Huge wild-card audience surely means more wild-card games

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In March, the NFL’s owners likely will vote to expand the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams.  That would mean two more games in the wild-card round, an increase from four to six.

Which would mean 50 percent more games that America watches by the tens of millions.  Specifically the four wild-card games generated an average audience of 29.9 million, even though one of the games was on cable.  The FOX game between the Lions and Cowboys had an average audience of 42.3 million, with a peak of 48.3 million viewers between 7:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. ET.

The league was poised to decided in March 2014 that the playoff field will be expanded in 2015.  The NFL apparently decided that it made much more sense to wait until 2015 to expand the playoff field in 2015.  Otherwise, Texans and Eagles fans would currently be having a hard time understanding why they didn’t get a shot at the Broncos and Packers, respectively, this weekend.

Next year, look for the NFL to have six games instead of four in the wild-card round.  If they pick the right windows for the games, that average audience could go well over 30 million.

85 responses to “Huge wild-card audience surely means more wild-card games

  1. I’ll explain this slowly so NFL and TV executives will understand;

    The reason people are watching is because it’s a finite product. If more teams are in and more games are played less people will care.

    Just leave it alone.

  2. Awful idea to expand the playoffs. It dilutes the field with much crappier teams and dilutes the meaning of being a division winner.

    And while the games this weekend may have had huge audiences, 3 of the 4 were total stinkers that I stopped paying much attention to by halftime.

    The league better hope the rest of the playoffs and SB are better than these games were.

  3. The NFL seems determined to find out if there’s a breaking point to the public’s ability to consume their product, and to do it as quickly as possible.

  4. At least two of those games were incredibly hard to stomach as playoff quality games. I can’t wait to see games with the additional degradation of quality teams being fielded for the extra cash…

  5. Mark cuban will be correct the NFL will kill the golden goose. Cant wait to see more garbage like Carolina vs Arizona

  6. Hopefully this translates into wildcard games worth watching next year. All in all this was a terrible playoff weekend.

  7. The steelers would still get Flaccoed or tebowed out of the playoffs if they would even qualify. They played the easiest schedule this year was the only reason they got in

  8. irishgary says:
    Jan 5, 2015 6:07 PM
    Mark cuban will be correct the NFL will kill the golden goose. Cant wait to see more garbage like Carolina vs Arizona
    eaglefan94 says:
    Jan 5, 2015 6:07 PM
    That Cardinals/Panthers game we all watched is the perfect argument against expanding the playoffs…
    Carolina won its Division so they were penciled in as a playoff team under current rules.

    Arizona was a 5th seed team.

    So how does game between these two teams have anything to do with expanding the playoffs? Expanding the playoffs would have allowed the Eagles and another AFC team into the playoffs. Not saying they should change the current set up, but if they did, how does Carolina and Arizona impact this as a negative? Both teams earned the a playoff spot due to current rules.

  9. It’s simple math, the owners will make tons more money.

    Sorry guys, but these extra 2 games won’t saturate the product just yet. More playoff games will equal more money and a better way for fantasy (playoff) games to become more viable, which btw, is a big factor in the NFL’s increasing popularity. How many people do you know who didn’t give a crap about the NFL until these fantasy games?

    I prefer the current playoff format, but just like the 16 game regular season, it will sadly become a thing of the past.

  10. One of the things that makes the NFL playoffs so great is the fact that so few teams make it. It actually means something to the make the playoffs considering less than 40% of NFL teams make it each year.

    In the end though, the NFL and the broadcasters will get what they want and we’ll have 14 teams. The TV ratings will be through the roof and we’ll have 16 teams in by the 2020 season.

  11. I don’t see a problem with expanding to 14 teams.

    First of all, more money.

    Second, it gives teams and their fans more hope and reason to be excited for January, and it would probably save a lot more coaches and GMs their jobs.

    And last, expanding to 14 won’t devalue the playoffs. The playoffs are very difficult to make as it is. Right now, only teams are in and 20 don’t. I wouldn’t favor a 16 team playoff because of half of the league can make it, it would start to devalue the teams and show that it’s not too hard to make it, but 14 teams is still less than half the league. Another thing to think about is that there are always like 4 teams vying for that final wild card spot. The teams usually have the same records, but only one gets in. I don’t think adding one more wild card spot will make the playoffs looks less valued.

