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Why an Expanded NFL Postseason Is a Good Thing


Shut up, nerds, letting another team into the postseason is a good thing.

ESPN reported on Wednesday night that under the new collective bargaining agreement, the NFL would allow a seventh team into the playoffs for each conference, which would give only the top seed in each conference a bye. The changes would likely take effect this season.

In the immediate moments of a major format change, we often reveal our hypocritical duality. We beg the stagnant professional sports leagues that command our attention to do something interesting and then the moment they do, we become defenders of some traditional set of values that have, all of a sudden, become integral to our lives like some kind of party-switching politician. Last week, when the New York Post reported that Major League Baseball was toying with the idea of forcing the top seed in each division to choose their first-round opponent, I almost knocked a vase off the table by executing a full-force Tiger Woods uppercut fist pump. This would be pure joy watching a coach contort his once stoic façade while having to explain that, yeah, I picked this opponent because they are not as good as we are.

If no one else would like to join me at the party, more food and booze for me.

A seventh team in the NFL playoffs is good because it increases the rarity and advantage of the first-round bye and makes the end of the season more competitive. No longer can several haughty legacy franchises who “do things the right way” and “don’t fire their head coach every three seasons in some deep-state power struggle” coast at the end of the year, swirling their Chateau Lafite Rothschild while they argue the merits of benching their starters because things are going so well.

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A seventh team in the playoffs is good because it rewards teams that may have started playing better at the end of the year, or perhaps a team that started off well but suffered a catastrophic injury at some point during the season.

A seventh team in the playoffs is good because, in a season like this one, where one conference was so clearly deeper, it corrects some of the entrenched ridiculousness of the six-team format and protects against the optics of one conference having four jalopies in the postseason while the other has one of the league’s brightest young coaches and cadre of star weapons sitting at home.

I understand the one good counterpoint to this change, that there will be middling owners who profit off this by stumbling into an extra game they can overcharge their fans for. This is true, but largely symptomatic of the league as a whole. There are owners who have crafted an entire existence out of caring about their teams just enough to keep them in existence. There is nothing that we’ll ever be able to do about this, both in society and in professional sports.

So why worry about this when we can focus on the positive: Rewarding a team that won big games down the stretch. Rewarding a coach who figured out how to finally adjust his personnel after a rocky start. Rewarding a franchise that won its first seven games before losing its star wide receiver to an ACL tear.

Ignoring the naked financial benefits that ultimately prompted this decision—which, again, fans must program themselves to do—let’s give ourselves a gift. Let’s allow ourselves to be swept up in something a little different and strange.