robert Kraft co-sponsored along with the Chiefs a proposal that would have expanded the playoffs to 14 teams. Perhaps that idea is better than 16 teams, as it still gives the team with the best conference record a week off. If Kraft like the idea then I don’t see why he wouldn’t like it now, and he has is much more influential now than he was nine years ago. For networks they would each get an exclusive time slot without splitting the NFL audience with another network during one of the games like they would with a 16-team playoff. But either way, I like it better than the current setup. If there’s a huge concern, agree to do it on a trial basis for two or three years and then review the results. At that point you can expand to sixteen teams, stay at fourteen teams, or revert to fourteen teams.
What’s wrong with that? All I’m seeing is a lot of positives and very few negatives, so let’s do it.
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