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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

This is good news

In light of the terrible first-round games this year and the fact that a team with a losing record not only made the playoffs, but made it to the second round, the NFL appears to be backing away from the stupid idea of further expanding the number of teams that make them:
At his pre-Super Bowl press conference last year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he thought there were a lot of benefits to expanding the postseason.

Among the benefits he cited were a “more competitive” league with better matchups as the regular season nears its conclusion and “more excitement” for the league’s fans. Talks about adding two teams to the postseason never came to a vote with the owners last spring and there was debate about the need to involve the NFLPA, but Goodell continued to sound optimistic about it when it came up in 2014.

He didn’t sound so optimistic about it during Friday’s pre-Super Bowl press conference.

“The possibility of expanding the playoffs has been a topic over the last couple of years,” Goodell said. “There are positives to it, but there are concerns as well, among them being the risk of diluting our regular season and conflicting with college football in January.”

The latter concern wasn’t aired last year and the better matchups that Goodell mentioned would seem to run counter to the risk of diluting the regular season, so it seems significant that they were specified while the positives were left undiscussed. Owners like John Mara of the Giants and Art Rooney II have come down against the idea since it was broached last year and Goodell’s tone may suggest he’s heard likewise from other owners heading into this offseason.
There is absolutely no good reason to expand the playoffs. If anything, they should be further limited; half the teams in the first round were uncompetitive and didn't belong there. The games are really only reliably interesting at the divisional round anyhow.

Regardless, the current system did manage to not only match up the two best teams, but clarify a pecking order that had been modestly in doubt with regards to the Packers, Cowboys, and Seahawks, and Broncos, Ravens, Colts, and Patriots. It is working, even if the first weekend tends to be a bit boring, so for once Goodell should stop his incessant meddling and stop trying to fix what is quite clearly working.

Fortunately, the fact that the league's more traditional and influential owners are against it should suffice to kill the dumb idea for the rest of Goodell's bumbling reign.

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47 Comments:

Anonymous Peter Garstig February 04, 2015 6:26 AM  

But there will be an 18 game season.

Anonymous Giuseppe February 04, 2015 6:35 AM  

OT - very OT. Is there any chance of an Ilk forum? Some of the threads are very informative/useful, but by the time someone catches up there are six new posts and... Much is lost in our ever forward VP progress...case in point was the discussion about evil between Chris, Nate and wrf3. With which in my neochristianology I disagree with them en masse since I think evil is observably a thing, and not merely the absence of good.

Blogger Vox February 04, 2015 6:46 AM  

Is there any chance of an Ilk forum?

Probably not. I don't like forums. They always seem to end up full of spam and useless trash. And it's not that hard to search the blog; I do it all the time when I need something.

What would be useful would be some sort of grand index, but I'm far too busy to even think about that sort of thing.

Anonymous Giuseppe February 04, 2015 6:51 AM  

Understandable. I am not technologically au fait enough to know, but is there a chance to have a "closed" forum. That is, a forum where only people with rigorous and onerous registration can comment or upload stuff, so the spam issue is not even started. Call it a church of Vox or something, rather than an open forum. I'd be willing to chip in cash for something like that.

Blogger YIH February 04, 2015 7:26 AM  

Peter Garstig:
But there will be an 18 game season.
That's probably less likely than more playoff teams (not that there should be more of them).
About the only way to get the NFLPA on board with such an idea would be to take the last two weeks of preseason and make them the first two weeks of the expanded regular season.
Which means the owners wouldn't support it due to pressure from the coaches.

Blogger Nate February 04, 2015 7:34 AM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Josh February 04, 2015 7:42 AM  

Jason illegal!

Anonymous Stg58 / Animal Mother February 04, 2015 7:45 AM  

Giuseppe,

Are you on Facebook?

Anonymous WCU February 04, 2015 7:47 AM  

Those Titan teams in the late 90s and early 2000s were a stout group, with tons of talent. I'm still surprised that the Rams were able to slide past them in the Super Bowl.

Blogger Josh February 04, 2015 7:49 AM  

Maybe a better solution would be to reduce the playoff teams by one per conference and give only one team a first round bye.

That would have the additional benefit of making the last two weeks of the season more competitive.

Blogger Nate February 04, 2015 8:01 AM  

Holy CRAP do I hate typing on a mobile phone.... even a huge mobile phone like the Note 4.

GAH!

I will try that again...

Blogger Nate February 04, 2015 8:02 AM  

Vox.. under your plan the music city miracle doesn't happen. Because, the Titans didn't win their division in 1999, Jacksonville. Jacksonville went 14-2 and lost in the afc championship game to Tennessee. The only team they lost to all year was the titans and the titans beat them 3 times.

now you can say I am cherry picking... but I can say the same thing about you.. since you appear to be over-reacting to one bad year.

Anonymous Daniel February 04, 2015 8:03 AM  

Next commissioner should be Pete Carroll - yes his ideas would be horrible, but at least they'd be poorly executed. Least Mode.

Anonymous VD February 04, 2015 8:29 AM  

Maybe a better solution would be to reduce the playoff teams by one per conference and give only one team a first round bye.

That's how it used to be. I expected the quality of the first-round games to decline after they went from 10 teams to 12. And sure enough....

Blogger Nate February 04, 2015 8:37 AM  

'Next commissioner should be Pete Carroll - yes his ideas would be horrible, but at least they'd be poorly executed. Least Mode."

See this is why I'm perfectly happy to move to a poor crap hole of a country. Because while its leaders have crazy ideas... they don't have the means to implement them.

that's the problem with places like the US. When we have nutcase politicians in power... they have the ability to actually implement their crazy schemes.

Blogger Nate February 04, 2015 8:42 AM  

Hold on...

The sixth seed in the AFC was the Ravens. They won their wildcard game.. and they played a great game with the patriots in the divisional round.

The sixth seed in the NFC was the Lions... and they played a great game with Dallas.. losing 24-20.

The bad games were actually played by the division champs.

Maybe you should rethink things.

Blogger Nate February 04, 2015 8:46 AM  

The playoffs are fine.

The only thing that needs to change is the idiotic seeding that makes an 11-5 team play AT 7-9 team's home field... because the 7-9 happened to win a shitty division.

Blogger Vox February 04, 2015 9:27 AM  

The only thing that needs to change is the idiotic seeding that makes an 11-5 team play AT 7-9 team's home field... because the 7-9 happened to win a shitty division.

No way. We've been over this. The division seedings stay because the division games are much more important than the playoffs for television rating purposes. One of the big improvements over the last few years was scheduling division rivalries for the last two weeks of the regular season.

The NFL finally seems to understand that anything that strengthens divisional rivalries is good, anything that weakens them is bad. Remember, more people watch the last round of the regular season than the first round of the playoffs.

Wild card round: 4 games, 34.7 million viewers per game
Week 17: 16 games, 17.6 million viewers per game.

Do the math.

Blogger Josh February 04, 2015 9:49 AM  

Remember, more people watch the last round of the regular season than the first round of the playoffs.

Wild card round: 4 games, 34.7 million viewers per game
Week 17: 16 games, 17.6 million viewers per game.

Do the math.


The best way to run those numbers would be by timeslot for the regular season games.

Blogger YIH February 04, 2015 9:51 AM  

In news that will likely surprise no one, ''Johnny Football'' heads for rehab.
Yes, that kind.
I'm a bit surprised it was made public. That's his 'first strike', he can now be randomly tested, and if he flunks, suspended.

Blogger Nate February 04, 2015 9:56 AM  

"
Wild card round: 4 games, 34.7 million viewers per game
Week 17: 16 games, 17.6 million viewers per game."

One of the wild card games was in fact a divisional game. Doesn't that sort of wreck your point?

Blogger Josh February 04, 2015 10:04 AM  

In news that will likely surprise no one, ''Johnny Football'' heads for rehab.
Yes, that kind.
I'm a bit surprised it was made public. That's his 'first strike', he can now be randomly tested, and if he flunks, suspended.


What's the deal with the random scare quotes?

