NFL Playoff Expansion: League Considers Adding Two Wild Card Teams

An NFL playoff expansion could be in the works that would expand the number of wild card teams to three for each conference, league sources are saying.

A report this week from Dan Patrick suggests that the league is expanding the playoffs to include one more team from each conference.

A league spokesperson responded to the report, telling NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport that “no such decision” has been made about an NFL playoff expansion.

“It would require a vote of the clubs and it has not yet been taken up with them,” the spokesman said.

That vote could come in March, when the owners next meet. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy that the owners could be considering a range of changes to the playoff format.

“Every scenario has been discussed, ranging from reseeding to one extra game, expanding from 12 to 14 teams,” McCarthy said. “Think of a scenario, it’s been discussed and remains in play.”

The last expansion came in 1990, when the league moved to a 12-team playoff format. But since then the league has expanded from 28 to 32 teams, so 14 teams would not be entirely out of line from the original expansion. In 1990, close to 42 percent of teams reached the playoffs, and the new NFL playoff expansion would increase that number to a shade under 44 percent.

If the NFL expansion had been in effect this season, the 8-8 Pittsburgh Steelers would have earned the final AFC wild card spot while the 10-6 Arizona Cardinals would have been the No. 7 seed in the NFC.

There would still be some kinks to work out with an NFL playoff expansion, including the number of teams to receive a bye week. The easiest solution would be giving only the top seed a first-round bye, but the details of any system would still be months away.

While critics say the league is fine the way it is and an NFL playoff expansion could open the door for 7-9 teams to reach the postseason, proponents believe the playoff system could bring more excitement and make the playoff races more meaningful.