Falcon Points

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

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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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3 reasons Deshaun Watson looks poised to fill Harden's diva shoes

Houston fans haven't had a lot to cheer about lately. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

I'm a fan of sports athlete divas. I don't have to play with them, so it doesn't affect me, and it adds an extra layer of entertainment to the product. And at the end of the day, we're all just in this to be entertained, right?

Some fans, however, don't share that opinion, which is fine. They prefer no distractions. They want their team's stars to resemble something more like superheroes with flawless moral character. The quintessential locker room leader.

Those guys are great, but those guys are boring.

Luckily (for me at least) Houston was--until recently--home to one of the biggest divas in basketball for the past eight years. Rockets fans have had the pleasure of watching James Harden blossom from a humble sixth man of the year recipient just looking to lead a struggling franchise, to the Kardashian-dating, GQ cover modeling, "hunny bun" gifting ($100k cash for the less fluent, surrounded by actual honey buns), after hours club aficionado that we all know and…well…know.

Harden—as is common knowledge at this point—has finally moved on from the Rockets. This would seem to most that Houston is now either diva-devoid or diva-free, depending on your perspective. To that I say, "not so fast."

Filling Harden's shoes won't be easy, but it looks like there's a budding contender already in town looking to take the crown. Head out of the Toyota Center and make a quick drive down 288. There, you'll find a 25-year-old football player throwing touchdowns and raising eyebrows.

For all intents and purposes, Deshaun Watson is a good guy. He's charitable, he's taken a beating behind an abysmal offensive line and never complained. He is, for the most part, the superhero some clamor for.

Yet, there are several key similarities between Harden and Watson that suggest a changing of the guard may be in store. Let's take a look:

1) Undue influence on personnel decisions

In a recent article from ESPN, Tim MacMahon noted just how much pull Harden had over personnel decisions. From Dwight Howard, to Chris Paul, to Russell Westbrook, Harden has pointed his finger, declared "I want that," and watched as the Rockets' front office followed his marching orders. Now it wasn't quite as straightforward as that, but when Watson was asked about players potentially being traded this past deadline, he provided a curiously concrete response:

"Them boys ain't getting traded…[t]hat was something that we squashed."

"Nobody is going anywhere. We're going to stick with this team and keep pushing forward."

Following the deadline, Watson was asked about the fact that wide receiver Will Fuller had been shopped.

"It would've been hell if they did that for sure."

You have to be pretty comfortable with your staying power to throw candid general manager decrees and criticisms like Watson has.

2) Commitment

I don't doubt that Watson leaves it all out on the field, and the stats can back that up. And up until the last few games in a Rockets jersey I would say that Harden, too, gave everything he had. But playing hard and caring aren't always the same thing.

Any pick up game I take part in, I'm going to give 100% of my effort into helping my team win. The difference is that I honestly don't care if my team wins or loses, because we're just playing for fun. When you're a franchise player, though, fans typically prefer that you care, and both superstars have shown through body language or actions that they might not.

Take Harden for example. It was never a good look after losing a playoff series to the San Antonio Spurs in 2017 to be caught at a strip club just a few hours later. Nothing about that suggests that he cared.

Now take Watson, laughing and giggling and smiling game after game during a 4-12 season. Stepping into press conferences with an almost oblivious level of optimism permeating through his responses. It's ok to not take a JJ Watt style approach and look absolutely defeated week in and week out, but it's hardly too much to ask to put on a face for the fans for three hours every Sunday and look a little frustrated over being continuously embarrassed.

3) Immaturity

Whenever I'm in a bad mood or mad about something, I do one of two things. I don't talk to you at all, or I tell you exactly what is wrong. Not so much the case with these two.

Over the past few months, following Harden and Watson's social media has been the equivalent of knowing that you're significant other is mad, but them denying it. When asked, you get the "I'm FINE," response, but then you check their Instagram and there's some picture of a bird flying off with cursive lettering muttering some cryptic message about being held back from seeing how high they can soar. Usually in that situation it just ends up being a fight about eating the other person's leftovers without asking though.

With Harden it was an Instagram post of him holding a bottle cap, leading the sports world to spend DAYS trying to figure out if a grown man unscrewing a bottle was a hint that he wanted to be traded, or that he was just thirsty.

Now it's Watson, tweeting last Friday that "I was on 2 then I took it to 10." Again, no context. He's been caught "liking" tweets and posts suggesting trades to the Jets or the 49ers, but when confronted he denies that it's because he wants to be traded there. It's all childish, and it's pretty lame to be honest. Either be quiet in public, or be as loud as you can. When Harden finally spoke out, he was gone within 24 hours.

Now the difference is that Harden is about six years older and has been in the spotlight much longer than that. Harden is a tried and true, textbook, dyed in the wool diva. Watson's not there yet, but his jet-setting, fashion model-esque Instagram account paired with his recent antics suggest that there may be something brewing.

The question at this stage is whether he'll be in Houston long enough for any of us to find out.

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