The NFL postseason could look much different in future years.
The league is exploring the possibility of adding two more playoffs teams – one from each conference – bringing the total number of playoff teams to 14.
"That is under serious consideration," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a recent interview. "We think it's one of the great things about the NFL, besides the fact that it's unscripted. Every team and their fans start the season with hope."
Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti discussed the idea of adding playoff teams during Wednesday's "State of the Ravens" press conference, and indicated that a change could be coming.
"They're talking about expanding the playoffs. It seems to be gaining momentum – adding a seventh team per conference," Bisciotti said.
He did not specify whether he's in favor of expanding the postseason, but spoke more about the logistical considerations of the move.
By adding a seventh playoff team per conference, the NFL would change the playoff structure so that only the top seed in each conference has a first-round bye. Currently, the top two teams in each conference have first-round byes. There would then be a total of six games on the opening playoff weekend, rather than four wild-card games in the current format.
The advantage of adding playoff teams is two-fold: It creates more playoff games and opportunities for additional revenue. It also keeps more teams in the playoff hunt throughout the 16-game regular season, giving fans a reason to stay invested all year even if their team is struggling.
From Bisciotti's perspective, one of the issues to consider is the challenge of selling playoff tickets on short notice. By increasing the number of teams, the playoff picture would be murky until the final weeks of the regular season, creating a challenge for teams to move a large quantity of tickets in a matter of days.
"When you expand, then it's going to mean that there's going to be six other teams that are still in the running that are going to be asking their fans to send in that [playoff ticket]* *money in December to be prepared to have that ticket in hand if you're right back in at the end of the season." Bisciotti said.
Selling playoff tickets was an issue this year as the Packers, Bengals and Colts all struggled to avoid having the game blacked out locally. The Packers rarely have trouble selling seats, but they made the playoffs by winning three of their last four games after their postseason hopes were grim earlier in the year.
"It's not really a lack of a demand as much as it is a logistics problem," Bisciotti said.
"It really came down to the logistics of people come December, and they're 6-6, and they say, 'I'm not paying that $600 for two rounds of playoffs.' And I don't know how you deal with that. But they all sold out, but you only get a week to do it."
The Ravens have never had an issue selling tickets in the regular season or playoffs, as they have sold out every home game in franchise history. The renewal rate for Ravens' season ticket holders is around 98-99 percent, Bisciotti said, and there is also a waiting list to buy season tickets.
"We're very fortunate here, and we thank the fans for that," Bisciotti said. "Other teams struggle a little bit more; that's their problem."