NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday that the league’s competition committee will look at the possibility of expanding the playoffs to include 14 or 16 teams.
Goodell said the idea is not new and that the committee has explored the idea in the past.
The obvious advantages in expanding the playoffs can be found money and TV ratings. Both would likely increase if more markets have teams competing for a postseason berth.
Opponents might argue the biggest disadvantage would be that at least one team with a losing record would make the playoffs each season under a 14 or 16 team format. But looking at the recent history of NFL standings, that’s not a slam dunk assumption.
The only time a sub-.500 team made the playoffs was in 2010 when the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West with a 7-9 record, proving that the entire division was incredibly weak. The New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers won three more games than Seattle that year, but did not win their division and did not qualify for a wild card.
Taking a look back since 2002, when the league moved to its current eight division alignment, here's what would have happened:
-- If 14 teams had been allowed in the playoffs, assuming four division winners and three wild cards per conference, a losing team would have qualified just once. That was the Seahawks in 2010.
-- If 16 teams had been allowed in the playoffs, assuming four division winners and four wild cards per conference, a losing team would have qualified four times (2002, 2004, 2007 and 2010).
What if you eliminate the wild cards and simply take the top two teams from each division? Then the likelihood of a losing team making it in goes up. It would have happened six times since 2002. In three of those years, two losing teams would have made it. In 2007, three teams with sub-.500 records would have qualified.