NFL: Three Ways to Expand the Playoffs

None of these three scenarios would have gotten the 2012 Jets into the postseason. - USA TODAY Sports

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of discussion about the NFL potentially expanding its Playoffs to give more fans a chance to see their teams play in the postseason. This chatter has not gone anywhere. The NFL has not expanded its twelve team postseason format. This, however, has remained a point of discussion, albeit not a prominent one in league circles.

If the NFL decided to expand its postseason, what would the options be? I see three possibilities.

The plus one system

How it works:

A third Wild Card would be added to each conference. The seventh seed in each conference would play against the second seed on Wild Card Weekend. The league currently plays Wild Card games on Saturday at 4:30 and 8:00 and Sunday at 1:00 and 4:30. A game could be added Saturday at 1:00 and Sunday at 8:00. The rest of the Playoffs would proceed as planned.

How it would have looked in 2012:

AFC

1. Denver (bye)

2. New England hosts 7. Pittsburgh

3. Houston hosts 6. Cincinnati

4. Baltimore hosts 5. Indianapolis

NFC

1. Atlanta (bye)

2. San Francisco hosts 7. Chicago

3. Green Bay hosts 6. Minnesota

4. Washington hosts 5. Seattle

What are the impacts?

At the top of the conference, this actually makes the regular season more meaningful. With only one bye per conference, having the top seed takes on even greater importance. Only one team can get to the Super Bowl with two wins. That team needs to win in the Divisional round and is guaranteed to host the Conference Championship Game and be more rested than its opponent. The two seed is still really important. Teams wouldn't put less emphasis on it since it guarantees a second round home game.

The plus two system

How it works:

A third and a fourth Wild Card would be added to each conference. The eighth seed would play against the top seed, and the seventh seed would play against the second seed on Wild Card Weekend. There could be games on Thursday and/or Friday night to kick the weekend off. Another option would be to play multiple games at the same time on Saturday and Sunday and televise them regionally as happens on Sundays during the regular season. Given the money involved, I would bank on the first option.

How it would have looked in 2012:

AFC

1. Denver hosts 8. San Diego

2. New England hosts 7. Pittsburgh

3. Houston hosts 6. Cincinnati

4. Baltimore hosts 5. Indianapolis

NFC

1. Atlanta hosts 8. NY Giants

2. San Francisco hosts 7. Chicago

3. Green Bay hosts 6. Minnesota

4. Washington hosts 5. Seattle

What are the impacts?

Half of the league would now make the Playoffs. One could argue how much the plus one system dilutes the regular season. In the plus two system, the impact would be undeniable. Football is such a physical game that Playoff byes are greatly valued by teams. It is a huge advantage to have a week of rest after a grueling sixteen game in seventeen week season. Seeding would be important, but there would be less of an advantage for the team that finishes at the top. Adding two teams to the postseason greatly increases the likelihood of a sub-.500 team making the postseason. It happened here with San Diego. If the league plays games on Thursday and/or Friday so the entire country can see all of the Playoffs, it creates a second round where there are likely to be big disparities in rest.

The NHL system

How it works:

Eight teams from each conference make the postseason. Qualification is not based on conference record. The top two finishers from each division make the Playoffs and face off in the first round in a Division Championship Game hosted by the team with the better record. For lack of a better name, we will give the NHL credit for the final possibility. Hockey used to have a divisional playoff system and will again next year. After the first round, the four winners in each conference are seeded by record for the second round. Television would work similarly to the plus two model.

How it would have looked in 2012:

AFC East Championship Game: New England hosts Miami

AFC North Championship Game: Baltimore hosts Cincinnati

AFC South Championship Game: Houston hosts Indianapolis

AFC West Championship Game: Denver hosts San Diego

NFC East Championship Game: Washington hosts NY Giants

NFC North Championship Game: Green Bay hosts Minnesota

NFC South Championship Game: Atlanta hosts Carolina

NFC West Championship Game: San Francisco hosts Seattle

What are the impacts?

On one level, this system is kind of cool. You are guaranteed eight rivalry games to kick off the Playoffs. Think rivalries are heated now? Just wait until the same teams in each division start meeting in the postseason year after year. On another deeper level, this system would be really unfair. San Francisco would get rewarded for having the second best record in the NFC by getting Seattle in the first round while Washington would get a nine win Giants team. Three 7-9 teams would have made it last year, but 10-6 Chicago would not have. It could get really bad in some years. Remember Seattle winning the NFC West in 2010 with a 7-9 record? They would have hosted a first round game under this format while Atlanta and New Orleans would have played in the first round.

Final thoughts

While we have now explored these possibilities, I cannot say I am in favor of any of them. I really like the system the NFL has in place now. If your team is having a halfway decent year, it will still be playing meaningful games into November and December, but only really good teams typically make the Playoffs. Having a system where twelve out of thirty-two make it rewards excellence. There will be the odd seven or eight win team sneaking in, but most of the teams that make the Playoffs are good clubs. The system in place now puts emphasis on merit. To be a Wild Card, you usually have to be a pretty good team. Because you didn't win your division, you are punished, however, by having to win three on the road to make the Super Bowl (barring the yet to be seen scenario of the 5 and 6 seeds both making a Conference Championship Game). If you win your division, you get a home game. If you are an elite division winner, you automatically advance to the second round. Expanding the system dilutes the meaning of the regular season and creates more opportunities for mediocre teams to make it.


(As always, 50 points to the guy in the comments section who doesn't actually read this article and blasts me claiming I'm advocating for an expanded postseason.)

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Gang Green Nation

You must be a member of Gang Green Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Gang Green Nation. You should read them.

Join Gang Green Nation

You must be a member of Gang Green Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Gang Green Nation. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker