NFL To Review Current Playoff Structure, But Should They?

 

The NFL Playoffs began saturday, January 5th.
The NFL Playoffs began saturday, January 5th.

The college bowl games are over, and the NFL postseason has finally arrived with the passing of the first two weekend of showdown NFL games.  Wild Card Weekend and Divisional Weekend —the first two rounds of the NFL playoffs—never fail to disappoint. These are the rounds that produce SB contending, or even an SB winning teams.  But many of these teams must go on the road in the next round and play in a hostile environment—not an easy task.  Yet, this road-warrior mentality can be accomplished, and it has been many times.  The Green Bay Packers and New York Giants can certainly attest to this inevitable possibility since these two teams, over the past two seasons, have won the Super bowl by being a product of wild card weekend and by clicking just at the right time:  the end of the season.

This any-team-can-win-it scenario is what makes the NFL playoffs so exciting.  The worst team in the playoffs, record-wise, can win the whole thing, while the best team in the playoffs is not guaranteed squat.  On the collegiate level, however, this is impossible since they have bowl games.  These bowl games, no matter how exciting and thrilling they could be, are rather waning because there are far, and by far I mean extremely far, more bowl games then there really should be (35 to be exact).

For some odd reason, the NFL is seriously considering revising an untouchable playoff structure in which they have been able to contrive. Seemingly, such a plan would be impractical and idiotic, but it would not unprecedented. The NFL has done dumb things in the past.  Currently, 12 of the 32 NFL teams make the playoffs; six from the AFC and six from the NFC. The top two teams in each conference earn a playoff bye, or the chance to rest for one week, while the remaining four in each conference play on Wild Card Weekend.  The NFL, nevertheless, is considering adding two more playoff teams to each conference, which would make a grand total of 16 teams making the playoffs.

Such a change is a funny idea under the likely assumption that the NFL actually cares about their ratings, which have been exceptional over the past 10 years or so in the playoffs.  According to USA Today, the NFL’s first divisional game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos generated over 35 million views this past weekend.  Conversely, the BCS championship game drew only 13 million viewers, giving the assumption that roughly 22 million more people turned in to watch a divisional playoff game rather than the biggest game for college football.  These off the chart ratings would go down by adding more playoff teams because the quality of play would be lowered, creating less entertaining games and, unlike Divisional Weekend’s epic and thrilling games that just transpired right before us, each playoff game would be that much less significant.

In addition, no one is really complaining about the structure of the NFL playoffs.  This is not some controversial subject that has many fans demanding change. Dissimilarly, on the college level the BCS system has drawn enough justifiable criticism to force the NCAA to change to a 4 team playoff next year, which will probably fail regardless but is looking like a shining star in comparison to the thing it is replacing:  irrelevant bowl games.  The NFL does not have to deal with the debacle college football has, but they may have to in the near future if they decide to add more playoff teams when it really is unnecessary.  Why should the NFL tamper with the way the playoffs are, attempt to add more playoff teams, and take the risk of it failing miserably?

An advantage of adding more playoff teams is money—an item that the league never seems to have enough of.  Although the NFL does not have a revenue problem, from a business perspective it is the goal of the league to make as much money as possible.  This may compel some people to label the NFL as a greedy sports enterprise, which it is, but one of the goals of the league is  to make money.  Adding more playoff teams would be beneficial to the league in this sense, but from a football fan’s perspective it does not make total sense because it could lower the standards needed to make the playoffs.

And no one wants to see this happen.

A playoff game should be an entertaining battle between two contending teams, not a fiasco showcasing a blowout. The NFL playoffs do not need to be changed, period.  The risk of changing a playoff format that works is extremely high, while the potential benefits of doing so would not be for entertainment, drama, or more excitement but just for the money.  If something is functioning effectively, then why should anyone have the audacity to even think about potentially changing what works? If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.

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