Anonymous Will Best February 04, 2015 10:18 AM  

The bad games were actually played by the division champs.

Maybe you should rethink things.


I am sold. I often change my entire view by selecting 2 data points out of 50.

Its interesting you think so highly of the Ravens considering they shouldn't have even been in the playoffs in the first place with their ridiculously weak schedule.

Anonymous DaveD February 04, 2015 10:26 AM  

"Ridiculously weak schedule"? You mean the best conference in the NFL? Really? I HATE the Ravens but they did NOT have a weak schedule.

DD

Anonymous Jack Amok February 04, 2015 10:29 AM  

Football? Football... vaguely rings a bell. Is that the game where you run the damn ball in from the 1 yard line? I love that game. Wish I'd had a chance to watch more of it.

The problem isn't the wildcards, it's having 4-team divisions, but as Vox said, that encourages more divisional rivalries.

Blogger Vox February 04, 2015 10:30 AM  

One of the wild card games was in fact a divisional game. Doesn't that sort of wreck your point?

Not in the slightest. The point is that there are other factors involved. Reducing the importance of the divisions, which are integral to two 272 million-viewer weekends, in order to possibly improve some people's perspective of one 136-million viewer weekend, would be counterproductive.

I realize you are an anti-division moderate; you only want to mess with the seedings so a division winner isn't guaranteed a home game. But the more extreme anti-division types want to go with a straight seeding system for the playoffs. Both would be mistakes, as the NFL wants there to be Week 16 and 17 interest in two weak divisional rivals battling for a playoff spot as well as two strong divisional rivals battling to stay at home.

Your recommendation reduces the value of the latter. Winning the division doesn't matter as much if you can finish second and still have a home game. Some owners would even prefer that to the bye week since they'll make more money.

Blogger Josh February 04, 2015 10:33 AM  

Reducing the importance of the divisions, which are integral to two 272 million-viewer weekends, in order to possibly improve some people's perspective of one 136-million viewer weekend, would be counterproductive.

Those aren't unique viewers, though.

Anonymous Will Best February 04, 2015 10:59 AM  

"Ridiculously weak schedule"? You mean the best conference in the NFL? Really? I HATE the Ravens but they did NOT have a weak schedule.

Did you just see the AFCN with 3 teams having 10+ wins and go see hard?

List of Ravens 10 wins
Panthers, Saints, Bucs, Falcons, Jags, Titans, Brownsx2, Dolpins, Steelers. LOSS: Texans, Indy, Bengalsx2, Steelers, Chargers. So two teams that cleared .500.

The Steelers had a number of embarrassing losses against teams like the Jets and Tampa, but at least they went 4-2 in their division and beat some decent teams like the Colts, Chiefs, and Texans.

Bengals went 5-0-1 in their gimmie games (NFCS+Jag +Titans) then 3-3 in the division, and got thumbed by Indy and NE. But at least they managed to beat the Broncos and Texans.

Anonymous Will Best February 04, 2015 11:02 AM  

Those aren't unique viewers, though.

They don't need to be. If I watch 10 hours of football on Sunday, I will have watched 300 odd commercials (at least in theory).

Blogger hank.jim February 04, 2015 11:09 AM  

Still no team in the Los Angeles market while there are plenty of teams at places where there is no demand. There should be expansion teams to cover the areas where there is an audience, but the owners cannot be forced to stay so there's that consideration.

Blogger YIH February 04, 2015 11:30 AM  

Another side effect of 'deflate-gate':
It turned Badell's biggest supporter against him.
One can only hope Badell might just get shown the door soon.

Anonymous Huckleberry -- est. 1977 February 04, 2015 12:18 PM  

Still no team in the Los Angeles

There need never be a team in Los Angeles.
LA is a transplant city -- they couldn't support the Raiders, and that was back when the Raiders were something to write home about. The problem is a huge swath of the football-loving transplant population would rather watch their Browns, Steelers, Patriots, Cowboys, Saints, Seahawks or Bengals from the comfort of the local sports bar on Sunday morning rather than tailgating with the vatos and their RaiderNation and Odelay tattoos for the first Inglewood Jaguars (pronounced Hog-gwars in the local vernacular) ; a trend that has gotten worse, not better in the 20+ years of NFL absence from the City of Angels.
No, the NFL will simply never work in this city at all unless the Raiders come back, and even then it won't work...

