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NFL in serious talks to expand Playoffs

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Since 1990, the NFL Playoffs has been a 12-team tournament.

The league is considering expanding to 14 teams in the playoffs, with seven per conference, and rather than the top two seeds getting first round byes, only the team with the best record in the conference wouldn't have to play on wild card weekend. 

The league has never had just one team get a bye into the second round, it has always been two or three teams getting the byes into the second round, and, different from the other leagues, the NFL almost never has a consistent string of rewarding middling or mediocre teams with playoff berths.

The move would be good for a situation like the Arizona Cardinals last season, who finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs. 

The 10-6 mark was better than 8-7-1 Green Bay Packers, who won the NFC North, and equal to the Philadelphia Eagles, who won the NFC East. 

Since the NFL expanded the regular season to 16 games in 1978, a total of 19 teams in 14 different seasons missed the playoffs with 10-6 records, and two other teams, the 1985 Broncos and 2008 Patriots both went 11-5, and were sent home early. 

Those numbers bear out the competitive reasons for potentially adding an extra wild card team, but that wouldn't be the case every season. 

Last year, Arizona would have been the seventh NFC team, and Baltimore at 8-8, and due to a series of tiebreakers over Miami, Pittsburgh, and the New York Jets, would have been the AFC Representative.

While 8-8 teams have made the playoffs in the past, some may say potentially adding a team waters down the regular season and playoffs.

Since 2002, there would have been six instances of a seventh team making the playoffs at 8-8, and not one instance of a sub .500 team getting in. 

The greater number of playoff games, and the increased importance of more games late in the regular season far outweighs the trend of an 8-8 team getting in the playoffs every other year., but that isn't the only reason the NFL is looking to expand the playoffs.

Awareness and, more importantly, eyeballs looking at NFL games on television would increase, with an additional two games on Wild Card Weekend. 

The league has discussed a Saturday triple-header, followed by two games on Sunday, and the wild card finale on Monday night, which would make for an epic and memorable weekend.

The league has talked about a goal of becoming a $27 billion enterprise within the next decade, and this type of expanded awareness and coverage would be a great way to head down that monetary path. 

Changes would have to be discussed with the players union, which will meet with the owners next month.

An expanded playoffs would make an extraordinarily compelling league even more compelling, and continue to raise the profile of the most dominant sports league in the United States.

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