Falcon Points

Here's why expanding the NFL playoffs is a bad idea

Kevin C Cox/Getty Images

We all love football, especially the NFL. There is a reason it is the most popular sport in the country.

The other sports leagues need gimmicks. Baseball is weighing a really dumb playoff plan. The NBA looked at a possible tournament. Anything to try to be more relevant, to try to close the gap on the NFL.

So why is the one sport with the best postseason thinking about messing it up?

Last week, a report came out that the NFL was looking to add two more playoff teams for the 2021 season. Essentially, each league would have seven playoff teams. There would be byes for the top team in each conference. The second-best team would no longer get a bye. Last season, in the AFC, the Ravens would have had a bye. The Texans would have still faced the Bills, and the Patriots would have also faced the Titans. The Chiefs would have hosted the 8-8 Steelers.

In the NFC, San Francisco would have had the bye. The Saints would have played the Vikings, the Eagles would have faced the Seahawks and the Packers would have hosted the Rams. The results likely would have played out the same.

But did we really need to see a Steelers team with no quarterback? Are the extra games worth it?

On the surface, yes. more meaningful games. More to bet on. Could that really be a bad thing?

Yes. One of the things that makes the NFL unique is that it is not easy to make the playoffs. Basketball and hockey let in half the league or more. Letting in more than 12 out of 32 waters things down. Can the playoffs really improve by adding less quality?

The NFL already has it right. Why change it? More money? More teams staying in the race later in the season?

The NFL barely had enough quality teams last season. The playoffs featured upsets, including the Titans knocking off New England and Baltimore. In the end, we got two quality teams in the Super Bowl. Why mess with it?

Greed. Better TV deals. It is just two games, but that's two more high-profile TV games to sell.

Sometimes, sports leagues can outthink themselves. In this case, the NFL does not need to change. Why mess with something that is working? The NFL playoffs don't need improving. Is that Chiefs-Steelers matchup really worth it? Teams like the Colts, Jets, Broncos and Raiders would have been in the playoff mix until near the end of the season. On the surface, this all sounds great.

But at the risk of sounding like "get off my lawn" guy, sometimes the old ways are the best. The NFL has not changed its playoff format in 30 years. During that time, the sport has seen unprecedented growth and become the dominant sports league in America.

Why change what works just to add more money to a multi-billion dollar industry? Why reward more mediocrity in a league that welcomes too much of it as it is?

The playoff expansion appears inevitable, so complaining will do little good. Still, it is a bad idea. Messing with a playoff format that works can go two ways; it could improve the product, but the more likely result is more bad teams, and more mismatches.

At least it guarantees Bill O'Brien stays employed forever, as the 9-7 train will likely get you to the playoffs from here on out.

That is not a good thing, and this is a change that will not be for the better.

Messing with something that has worked for 30 years is a bad decision. But the NFL will make more money, and two average teams will get a chance to get rolled in the first round.

What could possibly go wrong?


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What happened with Earl Thomas? Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

The past 48 hours have been a roller coaster of a ride for the Houston Texans. They went from a team on the verge of upgrading their secondary with one of the best defensive backs of the past decade in Earl Thomas, to conflicting reports to why the workout had stalled.

After hearing from head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien Wednesday morning via Zoom, here is a complete timeline of the events that took place between the Texans and their debacle with Thomas' workout, featuring the one and only — coronavirus.

A.J. Moore's injury opens the door for the Texans to sign Earl Thomas

When the Texans dropped their third consecutive game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Houston also lost safety A.J. Moore in the process. The 24-year-old defensive back from Mississippi left Sunday's game with a severe hamstring injury and did not return. Monday morning, the Texans announced that Moore could miss up to three weeks.

With Moore placed on injured reserve, O'Brien and his staff felt it was time to search the free agency pool in hopes of finding a player who can help fill in the empty void at safety. Although several players on the market could have stepped in for the injured Moore (i.e. Eric Reid and HaHa Clinton Dix), the Texans arranged a workout for free-agent Earl Thomas set for Tuesday, September 29. Thomas — along with several other players — made their way to Houston late Monday afternoon for their respective workouts.

Thomas' fit with the Texans & "signing this week is more likely than not"

Albeit Thomas' potential signing would have been a replacement for the injured Moore, the seven-time Pro-Bowler would have made an immediate impact on the Texans' secondary.
During his lone season with the Baltimore Ravens, Thomas, 31, proved he can still be a productive player on the field — despite being a year removed from a broken leg he sustained during his final season in Seattle.
In 2019, he re-established himself as a Pro-Bowl safety with 72 tackles (32 solo hits), six QB hit, and two sacks on the season. However, Thomas' best attribute to a team remains his pass coverage abilities, as he registered four pass deflections, four interceptions and only allowed 44% of passes (25 targets) to be completed in pass coverage.
In comparison to the Texans, Justin Reid has been Houston's most reliable DB through the first three games of the season, as he has only allowed 50% of passes to be completed in pass coverage. The second-best for Houston has been Vernon Hargreaves — who is allowing close to 70% of completions in pass coverage (66.7%) thus far.
The arrival of Thomas would have been a steal for Houston. However, with the narrative of being a locker room cancer, it appeared that the Texans were willing to look beyond Thomas' flaws in character. Late-Monday evening, all signs pointed toward a potential signing that was "more likely than not, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Virus outbreak alters Thomas' workout with the Texans

Early Tuesday morning, O'Brien and his staff received a call from the league office stating that eight members of the Tennessee Titans (now nine) tested positive for the Coronavirus. The NFL's first outbreak of COVID-19 led to several teams around the league to alter their plans for the week — including the Texans.

O'Brien said instead of having Thomas — along with several other players — held up in a hotel due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID; they felt it was in everyone's best interest to cancel all workouts scheduled for Tuesday. But instead of rescheduling, the Texans ceased Thomas' workout.

Speculations to why Houston canceled Thomas' workout altogether spread like wildfire. The most discussed reason, "the Texans decided Earl Thomas was not a good fit for their locker room." Both parties credited the latter. And late-Tuesday night, the outspoken future Hall-Of-Famer confirmed via Instagram that COVID was the reason behind his nixed workout with the Texans.

Ahead of practice Wednesday morning, O'Brien reaffirmed that Thomas' canceled workout was nothing more than concerns surrounding COVID. He has not ruled out the possibility of revisiting Thomas in the near future, so a potential signing could be put on hold for the time being.

"Earl Thomas is a hell of a player, he's had a great career," O'Brien said. "We had a bunch of guys in and we decided to cancel. We'll see how it goes moving forward. That's really what it was. It's not anything other than that. We've got a lot of respect for Earl."

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