It is this time of year that the Owner’s meetings are about to begin, and two of the hot topics every year are:
1 – Expand to an 18 game regular season, and
2 – Increase the number of playoff teams from 6 to 8 in each conference.
Let’s start with the extended regular season. First, as Viking fans know firsthand, it is nearly impossible for NFL players of the size they are now, to play 16 regular season games without injury. The Vikings had something like 18-20 players on IR as of the last game. The season is long enough now, and does not need to be extended further, even if it is a swap for 2 preseason games. As it stands, starters play 1 series in preseason game 1, 1.5 quarters in preseason game 2, and, perhaps, a full half in preseason game 3. So, they play 16 games + about 3 game quarters of preseason. I’m all for cutting the preseason to 2 games, with those replaced by scrimmages at camp, but adding games is not good for players, or the quality of the product put on the field. Further, if you are a Browns fan, or even a Viking fan in 2016, how much more can you take? I know the money may warrant the decision, but enough already. The regular season length is just about perfect.
Now comes the playoffs. The NHL puts darn-near every team in the playoffs, making the regular season useless. The NBA put half their teams in the playoffs, with sub-500 teams often in contention for playoff spots, or even making the playoffs with a better loss record than number of wins. The NFL puts just 12 of 32 teams in the NFL plays (about 40%), and I’d argue that this is too damned many.
Sure, the NFL has the right formula that keeps fans of the 5-8-1 Panthers watching to see if their wretched 2016 squad can get in to the playoffs to get killed. I get the money aspect of keeping as many teams alive as possible, to generate the most money from 26 of the 32 teams, not just 14 or 15 late in the year.
But, if you watched the playoffs on Saturday and Sunday, you realize that the playoffs are watered down, with often terrible mismatches. Pittsburgh embarrassed Miami, Seattle was never threatened by Detroit, with an injury at QB, the Raiders were horrid, and Green Bay beat the crap out of New York. Now, we hope the Divisional and Championship rounds will be more competitive, but I had to turn all 4 games off after halftime this weekend – they were simply a waste of time.
I’m not saying go retro, but, the NFL had it right when there were 32 teams and just 8 playoff teams. At the time, that was 3 division winners and a wild card from each conference. Sure, make it one division winner for each of the current 4 divisions and 1 wild card team for each conference, with one exception. If a division winner has more than 2 fewer wins than a non-division winner who has 2 or more wins more than a division winner, then there are 2 wild card teams to go with just 3 division winners. Put 10 teams in the playoffs and make them the best ones possible. 10-6 teams should not miss the playoffs because there is a 7-9 or 8-8 division winner.
As fans, we want our team in the playoffs, even if it means others teams had to lose because we tripped on our private parts trying to get things wrapped up ourselves. I am tired of that approach. Let’s not pass out participation trophies at the pro level. You say an 8-8 team got on a roll late? Too bad, they should have had a sense of urgency earlier.
While it won’t happen for the money reasons, wouldn’t it be nice to have one league say, “enough watering down the product for our fans”, and see competitive playoff games? I believe much the same with our Viking team. I want to win our way to, and through the playoffs. I don’t want Detroit to trip, and Green Bay to self-implode. I want to dominate on both sides of the ball and TAKE the crown, not limp into the playoffs at 9-7 and then be one and done.
Perhaps, next year will be our year….the offseason will tell a lot.