Playoff expansion to be discussed at NFL Annual Meeting

Posted Mar 23, 2014

On the agenda this weekend in Orlando is to have initial discussions about NFL playoff expansion

ORLANDO -- NFL ownership and front office personnel will discuss a wide variety of topics over the next three days at the NFL Annual Meetings.

One of the topics up for discussion is the expansion of the current playoff system. As it stands right now, six of the 16 teams in each conference qualify for the playoffs -- four division champions and two wild cards. The two top teams in each conference (NFC and AFC) get a bye the first weekend.

Up for discussion will be adding one team in each conference and making just the top team in each conference getting a bye, so it would essentially be four division champions and three wild cards.

The expansion would essentially add two games to the first wild-card weekend of the playoffs.

NFL purests will say adding two more teams could dilute the playoffs, but Lions president Tom Lewand doesn’t think so.

“Adding two teams to the playoffs, one in each conference, we still have a lower percentage of teams in the playoffs than any of the other sports (basketball or hockey),” Lewand told today. “It’s still a situation where competitively you could stand to add and not dilute the playoff pool.”

The playoffs are big business for the NFL when it comes to television ratings. This past season 34.7 million viewers took in the four games over wild-card weekend, the most ever.

“The Wildcard weekend is one of the most highly watched weekends of sports, period,” Lewand said. “It’s third after the Super Bowl and the Championship weekend. It’s actually a little bit ahead of the division rounds. So the idea of being able to add two games that week is pretty interesting.”

This is only in the topics of conversation phase for the owners, and no changes are expected for this season, but it seems like a real possibility down the road.

“When that weekend is outdrawing all of the baseball playoffs, World Series and basketball playoffs, it’s something that’s an asset that can’t be ignored,” Lewand said.