The impact this change has on certain teams, how it would have affected previous seasons, and the overall pros and cons of this move.
No doubt about it, this new format is just another way for NFL owners to make more money, but I actually kind of like this move. It has taken a good amount of criticism, but it just means more playoff football, and playoff football is the best. There are pretty much two focus points, and they are that you are adding one more team, and one less team gets a first round bye.
This is what the playoff picture would have looked like last year, had they used the new format:
The Steelers and the Rams would have made the playoffs, and the Chiefs and Packers would not have had their byes.
In terms of the bye, as a Patriots fan, I am psyched that they did this right after the dynasty ended. Getting the bye was always huge for New England. I do think that having just one team get the bye might make for some more competitive games near the end of the season though. Normally one or two teams have already locked up the bye, and don't need to play any of their starters in week 17.
Something very interesting to note is that every Super Bowl participant in the last seven years has had a first round bye. That is a shocking statistic. The new rule change means that more teams will make deep playoff runs, and that higher seeds will have it much tougher. It further solidifies that something like the Patriots dynasty will never happen again. This is a move by the NFL mostly to make money for more teams making the playoffs, but also so more teams will have the opportunity to make the Super Bowl.
In many ways the move levels the playing field in the playoffs. Yes, there is still home field advantage, but now six out of seven teams must win three games to make the Super Bowl, compared to previously when four out of six had to do that.
I definitely like adding one more team to the playoffs. I think it is going to make more competitive games between teams that are hovering around .500. It will definitely make the road to the Super Bowl more difficult though for the higher seeds.
This tweet by @Steelersdepot shows which teams would have made the playoffs over the past ten years, if this new format had been used.
As you can see, the Pittsburgh Steelers would have made the postseason four more times.
Most people seem to think that the new format is worse because it will be adding teams that don't deserve to be in the playoffs, but that is simply not true. Over the past ten years, the new format would not have added a single team below .500. It would have added five 10-6 teams, eight 9-7 teams, and five 8-8 teams, along with a 9-6-1 team, and an 8-7-1 team. In my opinion those teams aren't too horrible to be in the playoffs.
Since the AFC is very much wide open behind the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens, this move will have a huge impact on next year. Teams like Pittsburgh, New England, the Denver Broncos, or any of the top three AFC South teams might be able to sneak into the playoffs.
I see the change having less of an impact on the NFC, but it still will mean something. I think that teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Seattle Seahawks to name a few are teams that will be fighting for the bottom two playoff spots.
I'm not going to say that I absolutely love the change, but I think it's still a good one overall. I think it will create more competitive games late in the year, and adding another playoff game is not a bad thing either.
As always, feel free to let me know your opinion in the comments section below!