    I think it’s a great idea, but everyone is entitled to their opinion.

  12. I’ll still watch, I watch Thursday night football, college football on Saturdays, the Seahawks on Sunday plus redzone all day, followed by Sunday night football and then Monday night football. I work all week so I have everything done so I can do that. I think a lot of you just like to complain. The truth is some years the playoff games suck and some years you get some great games. Your argument about bad teams equal bad games might get shot down this weekend. What if Green Bay blows out the cowboys? What if Denver crushes the colts? What if the patriots shut down the ravens? What if Seattle and Carolina play another 14-7 game that’s happened three years in a row. I like defense so I’ll enjoy the hawks game but I imagine most won’t. Either way I’ll watch. That’s what I do as a football fan. I can’t help myself.

  13. People are missing the biggest thing. The reason for this wildcard weekend being so bad wasn’t the quality of teams, but the quality of refs and all these rule changes. People wonder why games are mostly blowouts now. The quality of football as a whole is just bad now. The product is steadily dwindling.

  14. hakunamangata says: Jan 5, 2015 5:59 PM

    Just leave it alone.

    Amen to that. Greed always kills the golden goose. Just stop “tinkering,” NFL. Just stop.

  15. Yea great. I’m sure this is coming from the same execs/owners who have their teams in crappy situations…. their ideas have worked out so well

    after wathcing that slop fest of a game in Carolina, the bengals playing just awful… and one of the more boring Ravens-Steelers games in recent memory..oh and tack on a quarter and a half of the lions-cowboys…All I see is badly executed, sloppy football.

    I think they should probably focus on getting more quality in their current games. I can’t see more of that being a good thing, not at that level of execution. They should hold tight. Those off season rule changes seem to be impacting the game.

  16. I think the NFL is a little arrogant but they get ratings. I don’t think a change would matter in terms of business. Look at the NHL, a ton of parity, no one knows who’s going to win the cup it’s a crap shoot its a pretty well run league but they’re 5th in line in the US behind (NFL, NBA, NCCAF, MLB).

  17. I just watch because they’re on. Besides the Lions vs Cowboys game I wasn’t that interested.

    The real playoffs don’t start until the Divisional week in my opinion anyway.

  18. Yep, that’s another reason. Teams can’t even practice how they want to anymore, leading to mental mistakes, lack of toughness, lack of execution, and lack of fundamentals.

  19. Only one of the wildcard games were actually entertaining and that’s because I’m a Ravens fan. I love football though and would watch any competitive game. They should get the rules and refs right before they change anything else. Its getting bad.

  20. The NFL playoffs is absolutely perfect the way it is right now. 12 teams making the playoffs out of 32 is just fine. But of course they are going to mess it up so that the league gets some more coin.

  21. cobrala2 says: Jan 5, 2015 6:08 PM

    Hopefully this translates into wildcard games worth watching next year. All in all this was a terrible playoff weekend.


    I totally agree with you. The Bengals-Colts game literally put me to sleep. I didn’t wake up until it was 14-0 Lions in the second game. The Cards-Panthers game sucked too.

  22. More money to buy off the officials,more and more you have to believe what Cuban said months ago is going to happen,especially after what we saw this week end with Lions getting screwed like they did.

  23. If they are going to expand the playoffs to 14 teams, then division winners with records of 8-8 or worse better be seeded behind wildcards with winning records.

  24. We did this in my fantasy football league. It really dilutes the entertainment value if everyone makes the playoffs. Although even our ffb league didn’t have a team under .500 make the playoffs.

  25. Expanding the playoffs RUINED the NFL in 1990 – and it’s never recovered.

    This season a 7-9 team made it.

    And now the NFL wants to water down the playoffs by letting in a 10-6 or 11-5 team? Bad idea.

    The playoffs were meant for mediocre division winners. DON’T let in the 11-5 teams that have missed the playoffs in the past or the 10-6 teams this season. That will ruin the game even MORE than in 1990.

