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Point, counterpoint: Should the NFL playoff field be expanded to 16 teams?

Posted Nov 6, 2012

Vic KetchmanPackers.com Editor Vic Ketchman says yes.

I can’t believe I’m saying this but, yeah, the NFL playoff field should be increased to 16 teams. Why? Seattle, that’s why.

Bad calls and the interference of replay review and the coach’s challenge system have disturbed the evening out effect of calls that go for and against teams. As a result, we are running the risk of not finding a true champion.

Let’s start with that call in Seattle. The Seahawks are currently 5-4 and tied with the Vikings for the sixth spot in the NFC. If the season ended today, the Seahawks would be in the playoffs. Is that fair? They should be 4-5.

We need to expand the playoff field to include half the league just to deal with the effects of over-officiated games. I’m talking about the directive to officials that they “error on the side of caution.”

They shouldn’t be trying to error on any side. They should be trying to make the right call, not a call they can rationalize. I’m not even sure officials are calling them as they see them. I’m starting to think they’re calling them as they think they might’ve seen them, or as someone else would want them to see them.

Repeatedly, officials are erring on the side of caution and they are, indeed, erring, as replay has proven, but these are on plays that aren’t subject to replay review, therefore, the natural order is being disturbed. Expanding the playoff field by two teams per conference would also error on the side of caution. It would allow for mistakes that would otherwise keep a playoff-worthy team out of the postseason tournament.

There’s more.

The pursuit of parity has been achieved. The difference between the middle 16 teams in the league is very small. Strong and weak schedules also disturb that order.

A 9-7 team won last season’s Super Bowl, and they truly were the best team in the league at the postseason time of the year. The last two Super Bowl champions were wild cards that had to win on the final Sunday of the season just to get into the tournament.

An expanded field wouldn’t cheapen the postseason. The 2011 Giants and 2010 Packers taught us as much.

Logistically, it wouldn’t be a problem. Take away the byes in the first round for the top two teams, and the two conference champions could still be determined in three weeks.

The game is undergoing dramatic change. Softening measures are literally making the philosophies of Vince Lombardi laughable for young fans that don’t know the history of the game. Football is no longer first and foremost a running game. Players are no longer permitted to play with reckless abandon.

More change is necessary.

Mike SpoffordPackers.com Staff Writer Mike Spofford says no.

C’mon, do we really want to go down this road? If half the league gets into the playoffs, the NFL would be no better than the NBA or NHL. The regular season would lose too much value.

There’d be little reason to even watch the games until after Thanksgiving, because unless a team is really horrible, everybody would still have a shot at the playoffs with five or six games left. The first 10 weeks would mean zilch.

We don’t need a system that would in theory allow every second-place team into the playoffs. Nobody would get a bye in the playoffs with eight teams per conference qualifying. Winning a division title would mean nothing more than a home game in the first round, even if a team goes 15-1.

Regular-season success needs to count for more than that. I know we’ve seen plenty of wild-card teams in baseball and football win championships lately, the Packers included, and I take nothing away from those accomplishments, but we don’t need to open the door to more wild-card teams getting a shot just because they got hot at the end of the season and sneaked into an expanded postseason party.

Sub-.500 teams make the playoffs too often in basketball and hockey. Two years ago we saw a 7-9 NFL team get in because the divisions have only four teams now. I realize the Seahawks’ berth in 2010 was at the expense of two 10-6 teams (Giants, Buccaneers), which probably strengthens the other argument here, but my point is I don’t want to create the possibility of more 7-9 teams playing in mid-January.

Would an expanded playoff field lead to more games that matter in late December? Perhaps. But it could lead to just as many games that don’t, with teams that have already clinched their divisions resting guys even sooner because there’s no bye to earn. Then you’d have mediocre teams fighting for playoff spots facing the best teams resting their stars. Yeah, that would be better.

In this case, an incentive thrown to some teams will take away incentive from others, so it’s a wash at best. At worst, it’s two teams at 9-9, which would include two (over-officiated?) playoff wins apiece, playing for a conference title and a berth in the Super Bowl.

Who even wants that possibility? Why play the regular season then?

Cast your vote in the poll on the right, please.

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