Whether the owners and their checkbooks feel the same remains to be seen.
For the better part of a year, there has been talk of the NFL expanding its playoff field from the current 12 teams to 14. That would leave one team per conference with a bye in the opening round, with the other 12 teams presumably playing six games on Wildcard weekend. One idea being bandied about is playing two of the games Saturday, three on Sunday and the last Monday night.
The problem with that? Wildcard weekend, some years, would take place around the College Football Playoff title game, which is scheduled to be played on Monday night for the remainder of the 12-year broadcast agreement. A Monday night NFL playoff game wouldn’t have had an impact on the title game played after the 2014 season — that game was played Jan. 12, while the opening round of the NFL playoffs was the weekend before — nor would it have an impact on the 2015 game (Jan. 11), but it potentially could have an effect on the title games following the 2016 (Jan. 9), 2017 (Jan. 8) and 2018 (Jan. 7) seasons.
In an interview with Peter King for his iconic Monday Morning Quarterback column, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was asked about the oft-discussed issue of playoff expansion. In the course of answering the expansion questions, he twice mentioned college football, The Shield’s free minor league system, when it came to adding postseason games.
The MMQB: What about playing a wild-card game on a Monday night?
Goodell: You could. Potential conflict that comes in there is the national championship game, because that would interfere in some years with that. We’re respectful of college football.
The MMQB: Theoretically doesn’t it make a lot of sense, if you don’t have to worry about college football, to have six games on wild-card weekend? You play two Saturday, three Sunday, and one Monday. Is that the most logical?
Goodell: Sure. But again, you have to consider college football, which is important to us.
While there doesn’t seem to be much momentum for expansion in 2015, why not, if/when additional teams are added, play one of the wildcard games on Friday night instead of Monday night? The argument against such a tack would be that two teams would be going on short rest, having just five days between the regular-season finale and playoff opener. Of course, if the game is added and played Monday night, the winner would be going on short rest, five or six days, in the divisional round.
PFT‘s Mike Florio has a simple solution to the potential dilemma, writing that, once the financials of adding a pair of playoff games is realized, “the other details will easily fall into place, with the college title game sliding to Tuesday night if need be.”
The people running the College Football Playoff have been very strident that they are not willing to budge when it comes to moving this year’s semifinal games — the Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl — off New Year’s Eve to a couple of night’s later as they are looking to establish tradition and continuity. In that same vein, they’ve been just as strident in wanting to ensure that the CFP title game is played on a Monday night every year; whether or how much they’d push back against an NFL playoff game being scheduled that same night remains to be seen.
(Writer’s note: CFT reached out to the CFP for comment, but they’ve thus far declined to respond.)
One thing is fairly certain, and Goodell’s current deference notwithstanding: If the monolith that is the NFL decides to add to its playoff field and put a wildcard game on Monday night, the CFP will have no choice but to move its game. Or, more to the point, its broadcast partner, ESPN, and the advertisers would make certain CFP officials know that they have no choice but to move the game off Monday.
After all, the NFL doesn’t have a monopoly on dollars being the driving force behind decisions.