Now that the NFL is considering expanding the playoffs, I thought I’d take a look at the different playoff systems used by the various leagues.
NFL: IMHO, they shouldn’t expand it, no matter how big the league eventually gets. Two of the great things about this league the playoffs are not decided until the final week and nearly every team that makes the playoffs has a chance (n.b. Denver and Baltimore winning the Super Bowl from the #4 spot). Adding two more teams won’t make the end of the season more exciting; it’ll just create two more playoff losers.
NBA: There’s been a lot of criticism about 16 teams making the playoffs every year, but unfortunately I think this is a necessary evil. Unlike the NFL, there isn’t a lot of disparity between the top teams. IIRC, two #8 seeds beat a #1 seed (Denver and New York), and one made it all the way to the finals. The reason the net is so wide is to prevent the top dogs from getting complacent, and in light of the two big upsets (and Sacramento’s near-upset of the LA Lakers), I have no problem with this.
NHL: Again, there isn’t a whole lot of space between #1 and #8, and they gotta keep the favorites honest. If anything, I could see the playoffs being reduced to 12 teams. This would put more emphasis on winning games in the regular season while still letting everyone who has a realistic chance at the Cup in.
Baseball: Expanding the playoffs was a mistake. The regular season so long that divisional playoffs are just plain unnecessary. Besides, adding an extra round took away one of the things that made this sport unique.
College basketball: Believe me, 64 teams is plenty. Way I see it, if your team isn’t good enough to make the Final Four anyway, you have nothing to complain about.
Division I-A football: Should probably go with 8 teams. If not 8, than 16. But at least 8. And definitely more than 2, at any rate. (That’s right, I don’t like the BCS at all…does anyone?)
European soccer: Whatever. Anything’s better than 25 “champions”.