Blogger Nate February 04, 2015 12:34 PM  

"I am sold. I often change my entire view by selecting 2 data points out of 50."

It is not 2 data points out of 50. Vox has two points:

1) the first round is boring.

2) division winners should be greatly rewarded because division winners are good and produce better football games.

well...

the only games entertaining games in the first round involved 6 seeds... and the higher seeded division winners produced the most boring games.

And in the next round.. one of the best games of the whole playoff season was played by the 6 seed that won.

Applying Vox's advice to this season results in an even more boring first round... making his own first complaint worse.

Blogger Nate February 04, 2015 12:36 PM  

"Reducing the importance of the divisions, which are integral to two 272 million-viewer weekends, in order to possibly improve some people's perspective of one 136-million viewer weekend, would be counterproductive."

I think you're missreading this entirely. People don't care about divisions. They care about their teams making the playoffs.

More people watch week 17 because more teams are involved. Thats it. Expanding the playoffs would reduce the average viewership per game.. but it would increase the total viewership.

Anonymous Jack Amok February 04, 2015 12:44 PM  

There need never be a team in Los Angeles.
LA is a transplant city -- they couldn't support the Raiders, and that was back when the Raiders were something to write home about.


L.A. has already lost 3 NFL teams, the Chargers, Rams and Raiders. "Third Time's a Charm" has already come up a bust.

BTW, slightly OT, as you might imagine the Seahawk's fanbase is in a bit of an uproar over that fucking dumbass shitheaded play call at the end of the game. That's a given, not worth mentioning, except to note the rampant complaints about "results based analysis" from people who claim it wasn't a bad call.

As a friend of mine said, another name for results based analysis is "feedback." It's curious how many people bring up that mantra when arguing about a catastrophic failure, and I suspect this extends beyond football. You did A. Your theoretical analysis predicted good thing B would happen. Instead, disaster C occurred. Obviously C was just bad luck...

Blogger hank.jim February 04, 2015 12:53 PM  

L.A. is the home of USC, UCLA, the yearly Rose Bowl, and many local high school recruits. We need a team that originated here as a expansion team. I wouldn't want the Raiders or the Chargers to come back. I'm only watching the other teams because there is no choice. I have no loyalty to any team.

Blogger Vox February 04, 2015 1:11 PM  

I think you're missreading this entirely. People don't care about divisions. They care about their teams making the playoffs.

You're absolutely wrong. The Packers fans care about the Vikings and Bears. The Cowboys fans care about the Redskins. All of these division rivalries spur significant interest in multiple games even when a team isn't playing its division rival in the last week or two of the season, which it now often is.

You don't seem to understand that the NFL rightly cares far more about the regular season than the playoffs. Yes, because there are MORE GAMES and because more of those games count. They will not weaken the divisions because the schedule change made more of the Week 16 and Week 17 games count and spurred more viewership, better attendance, and division championship races that went to the final week.

Nobody should give a damn about the best teams getting the home field advantage. That way lies the Premiership and simply handing the title to the team with the best regular season record. If you want a home game, then win your damn division!

I hate the wild card anyhow, in the NFL and in baseball. If you can't win your division, then go the fuck home. You don't merit championship consideration. I also don't think non-league champions should play in the Champion's League, for that matter. I don't care if that might deprive us of seeing Manchester United, Milan, and Real Madrid in it every single year.

Anonymous WaterBoy February 04, 2015 1:42 PM  

Vox: "There is absolutely no good reason to expand the playoffs."

From a competitive perspective, you are correct: there isn't.

However, you already pointed out the good reason from the revenue perspective: more games = more viewers.

Right now, there are four teams sitting at home on byes during the first round. With two (or four) additional wild cards, they draw in not only the fans of the bye teams, but those of two (or four) other teams who would otherwise not be so interested.

