Commentary: It is time to expand the NFL postseason?
|Wednesday, September 22, 2021, 6:50 PM- -|
We may be just two weeks into the NFL season, but there has been plenty of surprises so far. For starters, you have both the NFC and AFC West Divisions, who appear to be the cream of the crop of the NFL. The NFC West has three teams sitting at 2-0, with the Seattle Seahawks narrowly missing a 2-0 start in their own right.
In the AFC West, you have the surprising Raiders and Broncos off to 2-0 starts while the Chiefs and Chargers sit at 1-1. Another big surprise would be the Carolina Panthers, who have gotten off to a 2-0 start with a great chance at reaching 3-0 on Thursday. The rest of the league is filled with 1-1 or 0-2 teams as this season seems to be as wide open as ever.
Given what I expect to be an unpredictable 2021 season, the NFL needs to finally do away with this first-round bye in the playoffs and expand the playoffs to eight teams across the board. Allow me to explain why I feel that should happen.
Last season, the NFL expanded the playoffs from six teams in each conference to seven, giving the No. 1 overall seed the lone bye. It seemed to work well as the NFL wasn't adding any additional weeks of play to the schedule. Fast forward to this season, and the NFL has decided to add an extra week to five teams a 17-game season, meaning the Regular season will go one week longer with the playoffs to follow suit.
Adding an extra game may not seem like a big deal since it did get rid of a preseason game, but in the end, it was all about the money as players will now make more with that extra game. The way I see it, I love the idea, and it is excellent for the fans, but now the NFL must do what they should have done a while ago, making the Playoffs eight teams across the board and eliminating first-round byes.
Over the past decade, there have been countless times where you have a division winner going 9-7 or even 8-8 getting into the playoffs over a team that went 10-6. That 10-6 team may have been in a division with two 11-win teams, while the 9-7 or 8-8 team could have been in one of the worst divisions in football. I understand it isn't either of those teams' fault as you can't control the schedule, but that extra playoff team could make all difference in the world.
Adding an extra team to the postseason would eliminate the first-round bye, but it wouldn't make the postseason any longer than it is now. Instead, it would allow the wild card round to follow the NBA and NHL format going with a 1v8, 2v7, 3v6, and 4v5 format. Not only do I feel it would attract more fans in terms of viewership, but extra games mean extra money, so two more playoff teams make for two additional games.
Not only that, but it also allows teams to make the postseason, especially if they have been on the outside looking in despite great seasons. I will use the NFC West as an example of why I feel the postseason should expand again. It is early, and the season isn't even three weeks old, but many people feel that every team in the NFC West can win 10 or 11 games.
Since you can only have one division winner, there is a good chance that three if not all four teams from that division make the playoffs. As unusual as that may be, there is a chance that it may happen, and it likely would mean a team like the Bears, Vikings, Packers, or Saints may miss out on the postseason even if they have a winning record.
Every fan will have a different opinion on this and a different view of how the playoffs should be constructed, but the way I have always felt is that more games should equal more qualified teams. If the NFL were to move to eight postseason teams, I think it would set the bar for the MLS and MLB to follow as all five of the major sports agencies could use that eight-team format as the standard playoff format.
While NBA NHL, MLS, and NFL could follow the same format minus the best of series for the NBA, MLB would have to do things differently, which could be done similar to last season. What baseball could do is conduct the first round as a best of three where the higher seeded team hosts the whole series. That is what they did last season, and it worked very well.
After that, it would go back to the normal best of five and then best of seven format, and the season would still end around the same time every year. This is a farfetched idea, but something that is long overdue. If the NFL wants more parity in this league, this is a movie that needs to be made. After all, anything can happen in the postseason.