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Rationalizing another playoff spot in the NFL

Keep this in mind when looking at the current number of playoff spots among the four major professional sports league in North America:

NHL 30 teams, 16 playoff spots, 53 %
NBA 30 teams, 16 playoff spots, 53 %
NFL 32 teams, 12 playoff spots, 38 %
MLB 30 teams, 10 playoff spots, 33 %

Nfl-cheerleaders-37With the NFL appearing all set to announce it will add another playoff team, everyone is in a huff. Why ruin a good thing?

Because unlike the NHL, MLB and NBA, the NFL has no real international market. And we ugly North Americans simply love playoffs. Give us games with meaning!

The NFL is not a publicly traded company that has annual reports, projected earnings and analysts researching its finances, the league operates as if it's on Wall Street ... with the incredible safety of being tax exempt. The league is like Wal Mart - if you are not growing you are dying.

Hockey, basketball and baseball all enjoy a thriving international presence to generate additional revenue whereas American Football has limited cash potential overseas. Despite playing those games in London every year, the interest in the NFL is nothing like the NBA in Asia or Europe. Or MLB in Latin countries, or Asia. Or hockey throughout Eastern Europe of Scandinavia.

Without expanding the regular season, which the NFL had to shelve in the latest round of collective bargaining with the player's union, the easiest ticket to more money is another playoff team. More shirts. More hats. Another game to sell at a premium to rightsholders, and ticket-buying customers.

And another shot to give Cowboys fans hope they can get in, only to be crushed in Week 17.


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Even with the NFL playoff system currently in place, you'll occasionally get a team with a 7-9 or 8-8 record sneak in. Personally, I can't stand that. It's a bit like letting conference college basketball tournament winners with losing records into the NCAA brackets. Everybody knows they're going to creamed in the first round, while more deserving schools with better records get completely left out. Under the proposed system, the Pittsburgh Steelers would have made the playoffs this year with an 8-8 record. The idea of the playoffs is to crown a champion based on competition from the best teams in their sport. Anyone who watched the Steelers this year will tell you that they're not a worthy playoff team (does this remind you of any other 8-8 team with a star on their helmets that's not worthy?). The playoffs should be inclusive only so far as making sure the best teams get in. They should not reward mediocrity from the regular season games.

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