Less is more in the NFL Playoffs!

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December 19, 2012 by ussportsfanuk

The latest idea to come from Roger Goodell and the NFL is to expand the Playoffs to 14 or even 16 teams.  Although I understand they would like some more playoff football, this does not seem like a good idea.

Both the proposed options present issues.  With 14 teams in the Playoffs (7 in each Conference, 4 Division winners and three Wildcards), three of the Division winners would surely host the three Wildcard teams.  This would mean that the team with the best record in each Conference would not only get home field advantage (which they will have earned of course) throughout the Playoffs, but would also be the only team to get a rest week.  This could be seen as increasing the advantage of the No.1 seed.  If the Playoffs were expanded to 16 teams, although the No.1 seed would no longer get the rest week advantage it would mean that half of the League’s teams would be in the Playoffs!  This would surely lessen the achievement of making the Playoffs and create a situation where more teams with .500 records or worse would be in the post-season.

It is clear from looking back over the history of the Super Bowl since the introduction of the Wildcard, that extra places do and would further, devalue the regular season as it is becoming more common that the Division winners, and best teams during the Regular Season are not making it to the big game.  Since 1970, when Wildcards were first introduced, ten Wildcard teams have advanced to the Super Bowl.  In the 20 years from 1970 to 1990, only one Wildcard team from each Conference could advance to the Divisional Playoffs.  During this time only the 1975 Dallas Cowboys, the 1980 Oakland Raiders and the 1985 New England Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl, with only the Raiders actually winning the Vince Lombardi Trophy.  In the 21 years since, from 1990 to the 2011 season however, it has been possible for two Wildcard teams to advance to the Divisional Playoffs in an increased 12 team Playoffs.  In this period 7 teams, the 1992 Buffalo Bills, the 1997 Denver Broncos, the 1999 Tennessee Titans, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, the 2007 New York Giants and the 2010 Green Bay Packers have all made it to the Super Bowl with 5 of the 7 actually winning once they got there, whilst the Titans came up one yard short from taking the St Louis Rams to OT!  Amongst those winners, the Giants were of course the team that beat the 16-0 Patriots!  This seems to prove that increased Playoff places and Wildcards is diminishing everything that is happening before the Playoffs.

I have seen some say that having half of the teams in the Playoffs is the same as the NHL.  The difference for them is that they have an 82 game regular seasons so it is less likely that a short run of good results will be enough to get a team into the Playoffs.  If the NFL expand, a team that has a good run or plays some poorer teams could suddenly find themselves with 6 or 7 wins for the season, which amazingly may get them into the Playoffs.  As it stands, the New York Jets at 6-8 would currently hold the last Playoff place in the AFC if there were 16 teams going into the post-season!  It would also mean that, even the Raiders at 4-10 and 14th in the Conference at present, may not mathematically be out of the Playoff race!

Looking at all these past facts, and perhaps looking at the reality of the current standings, surely shows that the Playoffs should be left as they are and that extra Wildcard teams will just diminish the quality of the Playoffs and turn the Regular Season into one long pre-season ready for the knockout competition at the end.  Hopefully the NFL will realise that when it comes to teams in the Playoffs, less really is more!

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