We’re in the second year of the NFL expanded playoff format, and so far the reviews are mixed. Last year, the Wildcard games were competitive across the board. The largest margin of victory was 12. But this season is making me wonder if there’s longevity in this plan. The seven seeds barely had winning records, and just a hair over half the teams involved have shown up.
It’s great, in theory, that the NFL expanded their playoff format. Why? Because it shows they’re trying something new. The problem is that they continue to put their eggs in the wrong baskets. The league already had a setup in which a team with a losing record could make the playoffs. And it’s not like that’s far in the past. Washington did it in 2020, joining Carolina (2014) and Seattle (2010) as teams who have entered the playoffs with a sub .500 record.
So why did they make these changes?
It’s simple, really. Money. It may not seem like much, but the way the NFL has been able to handle what’s now known as “Super Wildcard Weekend” spreads the love. Instead of two games per conference, there are three. And they can much more easily spread the broadcast rights. CBS, FOX, and NBC all get their opportunity as usual. But this season we even got a Monday Night Football game on ESPN. More primetime equals more money.
But then we have the Patriots getting trampled by Buffalo. Philly getting garbage time points in Tampa that made that scoreline not represent how one-sided that game really was. KC sent Big Ben home for a final time with a sore jaw. And Kyler Murray flat out forgot how to play football against the Rams.
This is the playoffs. The occasional blowout is going to happen. But if we’re degrading the level of competition, then it becomes way less fun for the fans. And it will make “being a playoff team” mean a lot less down the road.
Sure, we’ve only got an early sample of the NFL expanded playoff format. But if the league wants this to work? They’re going to need some higher competition. Because this year, it just wasn’t there.
- / 11 months ago
To me, Rachel Nichols is the personification of posting a black square on Instagram.