July 27, 2017

NFL Expansion?

Last night Bob Costas interviewed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, covering a wide range of topics. You can watch the 13-minute interview here, courtesy of NBC.

One of the topics that came up was putting a team in LA. Bob wanted to consider which team would be the most likely to make the move. In response, Goodell asserted that while the NFL wants to have a team in Los Angeles, he does not want a current NFL city to lose its team. He then floated the idea that the NFL could expand to 34 teams. (This question begins at 9:38 in the video.)

This poses an interesting problem for a league built around competitive balance. The current 8 divisions balances perfectly. But it is mathematically impossible to balance 34. Not with 5 divisions (4 + 4 + 3 + 3 + 3). Not with 4 divisions (5 + 4 + 4 + 4). Not with 3 divisions (6 + 6 + 5). Not even with 2 divisions (9 + 8). However, with 17 teams, they could set up a system where teams play every other team in their conference once, with no inter-conference play until the SuperBowl.

It seems to me that if the NFL expands to 34 teams, it is only a matter of time before it will expand again to 36 teams. Having 36 teams would allow each conference to have 3 divisions of 6 teams each. Much like the days when the Bengals played in the AFC Central.

Would you support another NFL expansion? Does it dilute the quality of the league? Or is more football always a good thing?


  1. I am against expansion. There are too many teams as it is. However, if this is in the cards, then they have to go to 36 teams. It’ll take 10 years, but that’s where it will go.

    How about just letting Jacksonville go to LA? Or Rams, or the Raiders even? That seems more viable to me if they are dead set on a team there.

    I’d be more interested in a truly minor league supported by the NFL. It would give smaller markets the opportunity to have some NFL quality football and it could succeed with NFL backing.

    • I whole-heartedly agree that helping every team develop a “farm” team is a better way to expand the NFL. Giving guys more time to develop would raise the overall talent pool in the NFL. Plus they could double their presence around the country, or even put some of the farm teams in Europe. (That would be a better way to introduce the brand over there.) MLB supports 5 minor league teams for every major league team, so the NFL — a far more popular brand — could certainly support one for every current team.