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Friday, 16 January 2015

NFL Playoff Expansion: Analyzing The Pros and Cons

Chip Kelly

It has been reported that the NFL owners will vote on potentially expanding the number of play-off teams this off-season.  The proposal that is most likely to garner the most discussion is the proposal to increase the number of teams from 12 to 14.

What this would mean is that there would be a 3rd Wild Card team in each conference.  With the addition of the extra wild card team, it would mean that only one team in each conference would get the BYE while the other 6 teams played during the opening weekend.

The play-offs would feature the 2-seed hosting the 7-seed, the 3-seed hosting the 6-seed and 4-seed hosting the 5-seed.  If that change had taken place this season, this is how the play-offs would have looked very similar as they did this year.  The four wild card games would have stayed the same and the two additional games would have been Houston Texans at Denver Broncos and Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers.

There is also further discussion about potential looking at the seeding of teams differently.  This proposal would go along with the above mentioned proposal of 14 teams.  Seeds 1 through 3 would be the division winners with the best 3 records.  Seed 4 through 7 would be seeded by record only, regardless of whether you won your division or not.

If this was implemented for this season the AFC match-ups would stay the same as 4-seed Indianapolis Colts (11-5) had a better record than 5-seed Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1).  So the wild card weekend in the AFC would have looked like this:

#1 New England Patriots (BYE)
#7 Houston Texans at #2 Denver Broncos
#6 Baltimore Ravens at #3 Pittsburgh Steelers
#5 Cincinnati Bengals at #4 Indianapolis Colts. 

The NFC would have looked a little differently as the Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) would have been reseeded to 7-seed.  So Carolina would have not only lost a home game, but would not have faced the Arizona Cardinals.  The updated NFC play-off picture would have looked like this:

#1 Seattle Seahawks (BYE)
#7 Carolina Panthers at #2 Green Bay Packers
#6 Philadelphia Eagles at #3 Dallas Cowboys
#5 Detroit Lions at #4 Arizona Cardinals


Now that we got the explanation out of the way, let’s look at some of the Pros and Cons of this potential change.


  • Another play-off team would mean two more play-off games and more football is a great thing.
  • More end of season drama, with seven teams making the play-offs from each conference many teams would be in the play-off race longer and could lead to more games with meaning at the end of the season.
  • More games means more money for the NFL, which means more money for the Owners and the players.
  • The 1-seed becomes even more important now as that team would be the only team in their conference not playing on Wild Card Weekend.
  • 1st Team To Miss Play-offsMore job security for Coaching Staffs.  Most coaches are judged by the success of their team, and success is typically determined by play-off appearances and how far they go within those play-offs.  With two additional teams making the play-offs, several coaches could have likely saved their jobs.
  • A better chance that your long struggling team can make the play-offs next season. 
    • Buffalo Bills (15 years), Oakland Raiders (12), Cleveland Browns (12), St. Louis Rams (10)




  • With more teams in, there is a higher likelihood of teams clinching a middle seed and having less to play for in weeks 16 and 17 which could lead to more players sitting out during those weeks.
  • It opens the door for more mediocre teams into the play-offs.
  • The quality of the Wild Card Weekend could be diminished, neither Philadelphia nor Houston were a Super Bowl contender and likely would not have made it out of the first round.
  • The 1-seed gains a larger advantage being the only team who was able to use that extra week to get healthy, forcing the 2-seed to play a game against a mediocre team would severely hurt their chances at winning a Super Bowl, especially if they are dealing with injuries.
  • Scheduling becomes an issue.  As of now, Wild Card Weekend features an afternoon and evening game on Saturday and an early afternoon and late afternoon game on Sunday, extending Wild Card Weekend by two games would mean having three games on both Saturday and Sunday or moving a game or two to Friday or Monday.  The Monday to Saturday/Sunday turnaround would be a large disadvantage and the Friday to Saturday/Sunday turnaround would be a bigger advantage. 
  • Wild Card Weekend also comes during a busy time of College Football, so the potential of extra games could interfere with one of the many College Bowl Games that are played that time of year.


Do you agree or disagree with these Pros/Cons or is there one that I missed, add them below in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @TCGRaven



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