I like the idea of fewer preseason games, but further watering down the playoffs is not going to make them more exciting. What makes the playoffs exciting is that they are exceptional games, so the more playoff games there are, the less exceptional and exciting they become.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Sunday that the league is “urgently discussing” the possibility of shortening the preseason from four games to three, with that adjustment coming hand-in-hand with an expansion of the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams.
“That would offset teams’ lost revenue from the elimination of a preseason game, and it also could lead to additional television revenues for the league,” Mortensen wrote on ESPN.com.
Commissioner Roger Goodell strongly hinted at the possibility of a more populated postseason in an NFL.com interview last week. “A reasonable argument could be made that there are teams that should qualify for the playoffs and don’t and could win the Super Bowl,” Goodell told Judy Battista. “I don’t think we want to expand just to have more teams. We want to create more excitement, more interest and give teams a chance to win the Super Bowl.
A 14-team playoff — seven teams per conference — likely would limit first-round byes to just the top qualifying team. With that setup, six teams from both the AFC and NFC would compete in the current “wild-card round,” giving the NFL an extra game that weekend. The divisional round would maintain its current format.
I’d much rather see the playoffs consist of all four division winners only. No wild cards. The second-round games are rarely all that entertaining; home teams win 74 percent of divisional playoff games compared to 57 percent of regular-season games. Anything that strengthens divisional play is good, anything that weakens in in the names of benefiting “the best teams” is short-sighted foolishness for the love of trouble-making.
There is nothing unfair about an 11-5 team sitting home when an 8-8 team goes to the playoffs. Win your division. Unless you’re dumb enough to go all the way, throw out the playoffs altogether and simply award the league championship to the team with the best regular season record, you’ve already conceded the point. You’re just quibbling over where the line is drawn.