NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell this week floated the proposal of expanding the playoffs to 14 or 16 teams. He said the league's Competition Committee would be considering it.
You know the television networks would like the idea of selling advertising for more playoff games. You know NFL owners would like to make their television business partners happier. You know NFL owners would like to have a slightly better chance of selling “success” to their fans. We just made the playoffs, let's raise ticket prices.
There are so many financial reasons to do it, I give the league credit for holding off this long. In fact, this idea was on the agenda of the competition committee way back in 2002.
No doubt the argument will be made that Pittsburgh won the Super Bowl as both a fifth and a sixth seed in recent years.
Furthermore, it could address a couple issues that have nagged at Goodell. The commissioner justifiably wants to protect the integrity of late-season games. The league doesn't like to see teams with playoff positions sewn up resting big chunks of their rosters in Week 17. Adding another round of playoff games might even be a way of getting rid of a week of preseason games, which Goodell justifiably sees as a bad product foisted on the ticket-buying public.
Expanding from 12 to 14 playoff teams is a particularly bad idea. Only one team in each conference would get a first-round bye under a 14-team format. That's too much of an advantage for a team that might get the No. 1 spot based on a tie-breaker or the fact it played an easier schedule than the No. 2 seed. So a 16-team playoff, with every team needing three wins to get to the Super Bowl, seems fairest if the playoffs must expand.
The problem is it decreases the chance that the best, most deserving teams get to the Super Bowl. Injuries are a bigger part of the game in football than in the other major sports, and an expanded playoff field throws more luck into the equation of declaring a champion. The Jets (6-7) currently are the No. 8 seed in the AFC. New York would go to Houston in the first round to get blown out by the Texans. But what if the Texans lose QB Matt Schaub to injury in a first-round rout they shouldn't have had to play?
Imagine it's 1990. The Bills have their best shot ever to get to the Super Bowl as the No. 1 seed. In the first round, they whip an eighth-seeded Pittsburgh team quarterbacked by Bubby Brister. But they lose Andre Reed to injury. There's a good chance they don't beat Miami at home the next week without Reed. (Miami's Dan Marino played one of his great games in a 44-34 Bills win.)
It's not a good idea. It's bound to happen.
Big Ravens move
Cameron had been the offensive coordinator since 2008. But he was not popular with fans and he was brought back this season on a one-year contract. The knocks on Cameron are he doesn't run star running back Ray Rice enough and he has not brought quarterback Joe Flacco along well enough. A couple weeks ago, for instance, the Ravens led Pittsburgh entering the fourth quarter but Rice never touched the ball the final 15 minutes. Baltimore lost. Flacco has wanted to run a more up-tempo attack, and the Ravens worked a lot on a no-huddle offense in the summer. It hasn't been up-tempo, to the dismay of Flacco.
Baltimore has great skill players but ranks 18th in yards and ninth in points. The highest Ravens' yardage ranking under Cameron was 13th.
Harbaugh had a convenient option on his staff, giving the coordinator reins to QB coach Jim Caldwell, former head coach of the Colts. Caldwell never has been a coordinator in the NFL. Caldwell, however, now must deal with the same hindrances Cameron faced. The Ravens' offensive line has slipped. Flacco's pocket presence seems to have regressed. And a no-huddle offense may not be the best thing for a defense that is missing leader Ray Lewis.
Meachem now has been benched in favor of young Danario Alexander, who has 33 catches. In his last two games, Meachem played just two plays (against Baltimore) and nine plays (against Pittsburgh). Meachem got a $7.5 million signing bonus, and his base salary of $5 million next year is guaranteed. Over his previous three seasons, Meachem averaged 43 catches for 630 yards.
Meanwhile, the biggest free-agent catch at receiver is paying off in a big way. Tampa signed San Diego's Vincent Jackson to a $55.5 million contract. Jackson stands eighth in the league in receiving yards with 1,145, and his average of 20.4 yards per catch is best in the league. Jackson has eight touchdowns.
The Bills had needs at running back, middle linebacker, cornerback and receiver entering the 2007 draft. They had just traded Willis McGahee to Baltimore a month before the draft. But Lynch had character question marks on him entering the draft, and capable running backs are more readily available later in the draft. The Bills had only Fred Jackson and Anthony Thomas in the fold at running back. Granted, Jackson was an unknown commodity. Michael Bush was the best middle-round pick at running back in that draft. He was taken in the fourth round by Oakland and gained 3,000 yards in his career.
All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis went two picks after Lynch, at No. 14, to the Jets. Kansas City took quality wideout Dwayne Bowe 23rd overall. For what it's worth, making Revis the Bills' pick was advocated in this space the day of the draft.
• The Steelers are famous for crucial wins under Mike Tomlin. They need another one today against Dallas. They are without their best cornerback, Ike Taylor (leg injury). His replacement, Cortez Allen, is out with a groin injury. Some guys named Josh Victorian and Robert Golden will likely be the second and third corners vs. Tony Romo.
• Buffalo and San Diego have the worst strength of victory percentage in the league (.277). The teams the Bills have beaten are a combined 18-47.