Roger Goodell announced this week that the NFL will examine the possibility of expanding the playoff format to include two extra teams (via ESPN.com). While there is fear that playoff expansion would minimize the importance of regular season games, it actually makes sense from a historical perspective.
While the number of divisions and the number of Wild Card teams has changed, the NFL has used the same number of playoff teams since 1990, when the league expanded from 10 to 12 playoff teams. However, in 1990, the NFL had just 28 teams and 12 playoff teams meant 42.9% of the teams made the postseason each year.
Since 1990, the NFL has grown to 32 teams. However, the number of playoff teams has remained unchanged with just 37.5% of teams competing in the postseason. By adding two playoff teams, the percentage of teams making the playoffs would jump back to 43.8%, similar to the pre-expansion number. Here is how the number of teams and number of teams making the playoffs has changed since the AFL-NFL merger…
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