I agree it would be a bad idea to do so, and would mean more uninteresting games. But the NFL has proven repeatedly that they will incorporate bad ideas into their business model if they think it will make them more money.

It may be that this batch of owners are reconsidering the idea...for now. Doesn't mean they -- or their heirs -- won't change their minds in the future.

Anonymous WaterBoy February 04, 2015 1:50 PM  

Nate: "Expanding the playoffs would reduce the average viewership per game.. but it would increase the total viewership."

It wouldn't even necessarily reduce the per-game average if the added games were staggered so they didn't overlap, while still increasing the total viewership.

Anonymous Will Best February 04, 2015 1:54 PM  

BTW, slightly OT, as you might imagine the Seahawk's fanbase is in a bit of an uproar over that fucking dumbass shitheaded play call at the end of the game. That's a given, not worth mentioning, except to note the rampant complaints about "results based analysis" from people who claim it wasn't a bad call.

If it had worked nobody would have questioned it. You know how much second guessing people would have had if Seattle had missed out on points at the end of the half going for 7 instead just taking the easy 3?

Incidentally, Lynch went 1 for 5 from the 1 yard line this year, having lost a yard on two of them. Over his career he is 15 for 36 from the 1 yard line and lost yards on 9 of those 36. He ranks 30th out 39th over the last 5 seasons among backs with at least 10 attempts from the 1 yard line.

So no its not a give to just hand it to Lynch and let him do his thing.

Blogger Vox February 04, 2015 2:58 PM  

Right now, there are four teams sitting at home on byes during the first round. With two (or four) additional wild cards, they draw in not only the fans of the bye teams, but those of two (or four) other teams who would otherwise not be so interested.

You are missing the point. It is not worth doing so if that detracts from the competitive interest in the last two weeks of the season. The whole point of moving the division rivalries to Weeks 16 and 17 was to increase the importance of those games. Expanding the number of teams making the playoffs will reduce them again.

That's the main reason the number of teams won't be expanded. They really don't want to go back to the days when division winners regularly didn't play their starters for the last two weeks. Hell, that's why most fantasy leagues still wrap things up Week 16.

Anonymous WaterBoy February 04, 2015 4:30 PM  

Vox: "You are missing the point. It is not worth doing so if that detracts from the competitive interest in the last two weeks of the season."

No, I got the point, which is why I prefaced it with the qualifiers "competitive" and "revenue". The fact that the wild card was even added in the first place -- to generate more revenue from additional games, even at the possible expense of competitiveness -- supports this point.

"The whole point of moving the division rivalries to Weeks 16 and 17 was to increase the importance of those games. Expanding the number of teams making the playoffs will reduce them again."

The schedule was changed because it would minimize the chances of a team having already locked up their division and subsequently resting their starters, and I think that was the best possible competitive move they could have made.

But I don't see how adding more WC slots would change this. Those division leaders who already have home/bye locked up can still opt to rest their starters. Those who are playing a divisional game with potential home-game consequences against a non-WC contender is meaningless to the latter in terms other than pride; but playing against a team which is still fighting for a wild card spot will make that particular game more competitive. So adding another two (or four) teams into the wild card hunt would increase the importance of those particular games over what they otherwise would have been for the mathematically eliminated, leading to more competitive division games overall.

Again, I am against expanding the number of teams despite this. I just expect the owners to (eventually) think more in terms of revenue than competition, as their track record indicates.

Anonymous Scintan February 04, 2015 9:43 PM  

It wouldn't even necessarily reduce the per-game average if the added games were staggered so they didn't overlap, while still increasing the total viewership.

Both Wild Card Weekend and the divisional round already consist of 4 games, 2 played on Saturday at staggered times and 2 played on Sunday at staggered times.

Anonymous Jack Amok February 04, 2015 10:35 PM  

Incidentally, Lynch went 1 for 5 from the 1 yard line this year, having lost a yard on two of them. Over his career he is 15 for 36 from the 1 yard line and lost yards on 9 of those 36. He ranks 30th out 39th over the last 5 seasons among backs with at least 10 attempts from the 1 yard line.

