On Tuesday, the NFL announced a major change to the league’s playoff format. We saw it coming after the idea was given the thumbs-up by the recent approval of the new CBA between the league and the NFLPA, but it’s now official. Instead of six teams maxing the playoffs per conference, now we’ll see seven. Fans around the NFL don’t seem to reach a consensus on whether a 14-team playoff is better than a 12-team playoff, but it’s happening.
Like most football fans, I’m not sure if I like the playoff expansion or not. Here are my thoughts on the matter. Make sure to let me know yours in the comments section below.
Overall, I’m not a fan. But it’s got a bright side.
I’ve always been a fan of few teams making the postseason in just about any sport, but especially football. I once read “Men At Work: The Craft of Baseball” by George F. Will and a line has stuck with me for a long time. Comparing the NFL’s 16-game schedule (which could be increased to 17 as soon as 2021, by the way) with the MLB’s 162-game grind, Will makes an interesting point.
“Baseball is a habit. Football is a spectacle.” I love that quote. And it’s true, honestly. The importance of each game in football is unmatched, making each matchup just that, a spectacle. Teams only have 16 games to get over .500 to have a shot to play in January. It’s rare to see an 8-8 team make the playoffs. Sure, it happens, but it’s considered a rarity.
Adding a 7th seed per conference will surely take a little bit away from that. And the importance of the regular season.
However, it’s kind of easy to look at the glass half-full. It’s more football. I won’t lie. I’ll be as excited as anyone else to have six playoff football games on Wild Card Weekend. Three on Saturday and three on Sunday? Sign me up, I guess.
Nickelodeon broadcasting a game is genius.
In case you missed it, Nickelodeon will actually simulcast a Wild Card game and “tailor it for a younger audience.” That could mean plenty of things and I can’t wait to see how this works. Will a famous cartoon character such as Spongebob Squarepants will be calling the game? Will another character be working as the sideline reporter? Will the winning coach be covered in green slime? Ok, maybe that last one won’t happen.
I, however, can’t stop thinking about the parents who will be forced to convince their kids to watch the game on CBS instead. I wonder if it’ll work out at all.
#2 seed takes the biggest hit.
One of the things that concern me the most about the new 14-team playoff format, is the fact that the number two seed will not earn a first-round bye as before. That privilege will belong to the one seed and to the one seed only. Considering how the first-round bye has impacted the playoffs historically, I don’t see how it’s fair to take that away from the second-best team in each conference.
How fair is it to force a football team that in previous years would’ve been resting, to host a match against a team that wouldn’t have even made the playoffs last year?
But again, let’s be more optimistic about this. Could it lead to a more competitive playoff instead? I don’t doubt it. After all, once the Divisional Round comes around, only two out of eight teams will have rested.
How epic will the race for the 7th seed be?
This is perhaps what makes me the most excited about this idea. Every year, there’s interest on who’ll be the “last team in.” If things are that competitive for the final seed, it’s only logical to think the seventh-seed race will be even more intense.
The question, however, remains. Will those teams be worthy opponents in January? They’ll undoubtedly be the underdogs. But sports fans love an underdog.