Could the NFL expand its playoffs by two more teams in the coming years? Dan Patrick is reporting that it's in the works, but the NFL has denied any plans are in the works.
"The NFL will add a wild card team in the NFC and AFC next year," Patrick said on his radio show on Monday morning. He then hedged a bit: "My sources next to sources know sources who kind of know what's going on."
How would a seven-team NFL playoff look? Most likely, it would mean that the No. 2 seed would lose its first-round bye, leading to 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6, 4 vs. 5 matchups. The New York Post posited the idea of a play-in game between seeds 6 and 7, but that seems unlikely both schedule-wise and for the health of the play-in teams, which would then play five potential games in the postseason.
Given the rash of injuries in just this opening weekend, the additional-team idea would appear to be an alternative to the often-discussed 18-week season. The NFL had indicated in October that expanding the playoff field would be a "priority" for the competition committee to discuss in March.
"If expanding the postseason would allow other teams to get into the dance, and they have the potential of going on and winning the Super Bowl," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in October, "that's a good thing for fans, that a good thing competitively."
However, the NFL indicated on Monday that it had not yet made the decision to expand, despite Patrick's report. "There been no such decision," a spokesman told Sports Illustrated. "It would require a vote of the clubs and it has not yet been taken up with them. If it’s taken up this year, it would happen at the annual meeting in March. The agenda for the meeting has not been formulated."
While the change comes too late to help Pittsburgh and Arizona this year, the likelihood of expansion appears near-certain, given the nation's voracious appetite for the NFL. Two more playoff games on opening weekend would be yet another windfall for the league, and would keep two new cities invested in the postseason.