What would a 36-team NFL Expansion look like?

The NFL has recently seen two moves to Los Angeles, with another move on the way when the Raiders move to Vegas.  Perhaps the league will also think about expanding?  After all, there is still plenty of viable markets for NFL teams.  The 4 that stick out the most to me are San Antonio, Portland, St. Louis, and Toronto.  The way I would reorganize this league would be to have 3 divisions comprising of 6 teams in each conference.  The divisions would be called the East, Central, and West.  It might look something like this:

AFC East AFC Central AFC West NFC East NFC Central NFC West
New York Jets Pittsburgh Los Angeles Chargers New York Giants Green Bay Seattle
Miami Cincinnati Las Vegas Washington Chicago San Francisco
New England Cleveland Denver Philadelphia Detroit Los Angeles Rams
Buffalo Indianapolis Kansas City Tampa Bay Minnesota Arizona
Baltimore Tennessee Houston Carolina New Orleans Dallas
Toronto Jacksonville San Antonio Atlanta St. Louis Portland
Why the Four teams that I chose?

Well, San Antonio and Portland have a significant history of supporting basketball teams.  Texas is a state with a strong love for football, and could certainly handle a third team in San Antonio.  Portland on the other hand could start a strong rivalry with the Seahawks.  I think they’d fit perfectly in the NFC West.  Toronto is an interesting one.  The other “Big 4” leagues all have a team there, so I think the whole country of Canada could unite behind this team.  The problem would be that this is “American” football, and this proposed expansion could upset a lot of fans.  However, it’s been rumored that the Bills could relocate there.  So if the NFL were to choose 4 cities to expand to, it wouldn’t shock me if they chose Toronto as one of them.  St. Louis deserves another chance, as the lackluster attendance for Rams games probably had a lot to do with more than 10 years of bad play.

Keeping current rivalries, Reigniting old ones, Starting new ones

I tried to keep all the great rivalries the NFL has come to know in the same division.  The members of the AFC East, AFC West, NFC North, and NFC West are still tied together.  Baltimore leaves its old rivals for the AFC East.  While it would signal less games against the Steelers, it would mean more clashes with the Patriots.  Besides, when the Colts used to play in Baltimore, they played in the AFC East.  Dallas leaves the NFC East for the West, as geographically it makes more sense.  As a Giants fan, I do have a strong hate for Dallas, and would not want the classic NFC East rivalries to cease.  However, Dallas would reignite an old rivalry with San Francisco in the NFC West, and that would be great to watch.  New Orleans leaves the other members of the NFC South.  Once again, it makes sense geographically.  The Texans may leave its division mates in the AFC South, but it could start an interstate rivalry with the expansion San Antonio team.

How would scheduling/playoffs be done?

Unfortunately, having big divisions would mean that inter-conference play would end.  Giants-Jets and Rams-Chargers games would only happen in preseason, instead of every 4 years.  Teams would meet up with their division rivals twice a year, once at home and once on the road.  That would take up 10 of the 16 games.  The other 6 games would be playing half the teams from the other two divisions from the conference that a team is in.  For example, the Giants could play the Packers, Lions, Bears, Seahawks, 49ers, and Rams one year, and the next year they’d switch to the other teams from those divisions.  Home-field advantage would rotate each time a team would play the other team.

As for the playoffs, more teams should mean more teams in the playoffs.  I think it would make sense if there was 7 seeds per conference instead of 6.  The catch is, only the highest seed gets a first-round bye.  The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd seed would all be the division winners, and the big divisions would probably eliminate the problem of having a mediocre team win a terrible division (like the 2010 Seahawks or the 2014 Panthers).  The 4th seed would get to host the 5th seed in the Wild Card, as they are the highest Wild Card team.  The 2nd seed would play the 7th, and the 3rd would play the 6th.  Yes, this would mean Wild Card weekend is 6 games long.  I could easily see the NFL doing this, as more football = more money.

Other Misc Things/Conclusion

So this is obviously just a fun little proposal I had in mind, but it is interesting to think about where the NFL could expand to next.  The NHL’s recent expansion to Vegas shows that expanding can lead to success.  For funsies, let’s choose some names for the 4 expansion teams I created.  San Antonio could be the Bull Moose, which is a name inspired by Teddy Roosevelt.  Every single team name in the NFL ends with an “s”, and San Antonio would end that trend.  Portland could be the Lumberjacks, or simply the “Jacks”.  Toronto could be the “Rednwhite”, given that they’re the only Canadian team and those are the colors of their flag.  That name may sound stupid to some, but I think it’s kinda cool.  St. Louis could be the Arches, after their famous gateway arch.  So, that’s my 36-team NFL.  It sure would be different.

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