NFL playoff field could expand to 14 teams as early as 2015, per report

Thursday February 27th, 2014

(Carlos Osorio/AP) Under the new format, the NFL could expand wild-card weekend to include Monday night. (Carlos Osorio/AP)

The NFL postseason field could number 14 teams as early as 2015, per a report by the Washington Post's Mark Maske. According to that report, owners could vote on such a proposal next month during the league's annual meetings.

"I think there’s a lot of momentum for it," a source told Maske. "I don’t know for sure if the votes are there yet [among the owners] or not. But there is momentum. A lot of people seem in favor of it."

A second "person familiar with the matter" added that Roger Goodell seems behind the idea. And why wouldn't he be, given what a cash cow the playoffs are for the NFL? Wild-card weekend for this past season featured record television ratings, as SI's Richard Deitsch reported. An average of 34.7 million people tuned in for the four opening-round games, with a remarkable 47.1 million watching San Francisco's win over Green Bay at frigid Lambeau Field.

An added team would eliminate one bye per conference and add two extra games to the first round -- giving the league six in total that weekend. Maske reported that "the league seems to favor" splitting those six games over three days: two on Saturday, three on Sunday and one on Monday, which would mark the first time that the NFL has pushed its playoff schedule into a prime-time, weeknight slot.

The argument against such a setup might come in relation to scheduling for the teams in action on Monday. Presumably, the winner of that game would play again the following Sunday, with one less day to rest and prepare for the divisional round. Under the 14-team playoff model, Arizona (NFC) and Pittsburgh (AFC) would have qualified for the playoffs in 2013, with the Cardinals then visiting Carolina and the Steelers traveling to New England in Round 1. That Pittsburgh-New England game likely would have drawn massive ratings, right in line with the rest of the postseason schedule.

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