NFL owners ponder playoff possibilities

When the NFL owners converge on Philadelphia today for their two-day annual meeting, expanded playoffs will be a hot topic. The owners may see dollar signs, but they'll have to decide if expansion would convey a stronger opportunity or a weaker product.<p>

The two-day meeting will feature debate on adding two more teams to the playoffs, one in each conference. That would mean only the club with the best conference record would have a bye, and there would be six games on the first weekend of the postseason. The last time the playoff format was changed, it came a year too late for the 1989 Packers, who finished an exciting season 10-6, tied with the Vikings atop the NFC Central, but lost on a tiebreaker. Adding insult to injury, the decisive blow was struck on Christmas. The playoffs were expanded in 1990 to the six-team, two bye format per conference. It was slightly modified this year to include four division winners and two wild cards in the pecking order, but still maintained the six-team cutoff. The problem of the 8-team One big fear is that having 16 playoff qualifiers in a 32-team league could lead to a sub-.500 team making it. Last year, 9-7 was the worst record in the playoffs. Previously, only three .500 teams have qualified since the '90 expansion and all have lost their first game. Also on the agenda this week are reports on the status of the NFL Network; Super Bowl planning, though no Super Bowls will be awarded; NFL Europe; the league's workplace diversity initiatives; and its stadium financing program, according to wire reports.

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