NFL Nation Says: Expanded playoffs?
December, 19, 2013
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliIs the current 12-team playoff field large enough, or should the NFL add more playoff spots?Down the stretch we come, and oh what a stretch -- of disappointment -- it will be.
Only four teams have clinched playoff spots, meaning that 15 teams remain in contention for the final eight. In other words, almost as many teams will be eliminated from the postseason as will clinch during the next two weeks.
Those numbers are not unusual relative to previous seasons, but they bring us to familiar ground: Is a 12-team playoff field large enough? Should the NFL pursue commissioner Roger Goodell's recent musings on adding two spots for the 2015 season? Or would playoff expansion minimize the 50-50 drama we're experiencing now and dilute the postseason product later?
At the top, concerns about watering down the postseason might be exaggerated. Looking back at the past 10 playoff fields reveals that no losing teams and only five 8-8 teams would have been among the 20 No. 7 seeds. If you subscribe to the theory of NFL parity, there isn't likely to be a material difference in quality between a No. 6 or No. 7 seed.
A 14-team field would also award greater value on the No. 1 seeds, which likely would be the only teams to receive a first-round bye. It could also come in concert with a shorter preseason, according to Goodell, a trade that many fans and players would accept.
The final two weeks of the regular season could lose some level of excitement given the presumed reduction of impact games, a particularly notable byproduct this season, as seven of eight division titles remain unawarded. But that drop could be replaced by the additional thrill of two more fan bases experiencing a week of playoff intensity.
In short, there's a lot to like about playoff expansion if you can get past the traditionalist view of elite playoff fields. What do NFL coaches and players think? NFL Nation asked around this week.