When the NFL added a 7th playoff team in each conference, the focus was that it would result in a couple extra playoff games during wild card weekend. Little did we know at the time that the biggest impact of the added playoff teams would be the addition of many more impactful games late in the season.
Monday Night Football featured a battle of two 7-7 teams in the Saints and the Dolphins. In previous seasons, while not mathematically eliminated, these teams would have been unlikely playoff participants. This season, the win for the Dolphins puts them in playoff position as they leapfrog the Ravens thanks to a tie-breaker system that you need an advanced degree to fully figure out.
While teams like the Packers, Cowboys, Bucs and Rams have had dominant seasons and are at the top of the NFC playoff standings, every other team in the NFC except for the Panthers, Bears, Seahawks, Giants and Lions are still alive for the playoffs. While unlikely, there is still a path for the 6-9 Washington football team to qualify for the post-season.
It’s even crazier in the AFC where the Chiefs are the only team to clinch a playoff spot. Not even the 10-5 Titans are guaranteed of their playoff spot yet while 13 of the 16 AFC teams remain mathematically alive for the playoffs.
The first weekend of the NFL playoffs will be that much better with the extra games. But the true impact of the extra playoff teams is the added number of regular season games that matter down the stretch of the regular season and that’s a good thing for the NFL.