How the New England Patriots would be affected by NFL expansion

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 21: A general view of the field prior to the game between the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders at Estadio Azteca on November 21, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 21: A general view of the field prior to the game between the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders at Estadio Azteca on November 21, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots will play in Mexico City this weekend, and that of course always brings up rumors of international NFL expansion.

The New England Patriots are no strangers to International Series games. They’ve played twice in London, and now they will face the Raiders in Mexico City. The international games could one day become an every year occurrence.

The NFL could look to expand in the future, and teams in England, Canada, and Mexico are all possible.

For now, I took a crack at what NFL expansion may look like, with the addition of four more NFL teams. That would be quite the shakeup in the league, and New England would surely be affected. An expansion of four teams would bring the league total to 36, and therefore I am predicting the creation of new NFL Divisions. Those would be the AFC and NFC East, Central, and West.

Possible Expansion Cities


The NFL could look to expand the game internationally, and they would surely be able to find a home in Toronto. Canada loves football, as they have the CFL, but an NFL team would be a whole new ball game. Canada could one day have a number of NFL teams, but Toronto is the most logical place to begin. A ton of Buffalo Bills fans live north of the border, and with their own team, they would surely become passionate. The city already has the Argonauts, but the NFL is on a different level.

Mexico City

Mexico City has hosted a few NFL games, and they will again on Sunday as the Patriots play the Raiders. The game of American Football continues to grow in Mexico, and there is clearly a strong fan base there. Giving the city and country their own team would be huge.


London hosts NFL games every single season, and they probably want their own team. The issue here is just how far away London is from every other NFL city. The travel pressures put on an NFL team in London would be tough to overcome.

San Antonio

Texas already has two teams, in Dallas and Houston, but San Antonio deserves a team as well. The San Antonio Spurs are currently the only hot ticket in town, and the city would surely rally around a new NFL squad.


Keep Austin weird! That’s the motto in this funky Texas city, and they sure love their football. Texas Longhorn fans are some of the best in college football, and I wouldn’t be surprised if an NFL team here adopted the same burnt orange color scheme.

San Jose

The Bay Area is losing the Oakland Raiders soon, and it doesn’t seem like an NFL team will ever return there. If the league wants to return a franchise to the Bay, San Jose may be the best bet. A rivalry with San Francisco would be an instant draw.


The Pacific Northwest needs more NFL football. Right now, the entire state of Oregon has just the Oregon Ducks and Oregon State Beavers in the college ranks. We know how crazy those fans can be, and it would be fun to see an NFL franchise up there. Of course, they would become division rivals with the nearby Seattle Seahawks.


Another option in the northwest is to add another Canadian team. Vancouver lives and breathes for their Canucks in the NHL, and it would be interesting to see how they adopt a football team in the city. The BC Lions of the CFL call Vancouver home, but the NFL would probably take over.

My Picks for NFL Expansion

Toronto Huskies

The first NFL team in Canada should be on the east coast. The Huskies is a great name for a team there, and they could come up with some great logos and looks in blue and white to match their neighboring Maple Leafs.

San Antonio Toros

San Antonio and Texas could support a new NFL team. The market may not be as large as Houston or Dallas, but it’s there as one of the best options available.

Mexico City Lobos

Mexico City would join the NFL as the second international team. It’s not too far away, so travel wouldn’t be that tough, and in a division out west with lots of Hispanic heritage, this would be a fun team to add.

Portland Lumberjacks

The Seattle Seahawks need a real rival, and the Portland Lumberjacks would be just the right answer. The proximity of both teams to one another would be great for the league.

New NFL Divisions

AFC East: Buffalo, Jacksonville, Miami, New England, New York Jets, Toronto

The current AFC East would see the addition of the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Toronto expansion team. The Jags don’t have a huge history or ties to their rivalries in the AFC South, so this is an easy move. They also get the added benefit of having the Dolphins become a yearly rival.

AFC Central: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Houston, Indianapolis

You simply have to keep the current AFC North teams together. They would reclassify as theCentral, with Houston and Indianapolis joining the mix. This could become the best division in the NFL.

AFC West: Denver, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Mexico City

Keeping the current AFC West teams together would make the most sense here. The new expansion team in Mexico City would be added, and the Rams would come over from the NFC. The Rams and Chargers should play every season, and this will allow for that to happen. There’s a lot of travel in this division, but the LA teams are spoiled with, technically, an extra home game each year.

NFC East: Atlanta, Dallas, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Washington

You can’t break up the current NFC East, but you can add some up and coming competitive teams. The Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers could add a lot of intrigue to this division.

NFC Central: Carolina, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, San Antonio, Tennessee

The NFC Central was a tough division to come up with. There simply aren’t a ton of teams in the central United States, and a few leftovers from the east coast had to be added. This is a strange division, with lots of travel, but that’s a sacrifice the NFL would likely be willing to make. Of course, breaking up the current NFC North was tough, but I did my best to keep 2 rivals together, so the Bears and Lions share this division.

NFC West: Arizona, Green Bay, Minnesota, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle

Green Bay and Minnesota are technically not west coast teams, but it works for this division. They lose Chicago and Detroit as rivals, but Portland, San Fran, and Seattle could be very strong replacements. The Arizona Cardinals though would likely have a tough time competing here.

Playoff Format

With 6 divisions instead of 8, the playoff picture would become a little different. Each division champion would make the playoffs, with the top 2 teams in each conference earning the bye week and the top seeds. Instead of just two Wild Card teams though, we would get 3. That would mean the 3-seed, a division winner, would play the lowest Wild Card seed. The other two Wild Card teams would face off. The rest of the playoff format would remain the same, with the lowest remaining seed facing the #1 seed and so on.

The new format would put more emphasis on the overall record, so a team that finishes 2nd in their division at 10-6 would not be skipped over for an 8-8 team just because they won their division.

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Impact on the New England Patriots

New England would maintain their rivalries with their current AFC East opponents, but two new teams would be added to the mix. Jacksonville would become the second Florida-based team in the division, and that would create a pretty nice rivalry between the Jaguars and Dolphins. Toronto would be an expansion team joining the AFC East, and like the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, fans would grow to hate one another.

The Patriots would still have a similar path to the playoffs if they are able to keep up with their current production level. There’s no reason that New England wouldn’t be the top team in this new AFC East.

Next: A look at the Patriots and Raiders history

Overall, I believe expansion would be huge for the NFL, especially in Mexico and Canada. Fans in London may be upset, but it’s just too far for a team to travel from week to week. Right now, our friends to the north and south deserve the NFL franchises. Now, I do not expect a radical change like this right now, with how high the NFL’s ratings already are, but it’s fun to speculate. The Patriots, as long as they have Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, would still be favorites to win it all each season, but when that era ends, new hatred and strong rivalries could be built with the Jaguars and Toronto.