Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL's expanded playoff format yields more money, not better games

Most of the playoff games involving a No. 7 seed have not been competitiveGETTY IMAGES

After two seasons of the NFL's new expanded playoff format, fans are "beginning to see a picture of what the 14-team playoff field means for competitive balance" in the postseason, and it is "meh," according to Stephen Holder of THE ATHLETIC. The NFL has "already determined this is a win for the league" because "more football equals more television time slots, more ticket sales, more revenue." Whether the league concedes it or not, "money is the motivating force here," and it is "hard to begrudge NFL owners for seeking to maximize profits." But that "doesn't mean there won't be some unintended consequences" from including two more teams in the postseason. There might be the occasional scenario where a "seventh seed breaks through and, perhaps, enjoys extensive postseason success." But it is "far more likely for there to be a prevalence of mediocrity among these seventh seeds" (, 1/17). THE RINGER's Nora Princiotti notes since expanding the postseason, there have been four 2-vs.-7-seed matchups, and the "only one that has been remotely competitive was when the 2-seed Bills beat the 7-seed Colts 27-24 last year." Princiotti: "The benefit of the seventh seed (besides the money it earns for the league) is that teams with dedicated fans have real stakes to root for longer into the season, but the results so far have indicated that the teams that squeak into the last spot are not capable of playing competitively in the postseason" (, 1/18). 

HOPING FOR BETTER: USA TODAY's Nate Davis writes with the Divisional round now set, "let's hope less is more as the number of teams continues to dwindle." As much as the league has touted the expansion of its regular-season schedule to 272 games and the postseason format to 14 teams, it "hasn't necessarily felt like a better product to this point" (USA TODAY, 1/18).

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