The good news? It looks like the NFL will have a new CBA deal done well before training camp begins. The bad? Along with a few tweaks here and there, the league is looking to expand the playoffs. The current post season format allows for 6 teams per conference; 8 division winners and 4 wild cards. Year after year this tournament structure has been a leader when it comes to how to construct a road to the championship but apparently the powers that be see a need to fix what isn’t broken.
Sources close to the CBA progress say that as soon as next season the playoff field would be expanded to seven teams from each conference, and only one team from each conference would receive a first-round bye as opposed to 2. So for example if this were the case in 2019 Kansas City and Green Bay would not have received a first round bye while the 8-8 Steelers and 9-7 Rams would have earned a 3rd wild card spot. This is madness. Not only will this proposed structure make teams with a .500 record a recurring participant in the post season it will increase the chance of multiple teams with a losing record gaining entry. Sure, we’ve seen .500 teams and below squeeze into the playoffs and in some cases even winning their division. The Broncos, for example, won the AFC West in 2010 with just 8 victories on the season. But this new setup will almost insure at least one .500 team every season…hardly a tournament that could be described as elite.
I get it; March Madness is a blast: Seeing elite teams mixed with the unknowns in a jam packed tournament full of possibility is exciting but that’s a sport that lends itself to that kind of “madness.” The NFL’s 12 playoffs teams are the top teams in the league and the line between a 6th seed and a 7th, however thin it might be, needs to clearly state the difference. Furthermore, the idea of only 1 team per conference earning a first round bye is ridiculous. There’s something special about 4 teams rising above everyone else and earning a first round pass but the new format would punish a 13-3 or 12-4 club like the SB champs, the Kansas City Chiefs. Yes, KC should be expected to beat anyone thrown at them if they want the honor of champion but for the longest time we’ve known that the best teams in the conference get to automatically advance to the divisional round, something they fought extremely hard for all season. Now, because the NFL wants more markets represented, therefore more money in their pockets, fans have to see something change that’s been as perfect as a post season format can get. Surprise surprise, the NFL is putting the all mighty dollar above everything else….even if it means sacrificing the reputation of America’s favorite championship bracket.