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MT5: Expanded playoffs proving to be positive for league

Murphy Takes 5 is a monthly column written by President and CEO Mark Murphy

Lambeau Field
Lambeau Field

On the first Saturday of every month, Mark will write about a topic of interest to Packers fans and the organization, and then answer five fan questions. Fans are encouraged to email Mark with their name and hometown at:

When the NFL decided to expand the playoffs this season from six teams qualifying in each conference to seven (four division winners and three wild-card teams), many people were critical of the change. They felt that it would water down the playoffs, and that more teams with losing records would qualify. The NFL decided to expand the playoffs for several reasons. First, playoff games are one of the best aspects of the league and having more of them is a positive (they are certainly a better product than, say, preseason games). Also, having more teams qualify will keep more teams in contention and there will be fewer meaningless games at the end of the season. With only the No. 1 seed getting the bye in the first round, there will be more interest in games at the end of the season as teams compete for the top seed, as well as other spots in the playoffs. In addition, even with the expanded playoffs, still less than half of the teams qualify for the playoffs, a smaller percentage than most of the other professional sports leagues. Finally, but importantly, playoff games are very attractive to the networks and two additional playoff games will produce additional revenue for the league.

As we enter the last week of the season, the expanded playoffs are certainly having the effect the league had hoped. In the AFC, three teams have clinched playoff spots and five teams are in contention for the four remaining spots. Significantly, a team with 10 (or possibly 11) wins will not make the playoffs. In the NFC, four teams have clinched playoff spots and six teams are still in contention for the last three spots. Three of the teams still in contention are in the NFC East and they all have losing records. This would have been the case even if the league had not expanded the playoffs, as division winners have always automatically qualified (and hosted a home playoff game) regardless of their record. Now, this is the first year of the expanded playoffs, and it may not always have such a positive impact, but it's certainly encouraging.

The last weekend of games should be exciting, and the Packers will be right in the middle of it. We will secure the top seed and a bye with a win, while the Bears will secure a wild-card spot with a win. I think the bye is especially important this year due to the pandemic. The league office has juggled the start times for all of the games this weekend to maximize the excitement and intrigue (and boost the ratings). The 256th game (the last game of the regular season, on Sunday Night Football) will be the Washington Football Team at Philadelphia, with Washington clinching the NFC East with a victory.

Now, on to your questions…

Mike from MN

Mark, there have been reported discussions of reducing the number of preseason games and adding a 17th regular-season game – possibly even as soon as next year. Have there been any discussions on how that would affect the distribution of Packers tickets between the Green and Gold season ticket packages?

Thanks, Mike. This is something that we've addressed here in the past – we will alternate the extra regular-season game so that the Gold season ticket holders have two regular-season games one year and three the next. This topic has been discussed at recent league meetings, and it's likely that we will move to 17 regular-season and three preseason games next year. Also, the league determined that the 17th game will be an interconference game and will be based on your place in the standings the previous year. Next year, we would play the Kansas City Chiefs because they finished first in the AFC West and we were first in the NFC North. The NFC and AFC teams will alternate hosting the game, so that all conference teams have the same number of home games each year.

A question from Daniel

Hi Mark, I'm seeing a similar trend with this regime as with McCarthy's. And that is, far too many drives are being ended because of low-percentage pass plays on second- and/or third-and-3 or less yards for a first. I get the feeling that instead of concentrating on victories, it's more about appeasing the players and stroking their egos.

You took AJ Dillon rather high in the draft and he has done nothing but produce in his extremely limited opportunities. If Mr. Dillon and this offensive line cannot get three yards on two attempts, then hats off to the defense. But throwing low-percentage deep fades or having Aaron Rodgers getting sacked on third-and-1 is brutal. This defense has cost us Super Bowls over the last decade and will continue to hurt us so it is vital to keep them off the field as much as possible.

Rodgers also doesn't run enough to pick up first downs that are within reach. Certainly, he had some drops but a guaranteed first down by running 12 feet or throwing a bullet to the sidelines to an undrafted receiver on a cold day?

It was not wise to not completely remove the former regime. Dom Capers and Mike McCarthy should have been removed several years sooner, especially Mr. Capers. Retaining Pettine was and continues to be a wrong move.

Inability to make in-game adjustments and it's never easy with this Packer team closing out games. It should not be that way.

You need to be playing AJ Dillon quite a bit more. Jones and Williams need to accept that and keep the eye on the prize. They will have far more opportunities once Dillon picks up the first down. And finally, do not even consider re-signing Kevin King. A skinny cornerback from the Pac-12 with previous shoulder problems over TJ Watt. And I'm sure you're aware of the success of all those receivers drafted this year.