But he was 7 for 11 on tries from inside the 3 yard line, and over the last 5 seasons he's scored more short-yardage rushing TDs than anyone except Arian Foster. Plus, 3 of the 4 1-yard line stops this year came in games where the Seahawks were missing critical members of their interior line. I don't know how many of the stops in prior years had the same situation, but there's a good chance many of them did as the Seahawks have had huge problems keeping their O-line healthy. It was healthy for the Superbowl however. And in any event, the numbers, even using 5 year's worth, aren't very big, so we could be dealing with small-sample size problems (and anyone who doesn't care about sample size then has to explain why Russell Wilson - 1 for 1 punching it in from the 1 yard line this year - wouldn't have been an automatic TD...).

So, what does that mean? Don't know. We have stats, but we can't be sure how applicable they are to the exact situation at hand. We can guess - we have to guess - but we can't nail the numbers to the mast, say the issue is settled, and dismiss the actual catastrophic result of the play as irrelevant.

The result happened. Whether it was a fluke accident or a predictable consequence of a bad decision we can argue about, but we can't ignore it and dismiss people who point to it as a reason to criticize the play call.

The plural of "anecdote" is indeed "data." And it seems to me it's a mid-wit characteristic to ignore unfavorable results by claiming they were just bad luck. In fact, I think Instapundit is fond of quoting Heinlein on that subject.

But maybe it's just because if you work in the game business long enough, you realize people like to blame the RNG for their own screwups.






Anonymous Jack Amok February 04, 2015 10:40 PM  

Oh, and I meant to say, the strength of "results based analysis" (a.k.a. "feedback") is that there's no question whether the results were applicable to the situation. They happened. Butler intercepted the pass, nobody can argue he didn't or that it wasn't meaningful to the situation. But we can argue till the cows come home about whether the "Lynch was 1 for 5" stat was meaningful or not.

"Results based analysis" is reality telling you what it thought of your choice. Dismissing reality as a foolish thing that doesn't understand statistical analysis is... probably not a good choice itself. Reality may have some feedback on that too.

Blogger Akulkis February 05, 2015 2:12 AM  

Forums are ABSOLUTELY terrible compared to the much more convenient mail-list concept (seemingly forgotten in this day and age because "but it's not on the web!!!ONE!!!ELEVENTY!!!"... except that lots of mailing lists ARE archived on the web, too.

Instead of a forum, I would vote for a Yahoogroups list . It has a web interface for people who can't handle the oh-so-incredible dififculty of searching their on email (what email client DOESN'T have search capabilities?)....and frankly, replying to email on a list is MUCH MUCH MUCH more convenient. Also easier to sort, and you don't have to keep refreshing web pages, or remembeirng "oh, I wanted to keep up on the discussion about topic X".. .because, email, you know, just shows up RIGHT IN YOUR EMAIL BOX without having to search for new traffic.

Forums are the absolute WORST way to communicate, bar none, with the sole exception being for when you're attempting to build an archive of knowledge (for example, a car repair forum).

I've subscribed to the SuSE (Linux) mailing lists for years. I have not once, ever, felt the slightest urge to visit the SuSE forums... because frankly, forums are so absolutely clumsy in all respects where one would hope to have a real-time (even though asynchronous) discussion, and have the discussion end in a coherent manner, as opposed to one-or-more-parties stopped coming back to the topic page to keep the discussion going.

Blogs... I don't mind as much... it's expected that the blogger wants to progress from one topic to the next, by the mere fact of making a new blog post.

Anonymous Will Best February 05, 2015 3:10 AM  

"Results based analysis" is reality telling you what it thought of your choice. Dismissing reality as a foolish thing that doesn't understand statistical analysis is... probably not a good choice itself. Reality may have some feedback on that too.

Well obviously it was the wrong call. But all you have is what you know at the time, and that information is not so clear cut.

Hoodie didn't let them score the quick TD from the 7. Nor did he call a timeout. He stated to the world that his defense was going to win this game, and basically dared the seahawks to run it with Lynch.

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