Around April of 2020, the NFL announced that they will be expanding their playoff field from six teams per conference to seven. This means that an extra game, per conference, will be played during Wild Card weekend. Rather than the top two seeds in each conference having a bye week, the top two seeds in the entire NFL will now have the first-round bye. In other words, the top seed in each conference will have a bye week during Wild Card weekend while the rest of the playoff teams battle it out to advance to Divisional week. Fast forward six months and the NFL has decided to add two more teams to the playoff field. Now, not only will literally half the league make the playoffs, but there will be no first-round bye and the two best teams in the league will have to play Wild Card weekend just like every other team in the league.
For so long the coveted “bye week” was sought after all season and used as motivation to be one of the two best teams in the respective conferences. With the new format being introduced by the NFL there is no point for any team to strive to be one of the top seeds. Yes, home-field advantage is important, but in season with limited capacity in stadiums the “advantage” is decreased. The seeding will be set up as any other bracketed format. The first seed will play the eighth, the second seed the seventh, third the sixth and so on. In a season where home-field does not play as important of a factor why would teams like the Kansas City Chiefs try hard all season and risk injuries just to have the same chance of making the Super Bowl as the team that finishes eighth in the AFC. The bye-week was meant as a reward for the teams good enough, in the regular season, to have a top two record in a given conference.
Allowing 16 of 32 teams to make the playoffs is a disrespect to the players, coaches and front office personnel who put together all the pieces that make up a legitimate playoff contender. It was almost a given that with the seven teams per conference playoff field there would be at least one team with a sub .500 record. An eight team per conference playoff field guarantees that probability but also opens the door for more teams with a losing record to make the playoffs.
The playoffs, in any sport, are supposed to be about the best teams in the league fighting it out to claim superiority for a year, until the next championship is played. Much like the run of the 2007 New York Football Giants if a team can squeak by and make the playoffs, catch momentum at the right time, and play the right teams then any team can make the Super Bowl. Cinderella stories are great but giving the Cinderella teams a crack at a championship every year is bad entertainment. Football fans want a Super Bowl like what was in Super Bowl LIV when the best offense in the league, the Kansas City Chiefs played the best defense in the league, the San Francisco 49ers.
Money's the motivation for this change, that much is clear. But are Wild Card games between a 9-7 team and a 6-10 really going to attract more viewers and bring in more money? That
question is to be answered at a later date. There is no doubt that the great teams have the best
chances of advancing to the Super Bowl, but the point is the bad teams should not have any
chance at all. For good quality football, the best teams ought to take the field, like they deserve.