Revising the Playoff *Schedule*

Mike Florio, douche-bag though he can be at times, occasionally actually does have a good idea or two. He had one just a bit over an hour ago. In a long-winded post about the way "big ratings" could come from the Saturday night game (because it includes Tebow and Brady), he pointed out that the ratings could be MUCH higher by altering the playoff schedule.

One way to guarantee gargantuan ratings for games like this in the future would be to dump the Saturday-Sunday postseason format. A better approach, from a TV perspective, could be to break out a Thanksgiving-style triple-header on Sunday for the first two playoff weekends, with games at 1:00, 4:30, and 8:30 p.m. ET. Then, the fourth game would be played on Monday night.

The NFL hasn’t been bashful about shifting playoff kickoffs to maximize ratings. From the sliding of the Saturday games three hours later to the 3:00/6:30 p.m. ET start time for the conference finals, creative use of the clock generates bigger audiences.

So why not get really creative and avoid Saturday completely?

As to the conference finals, let’s go one step farther and play one game in prime time on Sunday night, and the other one in prime time on Monday night.

Frankly, it’s surprising that the NFL and the networks haven’t already done it. The only question how many more playoff cycles will elapse until they do.

This is actually a good idea. It would, of course, create many headaches. The worst one would be the way the MNF game from the wildcard weekened would potentially face a "short week" if they had to play on Sunday the next week.

But this exactly situation already exists anyway! Look at it this year. The entire playoff schedule (aside from where every single game is played) was determined during the Sunday night game in week 17. And while it's nice to know that in advance, this gives a huge disadvantage to team that goes from playing on Sunday to playing again on Saturday. With the Broncos playing on Sunday and winning, they get only 6 days to prepare for the Patriots, while the Texans got eight days to prepare for the Ravens. But had the Bengals pulled off the upset, all AFC teams would have had seven days. Yet had the Lions pulled off an upset they would have had eight days to prepare for the Packers while the Giants would have had only six days to prepare for the 49ers. There's simply no consistency or fairness to disadvantage a team with a six-day turnaround anyway, but if at least it was predictable well in advance (some sort of yearly rotation or something) then it would be at least a tiny bit more fair.

For that matter, we faced at least some degree of disadvantage (though at least equally so with the Lions) in that we had to play on Saturday night the first time after having just played on Sunday. And the Texans shared that disadvantage with the Bengals as well.

At any rate, with all such "potential problems" there are also potential solutions. I came up with one that I posted on PFT and I figured I'd share it here (below the jump) for comments / critiques / improvements.

He’s got a point. If this would help ratings, you can all but GUARANTEE it will happen at some point.

The hard part is figuring out some way to make the Monday night game not be a huge disadvantage in the next round. Somebody else pointed this out already, but I’d like to posit potential solutions rather than just point out the problem. I only see one way to prevent the "short week/long week" issues, and that’s to guarantee that the Monday night winner would play on the next Monday night game, no matter what.

First off, in order to make it fair, you’d have to alternate the MNF game between the conferences every other year. One year the NFC has it the next the AFC, etc. It would need to be predictable.

Second, they’d probably also have to be able to figure out the divisional schedule in advance BEFORE the wild-card MNF game was played. And in order for this to work, the MNF game in the wildcard round would HAVE to always be a #5 @ #4 game. This would allow the #6 @ #3 from Sunday to have already determined where the #4 or #5 will be going next week. That game would then automatically become the MNF game in the divisional round. So even before the winner is known, the destination would be set and the host city/stadium/team/etc would have the full amount of time to prepare for what day they are hosting a game. (For example, if #6 won on the wild-card Sunday they’d play @#1 on Divisional Sunday, otherwise #3 would play @#2 on Sunday. #5 or #4 would in turn always play again the next Monday. This way both affected stadiums would be sure of the maximum notice to be fully ready.)

Third, the divisional MNF game would either be the #1 or #2 seed in the appropriate conference. But then what happens for the championships? You either have to make those on two days as well (which would work, there’s a solid two weeks before the Super Bowl after all) or you have to make the same conference have the LATE Sunday Championship game. This would still be a "short week" but at least LESS of one.

Oh, and in instances where a shared stadium and changeable fields would matter (currently only Jets/Giants but could be others in the future) and both teams are hosting a playoff game, they would need the maximum time possible to work on the field. If the other rules aren’t violated by doing so, one should be Sunday and one Monday. If not, one is the early game on Sunday and the other is the late game, and if there’s no way to swap out the endzones in time then use one from each team.

It’s quite a lot of work to rewrite the rules to plan this all out, but it would be doable. And let’s face it, it would actually be better than the current system. If the Lions had won last Saturday night, they would have had eight days to prepare to visit GB, while the Giants would have had only 6 days to prepare for San Fran. And right now the Broncos have had only 6 days to prepare for New England while Houston has eight days to prepare for Baltimore. In addition, whomever wins either of the Saturday games this weekend will have 8 days to prepare for their conference championship, while the Sunday games will only have seven days.

The current system really does need to be improved, and if it can improve TV money all the more, so much the better.

So I'm sure I forgot something... but what do you guys think of the basic idea? And what do you think could be improved upon?

This FanPost was written by a reader and member of Canal Street Chronicles. It does not necessarily reflect the views of CSC and its staff or editors.

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