Why NFL should expand playoff field

The Cardinals are a team that figures to benefit from an expanded playoff field. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The NFL has no shortage of critics on player safety, commissioner-ordered discipline and the push to leverage public funds for billionaire owners seeking new stadiums. For some, a ramped-up Thursday night schedule came off as just another money grab for a league that paid $44.2 million to its commissioner in 2012 alone.

Next on the NFL agenda is a plan to grow the playoff field from 12 teams to 14 in time for the 2015 season. It looks like another play for cash, and it surely is, but it’s not a shameless one. In fact, the NFL would be smart to expand the playoffs not just because of the money, but because it would improve the quality of teams in the field.

Here's why: Recent history shows little difference between 7-seeds and 4-seeds. And while we know that the 2014 season won't see an expanded playoff field, we can spin that history forward to identify teams likely to benefit from an expanded format in 2015.

Seventh seeds are like fourth seeds

The NFL currently welcomes 37.5 percent of its teams into the postseason, lower than the percentages for the NBA and NHL (both 53.3 percent). One-third of Major League Baseball teams qualify. Expanding the NFL playoff field by two teams would up the percentage to 43.8, in line with the other leagues.