For the last few months there has been persistent talk about the NFL expanding its playoffs from the current slate of 12 teams to 14 sides in the future, and it now appears this will occur very soon. Reports have come out today that the league is attempting to fast track expansion to begin with the 2015 season, a decision that would only end up hurting the players and taking meaning away from the regular season to fans.
The new format would call for an additional two games to be played in the NFL Wild Card Round, with games set to be played on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Of course based on the fact that an average of 34.7 million people watched the first round games this year the added two games will be a big money maker for the league, especially when it comes to television contracts.
But when it comes to the actual players, it must be asked how exactly any of the 1,696 players on active rosters in the NFL gain anything out of this proposal. All in all, these games are simply a replacement for the previously doomed attempt to expand the regular season from 16 games to 18, and it increases the risk of injuries exponentially. After playing an expansive season, players are drained physically come playoff time which means they are more likely to incur career-threatening injuries.
During the past season alone there were 2,600 injuries that were documented in the NFL, and adding to that is a decision that should not be accepted. This is especially true when Roger Goodell has previously said,”I’ve been very open about it, it’s our No. 1 priority. To continue to make our game safer and improve it and make it safer for the players who play the game. And that’s not only at the NFL level. I think that’s all levels of football.” Adding to the postseason is a direct contradiction to this statement, and Goodell should have to answer for lying directly to the public.
In addition to hurting the players physically, adding extra teams to the postseason hurts the stock of the regular season to the fans who pay for tickets. Effectively the league will be rewarding mediocrity by adding extra sides, as over the last four years four out of the six extra teams added to the postseason would have had either 9-7 or 8-8 records. Allowing these sides to get in means means that regular season performance really means nothing and effectively tells fans you are wasting money to come to NFL games before December.
In the end, there is no doubting that bringing two extra games to the postseason slate beginning in 2015 will look good to owners, but it really doesn’t help those who matter most — the fans and players. After all these people don’t want to see mediocrity competing in the first round of the playoffs; they want to see the best of the best going head-to-head. Likewise, the players want to be rewarded for succeeding during the regular season and certainly don’t want to risk their livelihood in the namesake of Goodell earning a few bucks.