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Roger Goodell said Tuesday that the NFL’s competition committee will make it a priority to examine an expanded playoff field in 2014 with two teams possibly added to the postseason field by the 2015 season.
The commissioner commented at the league’s owners meetings in Washington in conjunction with thoughts on reducing the number of preseason games.
“How do we continue to make sure the regular-season games are incredibly important each week, but also, how can we create more interest, and does expanding the postseason allow other teams to get into the dance with the potential of going on and winning the Super Bowl?” Goodell said. “That is a good thing for fans. It is a good thing competitively.
“What has happened is our league is so competitive right now. The games are so close that it is realistic to think that a team can have a great second half, get into the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. We have seen it.”
Goodell said “there is a lot to be done” before the NFL can expand the postseason.
“First, we have to make the recommendation. It would probably be the 2015 season because there are a lot of scheduling issues in the spring of next year,” he said. “I don’t think we have everything resolved, including talking to the NFLPA and making sure that is done the right way.”
He said he didn’t think expanding the playoff field would mean the Super Bowl would have to be played in mid-February.
“What we’re talking about is adding two teams. So you might have three games on the first weekend, and this is probably more of the issues that need to be addressed.
“How do you schedule that? Do you have three games on Saturday and three games on Sunday? Do you have two on Friday, two on Saturday and two on Sunday? Do you go into Monday? There are competitive consequences in there and television consequences,” he said.
In the current format, adopted in 2002 after the NFL added the Houston Texans and realigned the league into eight four-team divisions, 12 teams make the playoffs — eight division champions and two wild cards in each conference.
The NFL has had 12 teams qualify for the postseason since 1990, when it expanded the field from 10, adding a third wild card in each conference to join three division champions.
Goodell said in an interview with NFL.com last month that the league was examining changes to its preseason and postseason but that implementation likely wouldn’t take place in 2014.
League sources told ESPN Senior NFL Insider Chris Mortensen last month that the NFL was urgently discussing the idea of going to a three-game preseason as early as 2014. The league’s competition committee recommended the three-game preseason model as the minimum necessary period for player evaluation and development, sources said.
Goodell, however, said Tuesday that a shortened preseason was unlikely to be implemented by next season.
“I really don’t think we could make that change for ’14,” he said. “Our teams go out with ticket packages as early as November, so we really don’t have an awful lot of time. We want to do it thoughtfully, and we want to do it carefully. So that’s going to take some committees to address it. Then we have to get together as a league again to do that, and it also includes a lot of negotiation with our broadcast partners, our players and a lot of partners.”