  26. those of you who are against, if your team finishes nine and seven and happened to be one of the extra two teams next season, I think you would change your tune. Look what is happening with Carolina right now. Cardinals not having a quarterback, has put them in a position to beat Seattle, which contrary to what Seattle fans think, is very possible.anything can happen once you get in.I think adding more games makes it that much more entertaining to the common fan, who may only tune in during the basketball is almost unwatchable until you get to the final 4, that is when most TuneIn. The NFL knows what they are doing here

  27. Why not. So what if a 7-9 team wins their division, that’s part of the goal, win your division to host a game. If the road team is better then they should win, simple. Now all of those who bellyached about it will get a chance to see their or another team or two play in the post season. Who cares, it’s two games, not a best of whatever series. One and done. Doesn’t cheapen anything and I’ll wager that the fans, players and even rivals would want to see them win or lose. People like the drama and it gives them more opportunity to complain or cheer.

  28. I also feel like it is time to get into some sort of a lottery or first pic. The difference from team to team, week to week, it’s getting closer every season. Parity is here. Those arrogant Seahawk fans would very much love to get a top 10 pick even though they are consistently now finishing at the top every season. I would love to see my Cowboys get a pic higher than the middle to the back end of the first round.

  29. I’m a Panther fan so I enjoyed the game. It was played in the cold and rain with both defenses keeping their teams in the game and 2 lead changes.

    Would have been nice to actually hear the numbers behind the headlines but this Cards/Panthers game was the third highest rating EVER on ESPN and the 9th highest rated in cable TV history.

    This either proves that the NFL needs to expand or that there are millions of Peter King clone-Cam haters out there hoping to tune in to see him fail. Based on the comments on this site it is clear the playoffs do not need to expand.

  30. I’m not sure if I can take an additional week of over dramatic “No More” commercials. But while I’m here. “No more” Ryan Lindley at QB.

  31. Lowers the level of competition. On the bright side, it might help the Bengals win a playoff game.

  32. Minority opinion time……………,

    How would an extra playoff game hurt the “product”? Do you think gawd-awful teams will be in the playoffs and get blown out?

    How would the Eagles making the playoffs “hurt the product”? Or the Cardinals last year?

    Look at the recent playoffs results, as 9-7 (or worse) teams have had a lot of success in the playoffs. Usually these are the hottest teams at the end, the ones that have to win 4 in a row just to qualify. How many times have we seen these teams beat a better record team?

    Both of the sub-.500 teams in recent memory WON over 10+ win teams (in 2010, Seahawks over Saints, this year Panthers over CArdinals)

    What about the Cardinals only Super Bowl appearance? 9-7. Re3member 8-8 SD beating 12-4 Indy about 10 years ago? What about the Packers and Giants recent SB wins? 6th seed.

    Also, by adding another Wild Card game, the 2 seed will now have to play one of these hot teams.

    The fact is adding a 7th seed to play the 2 seed will NOT “hurt the product”. These are good teams that absolutely have a chance to win.

    It would also make more late-season games more important. More teams would be competing for that last playoff spot, and the top teams would want that 1 seed even more since the 2 seed would be playing Wild Card Weekend.

    It’s a done deal, folks. Might as well embrace it. And you will be surprised. The playoffs will be just as good, if not better.

    And a triple he3ader on Sunday (adding the Sunday night game is most likely)?


  33. So how exactly would having more 9-7, 10-6 or 11-5 teams play in a wildcard because every so often a division winner may be .500 or less dilute the game. Adding additional teams doesn’t mean they’re looking for 7-9 or 6-10 teams, they’re looking to get more winners in. How does it possibly lower any level of competition to have more good teams in?

  34. The only reason the numbers were stupid-high was because Dallas played. Face it — America’s Team pulls crazy huge audiences. The only solution to maintaining that isn’t to expand the playoffs…it’s to just guarantee the Cowboys play in the WC round every year, and that would be ridiculous, obviously. But, hamstringing them financially as was done ILLEGALLY due to collusion, only hurts the rest of the league too. Dallas being unnaturally made uncompetitive is bad for NFL business….didn’t stop them from doing it though. This proves how business-stupid the NFL is.

  35. As I would do it, I’d be looking to also with only the best team in each conference getting a first-round bye also going to where seeding is SOLELY by record (except where if teams have identical records and one is a division champion they would ONLY in that scenario be seeded ahead of a wild card). If we had this for 2014, the seedings would have been these (this would assume ESPN getting the early Saturday game while NBC gets prime time games on Saturday and Sunday):

    1st Round Bye: #1 Patriots

    1st Round Games:
    #7 Texans at #2 Broncos, Saturday at 5:05 PM ET on CBS
    #6 Ravens at #3 Steelers, Saturday at 8:50 PM ET on NBC
    #5 Bengals at #4 Colts, Sunday at 1:05 PM ET on CBS

    1st Round Bye: #1 Seahawks

    1st Round Games:
    #7 Panthers at #2 Packers, Saturday at 1:20 PM ET on ESPN
    #6 Eagles at #3 Cowboys, Sunday at 8:25 PM ET on NBC
    #5 Lions at #4 Cardinals, Sunday at 4:40 PM ET on FOX

    That to me would be the way to do it. This way, the Panthers would still make the playoffs, but have to open on the road while the Cardinals would have been at home for a first round game against the Lions.

