At some point within the next month, we expect a new collective-bargaining agreement will be finalized. Owners and the 32 player representatives will be coming together to solidify a new plan that will have a major impact to the game over the next 10 years. Some of the changes expected to happen consist of things like going to a 17-game season with a shortened preseason schedule. Other things include a more relaxed drug policy that won’t throw the hammer down as hard as the current policy does. But of all the new ideas on the docket, the one that has generated the most buzz lately is the idea of transitioning from 12 to 14 playoff teams.
This proposed changed has many fans debating about whether or not it’s good for the NFL and the fans. On the surface, one might think - why not? Who could complain about another team getting in to the big dance? It should just make things more fun, right?
On the other side there are those who think the increase in playoff teams would water down the importance of the regular season. There are some good points to be made on each side of the fence, so we thought we’d break this down a little deeper and see what’s really at stake before we plant our flag in the dirt.
Gives hope to more teams
The obvious thing about this new format is that an extra spot will now open things up for more teams. With an increase of 14 playoff teams, this will allow nearly 44% of the teams in the league to make the playoffs. That’s the highest admission percentage the league has ever seen.
Just this small amount of extra room will put more teams in the running down the stretch. Yes, we’ll see more teams with a losing record get in, but this will create a larger rooting interest for more fans around the league. That means teams like the Washington Redskins won’t be officially eliminated from the playoffs until Week 10.
The number 2 seed team gets punished
It’s not all sunshine and rainbows as there will be some teams that are negatively impacted each year. Gone would be the days that a top two finish in your conference guaranteed you a first-round bye. Now that luxury would only be bestowed on the top seed. With seven teams making the dance, the bottom six teams would fight it out on wild card weekend, while the no. 1 seed sits on their couch eating popcorn.
- Seed 1 - first round bye
- Seed 2 vs. 7
- Seed 3 vs. 6
- Seed 4 vs. 5
That will result in a raw deal for some teams. For example, under the new format, there would be a total of five 13-3 teams being forced to play wild card weekend over the past three seasons. The change is good for some teams, but not so good for others.
The final week just got a whole lot more interesting
A seventh playoff spot not only opens things up for another team to make the postseason, but it also shakes things up for the teams that have already secured a playoff spot. Seeding is always important as it can dictate playing at home versus on the road as well as who your opponent will be. With a greater amount of teams in the mix, it’s going to lead to a lot more potential match up scenarios entering the final week of the regular season.
And when you also factor in the idea that a 17th regular season game is coming, that’s a whole lot of extra relevance added to our NFL watching experience.
Tiebreakers become even more important
People worried about the relevance of any given week due to more cushion to get into the playoffs should keep in mind that with more teams comes more traffic. That means there’s going to be a larger cluster of teams vying for playoff seeding, which puts a greater emphasis on the tiebreakers.
What are your thoughts on this new playoff format? Do you like this change or are there reasons you’d prefer to just leave things alone? Let us know in the comments.