I think you'll agree being a former player and personnel man, this franchise has gone for the Kmart Blue Light Special far too often and their lack of championships reflect that.

It would be wise to forget about draft picks that may never materialize and send them off to Pittsburgh for Juju. Since 2005, I have my draft picks compared to what the Packers did which can be verified by many and it's not even close. Last year and this team the talent and the football level does not reflect their record and again I do not foresee it going very far in the playoffs.

I'm old enough to remember your playing days and to see the game become nothing but commercials and penalties is really sad. They stand around on the football field not playing football because they have to sell commercials to pay for their salaries, not to play football.

And the penalties, please, you need to be aware that these are not helmet-to-helmet hits but just the energy of the hit will cause their heads to make contact and nobody will be getting injured anytime soon when their helmets touch in that regard.

Thank God for college football.

Have a safe and exciting holiday.

Remember without the cross there would be no need for the crib.

I do share Mr. Thompson and I believe your faith that Jesus is Lord and look forward to 1st Thessalonians 4:15-20.

Thanks for your thoughts on our team, Daniel. Not sure there is a question here, but I appreciate the input. I shudder to think what you would say about our team if we were 3-12 rather than 12-3 now.

Kent from FL

Mark, with the Packers in contention for the top seed and the Super Bowl just an hour down the road, could you please educate regarding how Super Bowl tickets will be allocated to the fan base? As a 59-year ticket holder, I have always indicated that I want to be in the drawing. Thank you for your consideration. Go Pack!

Great question, Kent. Needless to say, this Super Bowl will be unlike any previous one, especially as it relates to fans. Although it hasn't been finalized, the ticket situation will be extremely tight. The stadium will likely be at 20% capacity, and the majority of tickets for participating teams will go to family members of players and coaches. Tickets for non-participating teams will be even more limited.

Drew from NY

Hey Mark, wouldn't it be great to get tickets for a home playoff game to a decent number of front-line healthcare workers (and other essential workers) who can show proof of being vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2? I would be more than willing to donate the ticket price for a few of them.

It would provide a REAL home-field advantage and also be a great way to show appreciation to the folks on the front line, and maybe even provide some encouragement to vaccine skeptics. I realize that it could be a huge logistical challenge, but it would be really cool.

Excellent idea, Drew. This is actually something that we are considering and hopefully will be able to do for home playoff games. The league is also looking to invite vaccinated health care workers from the NFL cities to the Super Bowl. I think it will send a strong message and hopefully encourage people across the country to get vaccinated.

Question 5a: Allen from Green Bay

Dear Mr. Murphy, we have about 50 to 90 employees that have been front-line retail during COVID at the Ashwaubenon/Green Bay Best Buy. Many of us go to work every day with our wives or significant others worrying about if we will bring home the virus. I applaud you for having front-line health care workers and first responders come to the games. What about us that are forced to work to provide for our families so everyone could get their essential electronics to work from home and your Packers to get their gifts for their gift exchange? Would be cool if you invited some of us to the games. Also, you should include the food workers that have been providing food for everyone. You know they really don't want to work during this pandemic either. All of us provide a service to the community. Many have the choice to work from home, we do not. Thank you for listening!

Question 5b: Dennis from Green Bay

Mark, since you opened the stadium for caregivers this last game, I thought you may want to give away tickets to the real heroes for this weekend's game.

Who are the real heroes? How about the business owners who went bankrupt because of the lockdown? Business owners on the verge of bankruptcy because of the lockdown? Parents and families whose children are failing and are depressed because of forced online learning?

These are the real heroes. They have lost or are losing everything, including their self-esteem. They can't go to work to make a living. They can't go to school to get a proper education. These people can't afford the basics of life as their lives are falling apart. They DESERVE a break. Free tickets to a game might be a small ray of sunshine in the midst of their despair. They need to know there are people aware of their suffering. If you do this, I hope the TV stations would cover it and offer support to these families. Who knows, this act of kindness could prevent another senseless suicide because of the lockdown.

Thanks for seriously considering my idea.

Thanks for your suggestions, Allen and Dennis. We've really been pleased to be able to honor our front-line workers (health care, police and fire department employees) by inviting them to attend our last two home games. We would like to continue to have invited guests for home playoff games (and the groups that you both mention are providing important services), but I worry about where we would draw the line if we go beyond front-line workers. As a result, we would like to continue to invite front-line workers, and possibly include front-line workers from beyond the Green Bay area.

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