  36. I think this is a great idea. Let’s have the top three teams from each division make the playoffs (twelve teams in each conference). Play a double elimination, round robin style of playoffs. You’d finally get to the Super Bowl. You’d have the draft the following week and free agency the week after that. The next week you’d start OTA’s to ring in the next season.

    Oh, and yes, this entire post was sarcasm.

  37. The bottom line is that the CURRENT system lets in mediocre to bad teams – teams with LOSING records not only make the playoffs but they HOST A HOME GAME!

    Expanding the playoffs STILL won’t keep out teams with losing records for those of you advocating for that.

    But expanding the playoffs WILL let in teams with WINNING records.

    I just find it amusing that so many fans think it’s bad to “water down” the playoffs with better teams!

    We heard the same thing in 1990 – that going from 12 to 14 teams would water down the playoffs.

    And the naysayers then were wrong – now the NFL is stronger than ever.

  38. They should expand to 18 games and add more playoff games. A Super Bowl on Valentine’s Day will be great. Signed, the divorce lawyers lobby

  39. I normally hate trying to mess with success but this actually wouldn’t be so bad. Puts more stock in getting the #1 seed since it’s the only first round bye handed out and allows for one additional team in each conference to have a chance at winning the Super Bowl. I could live with that.

  40. We also need to expand the number of NFL teams. Every single state deserves a professional team. Even if that means expanding into Alaska, Montana, Rhode Island and even Minnesota.

  41. No it doesn’t. It just means the match ups were good.

    People have consistently voted NO on the idea of additional teams in the playoffs. Which, if it happened, would likely mean more teams with losing records.

  42. Every single state deserves a professional team. Even if that means expanding into Alaska, Montana, Rhode Island and even Minnesota.
    Alaska Ptarmigans
    Montana Meadowlarks
    Rhode Island Violets
    Minnesota Soybeans

  43. Any game with defense is boring and unwatchable. Why don’t they just take defense out of football all together to please the masses?

    If you thought the Cards Panthers game was boring, you are not a football fan. Watching Luke Keuchly and Thomas Davis read an offense and fly around the field is great entertainment. Looking forward to a great slugfest with SEA this weekend on primetime.

  44. Because the most important lesson in Business is…

    “When things are going really well with your product, change it up a bit and dilute it,” said No One Ever.

    Perfect 12 team Playoff symmetry. Perfect Divisional/Conference alignment. The structure is PERFECT as is, just leave it alone.

  45. Considering all the controversy this season about a 10-6 team missing the playoffs while a 7-9 team gets in, I think this could alleviate that issue at least somewhat. But I agree with the other posters here that expanding the playoff field inevitably dilutes the product.

  46. Hell… why not have a multi league, world bowl… you could have hundreds of teams playing in single elimination tournaments from around the globe. Throw in college teams to while we’re at it… along with teams from the CFL. China… Mexico… Africa… Australian rules football teams… GOODELL, THINK OF THE MONEY!!

  47. People take care and heed. These words have been spoken. Cast your eyes naught. Tho these words are also spoken, so shall they be wiped.

  48. This is such B.S. As a Chargers fan, a team which is likely to benefit from from this motion more than most others, I can see this for exactly what it is… A dilution of the product to generate more cash. That would be like a beverage company watering-down their product. Water it down too much, and it won’t taste good anymore.

    With this near-sighted cash grab, the NFL is running the risk of not tasting good anymore.

  49. Oh for pete’s sake..this is NOT t-ball where everybody get’s a chance. Can we stop the political correctness please.
    Of course the ratings are gonna be higher..less games to watch more people to watch them. Do the math.
    This is all about more profits…profits ..profits ..profits. If you have more teams to add to the leauge then you have to add to the playoffs. But leave it as it is untill that happens.

