NFL owners to discuss expansion of playoffs

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

PHILADELPHIA -- When NFL owners think about expanding the playoffs, they don't see a dilution of the product. They see two more postseason games, two more sold-out stadiums and two more television dates.

The owners meet in Philadelphia on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss adding two more teams to the playoffs, one in each conference. That would mean only the club with the best conference record would have a bye, and there would be six games on the first weekend of the postseason.

Several league executives fear one bye would be too much of a competitive advantage, one reason a decision was not made at the March winter meetings. Instead, the issue was tabled for further study, and a determination should come this week.

One big fear is that having 14 playoff qualifiers in a 32-team league could lead to a sub-.500 team making it.

"We had no problems last year with the alignment," said Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee that voted 8-0 against recommending an increase in playoff qualifiers. "The teams that made the playoffs were the teams with the best records."

In 2002, the worst record to make the playoffs was 9-7. The last time a postseason qualifier was at .500 was Dallas and Detroit in 1999. Since 1990, when the league went to three wild-card entries, two other teams made it at 8-8: the Saints in '90 and the Jets in '91.

In every case, the 8-8 wild-card team lost its first playoff game.

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