The Trial of NFL Playoff Expansion (Again)

Come on, how could you hate this money-grabbing face?

Come on, how could you hate this money-grabbing face?

It was no doubt one of the more dramatic closing weeks to the NFL regular season in recent memory, as almost every single game had playoff implications. Week 17 might be more consistently dramatic from now on because, while the league refuses to officially comment, it seems clear that we are headed for playoff expansion.

Today our prestigious court room will see the NFL put on trial. The organization is charged with seven counts of trying to water down the playoffs, and three counts of just being a bunch of money grubbing sluts with no perspective. Ben Van Iten will be handling the prosecution, while Nate Raby will defend the Shield. These are their closing statements.


 The prosecuting attorney takes a sip of his water and rises from his table. He walks towards the jury methodically. It should be noted that he is wearing a Milwaukee Bucks sweatshirt.

Ben: You might be asking yourself…why is this guy wearing a Milwaukee Bucks shirt? And also, where does he like to go to celebrate his legal victories? Can I come along and buy him drinks and perhaps absorb his wisdom like some kind of pathetic human sponge? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You, the jury, could always make a mistake and side with the defense. Let’s get back to the first question.

He gestures to the Bucks logo.

Ben: Last season the Milwaukee Bucks went 38-44. Is this suprising? No, the team fucking stinks. They have for most of my life. Why do I feel the need to mention this? Because they went to the playoffs. For years the NFL’s playoff system was the standard for excellence, as it managed to let in just enough teams to keep most of the markets interesting, while not letting in enough teams to make the proceedings a complete and utter farce.

If Roger Goodell has his way, the times…they are a changin’.

If the officials in the week 17 match-up between the Chargers and Chiefs knew the rules of the game they are officiating, wishful thinking I know, it is very likely that the 8-8 Pittsburgh Steelers would have gotten into the playoffs. While for the most part a team with that crappy of a record getting a wildcard is an anomaly, the more and more teams you start letting in, the less of an anomaly it becomes. And when 8-8 teams start getting Wild Card births it has a few different outcomes.

Either that team gets embarrassed by a much better top seed making you wonder what was the point of them being there in the first place, or they make a run much like the #6 seeds have done over the last few years. The damage of the latter, I think, is more than you think. With less first round byes being offered, or first round byes being potentially eliminated altogether down the road, the importance of the regular season…by far the best regular season in sports, will be reduced. While everyone freaked out that a good Cardinals team didn’t make the postseason, on the other side of the coin did we really think the Steelers, Jets, or Dolphins actually belonged in the playoffs?

Search your feelings, jury. You know they didn’t.

He puts his hands in his pockets and starts to head back to his table.

Ben: This is where some people say something like, “Well you can’t blame them for trying to make money”. And that is right, you can’t. But just because a move is profitable doesn’t mean that you should support it, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it will make the game better. The legal defense fund for when all the concussed former players march in protest, or stagger perhaps, will have to come from somewhere…but how about a bake sale? Yeah, bake sales rule. The prosecutions rests!

Nate stands up and walks to the front in a big overcoat. He takes his coat off and underneath he is wearing a Tony Romo jersey. Several members of the jury start to vomit.

Nate: It’s no worse than wearing a Bucks shirt, guys. Come on.

I’m surprised that you didn’t mention the Cowboys, Ben. Everyone’s biggest case against more playoff teams. But you shouldn’t worry; the new playoff rules could be “If the Cowboys go 4-12, they go to the playoffs,” and they’d still enter the final game 3-11 and lose to a division rival. Jerry Jones cares that much about making us laugh, guys. What a philanthropist.

He takes off the jersey and burns it to raucous applause.

Nate: Anyway, yeah, I know a lot of people are balking at this. And I know last year I had a mental breakdown in court rather than try to defend Roger Goodell’s obvious money-grab attempt. But a lot has changed in a year. Football is thriving. Wildcard battles are intense. I’ve taken a lot of medication and I’m seeing a doctor to help me with my spontaneous crying problem. We’ve all grown a lot.

In a league of parity, where any team can get good the year after an abysmal season – except the Browns of course – giving one more playoff spot isn’t going to hurt anybody. And I think where we disagree most is the effect of those lower teams succeeding. You say that wild card seeds making big runs are ruining the sport, but I think it’s the opposite. People love when underdogs come out of nowhere. You say that it takes the drama out of the regular season, but I think if it were 1 seed vs. 1 seed every year, that would take the drama out of the season.

The postseason is exciting when the teams that shouldn’t win come out on top. Think about 2010. Did anyone expect the Packers to march into Atlanta and whip the pants off of them? Didn’t that make the playoffs much more exciting than if the Falcons and Bears had met in the Georgia Dome for the NFC Championship? Football thrives on not being able to write off any team. It’s what keeps people watching and rooting for their team, even when that team is a dumpster fire. The Texans are awful this year, but they could make the playoffs next year! That sort of hope is essential to the NFL business model. And that’s what we’re talking about here, right? The business model?

Nate rubs his thumb and forefinger together, the official sign for “Straight Cash Homey.”

Nate: Two more games in wild card weekend. That’s more hope for middling teams, more time to sit in front of the couch and piss your wife off, and more money for the league. Which means more production value and coverage for you year after year. I hate when people are like “WAAAAHHH THE NFL IS MAKING TOO MUCH MONEY” when they benefit off of the insane amount of things that a rich NFL gets them. Does anyone remember when the NBA Finals were on goddamn tape delay? This sort of top notch production value and real-time delivery is what you get for lining the NFL’s pockets. So enjoy your fantasy scores, eat a cupcake from the bake sale, and stop fucking complaining about it. Ingrates.

The defense rests.


The jury can now side for the prosecution or the defense in the comments section.

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One response to “The Trial of NFL Playoff Expansion (Again)

  1. Awesome points on both sides! I almost stopped reading at the Romo Jersey, but I’m glad I didn’t. Overall I have to go with the defense. Working in the service industry more games and more excitement means more money, not only for the NFL but for Bars, Restaurants, retail, snack food, bartenders waitresses, door guys, and stadium employees. The real point is you add two more teams…….That’s potentially hundreds of thousands of fans that are still in it. Two more Stadiums that will be sold out, and yes at least three more hours of the NFL on TV. Anyone who considers this a bad thing must not enjoy the game. Remember when there was no Sunday Night Football? Sure if the team doesn’t deserve to be there they will be found out and beaten to a bloody pulp on a national stage, but won’t that pump up the victorious sides team for the next game? I am a huge fan of the underdog, and when the Giants went from the #6 seed all the way to the Superbowl to defeat the Patriots I was jumping up and down screaming for the G-Men and I am not a fan of the Giants…..I am a fan of the game! More football is a good thing!