  50. 1)Change the league start times. Who says training camp must be at the end of July? Why not early July?
    Start the season in August. Only play a couple exhibition games.
    2)Like college football where you have to win a certain number of games to be “bowl eligible”, so no NFL team should make the playoffs with fewer than 9 wins, or one win over mediocrity. So you take the top 8 teams regardless of division in both the AFC and NFC. That would mean, if my math is correct, one additional weekend of playoffs.
    3)Make it so no division winner has to go on the road.

    There you go.

  51. Less is more, if you’ve never heard that before. The game between Carolina and whoever they played, was a terrible game,,didn’t watch second half,,,The NFL has to fix the “a losing record” gets a playoff game. Terrible,,,

  52. Terrible idea, I can’t believe the league is so money hungry…wow like they really do make enough what is this??? I hate the idea of expanding the playoffs with PASSION. The league is run so poorly these days.

  53. I’ve said this a zillion times, and I’ll say it again: In 1990, 42.86% of the league made the playoffs (12 out of 28 teams). Adding 2 more playoff spots would mean 43.75% of the league would make it (14 out of 32 teams). I do not see how increasing the percentage of playoff teams from 42.86% to 43.75% would mean the end of civilization as we know it, like most commenters here seem to.

    Also, keep in mind that the Panthers are the 4th straight playoff team that was 8-8 or worse to win their first playoff game.

    And get up off my Panthers. Our defense was awesome and fun to watch. If you are one of those yahoos that think excitement only occurs with points, just watch the Baylor-TCU game over and over and let the rest of us watch the NFL.

  54. I think the idea stinks. Lets just make it like the NBA. Let half the teams in and make the playoff season as long as the regular season, that way the greedy NFL can make more money until they diminish the games and burn us out.

  55. Jesus, why not just include every team in the playoffs, with no byes? That way the NFL gets the maximum number of games and the maximum revenue for the owners.

    Why so eager to change a formula that works? Never mind that progressively expanding the playoffs would slowly cheapen the regular season, as has already been done in the NBA and NHL.

  56. Hakunamangata has it right; we hold dearest that which is rarest. In the NFL, we have a situation in which the rare seemingly undeserving participants in the post-season, those divisional champions, such as the 2014 Carolina Panthers, enter it as the champions of a wretched and forgotten class of outcasts, their bedraggled tail feathers held proudly aloft. Seldom, though, do the non-champions appear meretricious.

    What possible argument can be made for the presence of additional 9-7 or 8-8 divisional runners-up? On the other hand, how much dark joy is to be had in the plaintive bleats of the fans of the fans of the 10-6, or even 11-5, teams that, in the end, just couldn’t get it done in their own backyard? It makes EVERY game, especially the early ones, potentially matter a great deal.

    When JFK, Jr., failed the bar exam eight times, many of us were heartened that even his impeccable unearned advantages could only take him so far. The fact that he had to hit the books one last time, made his eventual success all the sweeter to him AND THE MORE LEGITIMATE TO US. He had to earn it; close wasn’t good enough, even for the little boy in a grown man’s suit.

  57. “Why so eager to change a formula that works? Never mind that progressively expanding the playoffs would slowly cheapen the regular season, as has already been done in the NBA and NHL.” –packergator

    Exactly! My younger brother has watched the Red Wings religiously for years now. Why? As they proved last year, the league is so watered-down that they could, can, and did sleepwalk their way into the post-season. That’s when I tuned in. Before that, it was enough to glance at the box score and flip through the video highlights. Hell, that last is all that anyone, other than Spike and Jack, bothers to do during the NBA regular season.

  58. As a fan of football I hate this change. It is very well put together at this moment but we all know money talks.

    Now, to all you people whining about the Panthers being in the playoffs. Put the 7-8-1 tag on your team that did or didnt make the playoffs and see what you think. Sounds like a lot of butt hurt Eagles fans. If I remember correctly, just as the Panthers controlled their own destiny so did the Eagles. The Panthers took care of their business and the Eagles did not when it mattered. I bet all of you would be just fine if your team made it.

    P.S. where was all of this whining when the Seahawks made it at 7-9? Isnt 7-8-1 better than that?

    Cant wait for the game Sunday Seahawks fans. Im not overly thinking that the Panthers are going to win but I know its going to be one hell of a defensive game.
    #whosgotitbetterthanus? #notthe49ers

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