Rumors circulating the sports pages reveal that the NFL might expand the number of playoff teams from 12 to 16 and expand the number of regularly scheduled games from 16 to 18.
We believe that both of these options are huge mistakes. If this were the case this season, the 6-7 New York Jets would be the number 8 seed as of this week. The NFL needs to learn from Major League Baseball; as the number of playoff teams expand, the national interest in the game has waned. The World Series meant so much more when just one team from both league qualified for the playoffs. One team in both leagues went through a marathon 6-month schedule to emerge as the best in both leagues. No 82-win teams made it to the World Series. If a team had an outstanding year and won 108 games, they were in the World Series and did not have to worry about making it through two rounds of playoffs. The nation wanted to see this 108-win team in the World Series.
We have a much better idea for the NFL that would be a major plus for the league. How about dropping one preseason game, lowering it to three, and adding one regular season game, bringing that number to 17. That 17th game would be the new first week of the season, and it would begin the last Sunday in August.
This week of games would be played on neutral sites throughout the country in cities that do not have NFL teams. This would guarantee 16 sellouts, as 16 regular season games pitting 32 teams with identical 0-0 records would kick off the season.
Here’s how we would do it. First, these 17th games would be inter-conference games only. First place teams from the year before would play each other, as well as second, third, and fourth place teams, just like the NFL does with the two extra intra-conference games on its schedule.
The games would be played in large metropolitan areas where there are no NFL teams, and they would be truly neutral. In other words, Tampa Bay would not play a neutral game in Orlando.
Here is an example of how this 17th game might have looked for the 2012 season.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Seattle Seahawks at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena
Baltimore Ravens vs. San Francisco 49ers at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando
New York Jets vs. Detroit Lions at Ohio Stadium in Columbus
Denver Broncos vs. New York Giants at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas
Buffalo Bills vs. Minnesota Vikings at Miller Park in Milwaukee
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City
Indianapolis Colts vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC
(Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Metro Market)
New England Patriots vs. Green Bay Packers at Papa John’s Stadium in Louisville
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Washington Redskins at Rentschler Field in Hartford, CT
Houston Texans vs. New Orleans Saints at Memorial Stadium in Norman, OK
(Oklahoma City Metro Market)
Tennessee Titans vs. Atlanta Falcons at Legion Field in Birmingham
Cleveland Browns vs. St. Louis Rams at the Alamodome in San Antonio
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Carolina Panthers at Memorial Stadium in Austin, TX
Miami Dolphins vs. Chicago Bears at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis
Oakland Raiders vs. Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Stadium in Tucson
San Diego Chargers vs. Philadelphia Eagles at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, NE (Omaha-Council Bluffs Metro Market)