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November 20, 2013

NFL Must Avoid Expanded Playoffs


Television ratings, attendance, and radio talk show listenership have proven that people can't get enough of the National Football League. As a result, those inside NFL Headquarters at 345 Park Avenue have laid out a proposal to add two more teams to the current playoff format beginning in 2015.

While this proposal took place earlier in the fall, the progression of the 2013 season has proven that the playoffs should not be altered.

Locally, the Jets and Giants are still in the playoff hunt heading into week 12. Any objective football fan would agree that both are, at best, mediocre teams. Not only are they average, the Giants began their season at 0-6, and yet they are a game and a half back in the division. In fact, the NFL can be defined this season by the word "mediocrity."

The Chiefs, Broncos, Seahawks and Saints are really good. Otherwise, the league is average. Now average has given us plenty of unpredictable outcomes. But, adding more teams to the playoff pool, would reward mediocrity and continue to lower the chances for the best teams to reach a Super Bowl.

For example, the Buffalo Bills beat the Jets on Sunday to improve to 4-7. They have the third record in the AFC, but are just a game and a half back of the final playoff spot! Eight teams in the AFC have a record of either 5-5 or 4-6. It's similar in the NFC, where half the conference has a record between 4-6 and 6-4. The season is nearly two thirds complete, and there are only five teams, the Texans, Jaguars, Falcons, Bucaneers, and Vikings, that are completely out of the playoff hunt.

Adding two teams to the playoffs would put more dollars in the pockets of the league and owners, but would not enhance the fan's experience. Since the NFL has a hard salary cap that teams must stay under, along with a salary floor, the league is built to have parity. Unlike the NBA, and to a lesser extent MLB, every NFL fan base can find optimism heading into each season.

Who could have predicted the Chiefs would be 9-1? While playoff favorites, the Texans and Falcons, are a combined 4-16. Adding the Miami Dolphins, or Oakland Raiders in the AFC Playoffs, or the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC, would bring in money, but dilute the regular season product.

A diminished regular season product is a problem the NBA can relate to. The regular season is too long, and the playoffs invite too many participants. Therefore, the regular season rarely catches fans' interest as much as it deserves. Yes, expanding the playoffs may mean an extra week 17 game with meaning.

Even with the NFL proposal of only one team in each conference getting a playoff bye, there will still be top teams that have nothing to play for in their final couple of weeks. Rather than showcasing and rewarding the best of the best, the NFL would rather shove more mediocrity down our throats in exchange for more dollars.

Additionally, what's the cost to the players and separately, the league's reputation, by putting two more teams in the playoffs? The NFL has continued reminding us they want to improve player safety and decrease dangerous plays. Potentially replacing a preseason game with another playoff game means more hits, and likely bigger hits. Hypocrisy much?

I love the NFL, and I want to see it continue to thrive. But despite what those at 345 Park Ave believe, you can have too much of a good thing.

Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He's currently a Sports Anchor at WCBS 880 and WFAN radio in NYC. He can be reached via email at peterfmundo@gmail.com.

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