ORLANDO, Fla. – Seven-and-nine might soon be fine.
Normally cautious NFL commissioner Roger Goodell didn't rule out adding extra playoff games as soon as this upcoming season when asked about the issue at the owners meetings here. That could help vault the occasional sub-.500 team into postseason contention.
Goodell said the move is "not out of the question" for 2014. He added the caveat that making the decision this offseason is not a sure bet or even likely – "I wouldn't say that's the direction we're heading right now," he said – but his refusal to stamp out speculation shows the building momentum for the idea, at least among coaches and owners.
The league could add two playoff teams, one in each conference, to make a total of 14 (out of 32 total teams). More playoff games would theoretically make division races even more watchable, and of course it would make television contracts more bankable. The risks include a dilution of the regular-season product – paging Mark Cuban – and, more important, the heightened risk for injuries and concussions that come with additional games.
Goodell advised that "we have more work to do," and that work could begin in the form of a discussion with the players' union, which is scheduled for April. If the players are in favor, the topic could advance into the next owners meetings, which take place in May in Atlanta.
Goodell said there's a "tremendous amount of interest in this, possibly even to the point of support." That makes sense from the owners' perspective, as the owners don't have to play the games. A borderline playoff team that may be out of luck at 8-8 or even 7-9 would have an extra chance under an expanded system, which then would mean another shot at postseason stadium revenue.
Players could benefit as well, as extra TV money could mean extra salary down the line. The league could also call for extra roster spots (or at least more wiggle room on inactive lists) to help offset the increased burden on players who are already asked to play Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays.
Even if the "more work" Goodell mentioned precludes an expansion this year, it would make a move for 2015 even more possible.