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It's now more 'when' than 'if'

Posted Mar 26, 2014

Expanding the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams gained momentum during the Owners' Meetings

The NFL landscape as it relates to the postseason could be changing, with the lone sticking point being when.

In his news conference that concluded the NFL Owners’ Meetings in Orlando, Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated there could be an expansion of the playoffs in 2014. “It’s not out of the question,” said Goodell.

But Steelers President Art Rooney II’s view of the state of the discussion was different. “We had a conversation about it, no vote on it,” said Rooney. “I don’t have a sense on how much support there is for it, although I think it has a chance to pass next year.”

The NFL’s current postseason format has included four division winners and two wild cards from each conference since the league realigned prior to the 2002 season.

A 12-team postseason format also had been employed in 2001 prior to realignment, with that format qualifying three division winners and three wild cards from each conference.

The NFL hasn’t expanded the number of playoff participants since upping the number from 10 in 1989 (three division winners and two wild cards in each conference) to 12 in 1990 (an extra wild card team was added on each side).

“As you know, the Competition Committee has been looking at this for a number of years,” Goodell said. “We have discussed it in various committees, including broadcasting. We had a full discussion on the floor with the owners and other executives this week.

“I think there’s a tremendous amount of interest in this, possibly even to the point of support. But there are also things we still want to make sure we do right.”

One wild-card team qualified for postseason play in each conference in what was a 28-team NFL in 1977. An additional wild card was added in each conference in 1978. The wild card concept (one in each conference) was first introduced in conjunction with the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

“We’ve been very incremental in trying to do this, but we believe competitively it could make our races toward the end of our season even more exciting with more teams vying for playoff positions, which is great for our fans,” Goodell said. “We still want to do some additional work, including talking with the players association.

“We have a meeting scheduled for April 8. This will be one of the things we’ll probably discuss and then we’ll also have to talk to the broadcast partners, and there are some issues that we still need to work through.”

Although he left the door open for playoff expansion prior to the upcoming season, Goodell also wouldn’t characterize such an alteration of procedure as imminent.

“We didn’t make that decision at all,” he said. “We have more work to do. I wouldn’t rule it out but I wouldn’t say that’s the direction we’re heading right now.”

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