The current NFL format is, in my opinion, the best it could possibly be. Numerous teams have playoff aspirations into December. San Diego's late surge rewarded them with a playoff spot. Most people point to 2008 and 2010 for reasons to expand the playoffs. In '08, San Diego won the AFC West with an 8-8 mark; while New England was left out of the playoffs at 11-5. In '10 Seattle won the NFC West at 7-9 and the NY Giants and Tampa Bay compiled a 10-6 record...saw no playoffs. Granted this is a rare occurrence, especially at this level. Just last year Green Bay won the NFC North at 8-7-1 and Arizona, with a 10-6 mark was left out of the playoffs.
The only way for a 14 or 16 team playoff in the NFL should be to dismiss the divisions and group the 32 teams in two conferences, the AFC and NFC....like back in the 1960's. This eliminated 8-8 teams getting in; while 10-6 or 11-5 teams do not. Positioning seven teams into the playoffs in each conference would give only the highest seed a first round bye. An eight team format would give no byes, unless the NFL wanted to stretch the playoffs into late February. Currently the top two seeds receive a bye in the first round and the other two division winners host the two wild cards teams.
The first step to solving this problem is for Goodell to admit the expanded playoffs was a money move. More games fill stadiums and create additional revenue streams with commercials and endorsements. If revenue is the main purpose (what else could it be?) of additional playoffs, what about revamping both? Additional revenue and not expanding the season! Currently NFL games are scheduled for Sunday, Monday, and Thursday (one week has Saturday games, not due to Christmas holiday conflict). Expand Monday and Thursday night games exactly how Week 1 of the NFL season is. Telecast an Eastern or Central Time game at 7:30 and a West Coast game at 11:00. Also add Saturday games. But...but...that's during college football season. I'm not finished.
There is roughly a month between rivalry week and bowl season. For those four or five weeks, what about a triple-header on Saturdays? Telecast games at 1:00, 4:30, and 8:00 (just how it is set-up on Sundays)? Football fanatics would jump at the additional televised games. The number of NFL games televised from late November to late December weekly would be ten (three Saturday and Sunday, two Monday and Thursday) and seven any other week (except Week 17, no Monday night games). Stagger bye weeks near short week scheduling for each team or reward teams with short weeks home games. But...but..that will be hard to do. I'm sure you (NFL corporate whiners) will find a way, these addition telecasts will bring in billions for the NFL.
Recently, Albert Pujols reached a milestone in his career, his 500th home run. He was the 26th player to do so and the thirteenth in the last thirty years. From 1999-2009 ten players entered the 500 Home Run Club. Seven of those ten have either tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (PED) or been placed under the microscope for alleged use. Growing up, I vividly recall the accolades Jackson, Mike Schmidt, and Eddie Murray received. Has the use of PED tainted the 500 HR Club?
It was once a barometer for Hall of Fame enshrinement to hit 400 homers. Dave Kingman blasted 442 homers but did not receive 1% Hall vote in his one year of eligibility. An argument could be made it was his paltry .236 batting average. It is safe to say a number of players will join/have joined Kingman in not making the Hall. Will each player with 500 homers be voted into the Hall? My personal opinion is a definite no. Rafael Palmeiro had 569 but was dropped from the ballot this year for not receiving 5% necessary to remain. What if Sammy Sosa, who hit 609, is dropped after 2015 voting? He received 12.5% in his first year eligible in 2013 but only 7.2% this year. What about Barry Bonds? His votes dropped from 36.2% to 34.7% this year. Where will it end?
More important, where does it leave players who were never accused of PED or never failed a drug test? I felt Frank Thomas would eventually be enshrined but on the first ballot? I admit, I was a bit surprised (I personally never suspected Thomas of using). How will Ken Griffey be viewed? I can't see Griffey not being a first ballot because of his lanky physique. He was more Gumby than Godzilla. Jim Thome was never accused and was regarded as one of the friendliest players in the game. Will his modest batting average and 600-plus homers get him in?
The only positive spin on the PED era is the more respect given to the handful of pitchers who strived during this time. Greg Maddux was a top ten all-time pitcher regardless....his accomplishment during PED era places him in the top five. Tom Glavine was maybe a top forty, the PED era raised his stock to the top twenty-five. Randy Johnson will be a first ballot in January. Pedro Martinez will be too. Both Johnson and Martinez are both top ten. It is...with a sense of irony, these four pitchers made their bones during the PED era.
The jury is still out on Mike Mussina and critics are treating Roger Clemens similar to Bonds. Without the allegations, Clemens would have also been a top five all time pitcher. Often I long for the good 'ol days of baseball in the 1980's where a pitcher threw complete games, shutouts, and a 3-2 game was considered a treat. But if someone lined up the six pitchers just mentioned, against my favorites from yesteryear: Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Jim Palmer, Fergie Jenkins, Tommy John, and Phil Niekro. I would have to admit the PED era pitchers would be considered the better group of the two.
If anyone has noticed, the pitchers in both leagues have turned in performances reminiscent of 1974 or 1984. Maybe 250 innings pitched, ten complete games, and sub-3.00 ERAs will become the norm again. Maybe. Just maybe, I may start catching a couple games a week for the first time in a number of years.