Seeds of Doubt

The NFL playoffs are flawed, as this weekend's wild-card games will show. It's high time the league corrected the problem and rewarded teams with the best records—and not just division winners—with home games in the postseason

The forecast for Sunday's 49ers-Packers game at Lambeau Field is for a high of 0 degrees with a 30 percent chance of snow. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The forecast for Sunday’s 49ers-Packers game at Lambeau Field is for a high of 0 degrees with a 30 percent chance of snow. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

I’ll go out on a limb and make one lead-pipe prediction about the NFL playoffs that kick off this weekend:

If the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints hit the road in the NFC’s first round, and the road hits back, the league is going to find itself amid a renewed debate about why it continues to embrace a postseason format where clubs with a better seed but a worse record than their opponent are rewarded with a home game and all the advantages that come with it.

You know what I’m talking about. The 12-4 fifth-seeded 49ers at the 8-7-1 fourth-seeded Packers, in frigid Lambeau Field late Sunday afternoon. And the 11-5 sixth-seeded Saints at the 10-6 third-seeded Eagles, at a frosty Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday night. On their face, those numbers just don’t make sense.

Yep, it’s happening again. The inequality of the NFL’s playoff seeding system will be on full display this weekend, most vividly in the NFC. That’s where two teams which went a combined 23-9 overall and 14-2 at home this season will be on the road and playing in some pretty bitter elements against teams which were just 18-13-1 combined this season (including 8-7-1 at home), but managed to eke out division titles in two of the league’s weakest divisions, the NFC North and NFC East. And in the NFL, division titles trump wild-card qualifiers, no questions asked. Case closed.

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But it’s high time we re-open that case, as the NFL seems to do about every two or three years. You might remember the last time the playoff seeding issue surfaced and prompted sustained conversation within the league regarding the wisdom of prioritizing division titles over overall records. The Saints sure do.

For the second time in four seasons, New Orleans is beginning its playoff run on the road—where its struggles away from the Superdome have been both significant and well-chronicled—against an opponent with a better seed but a worse record.

Three years ago, it was the 11-5 fifth-seeded wild-card Saints at the 7-9 fourth-seeded division champion Seahawks, with Seattle pulling the 41-36 upset in memorable fashion. The win still didn’t get the Seahawks to the .500 mark on the season, but it did get them into the NFC’s divisional round, while the defending Super Bowl champion Saints went home.

In the aftermath of that glaring four-game discrepancy in records, the NFL’s competition committee in early 2011 again considered altering its playoff seeding format in favor of common sense, rewarding teams based on their record rather than giving the four division champions an automatic home game in one of the first two rounds. But the proposal never really went anywhere with the league’s full ownership, because while more than half of the NFL’s teams expressed support, it never came close to garnering the necessary 24 votes for passage.

The verdict? The league always has awarded division champions with at least one home playoff game, and enough owners thought that was a tradition worth keeping. If you didn’t win a division, you didn’t deserve the automatic privilege of playing at home, even if you proved superiority over a certain opponent over the course of the long 16-game regular season.

Not to go all “Fiddler on the Roof’’ on you, but I’m big on tradition, too. I still watch Ohio State-Michigan even when there’s relatively little at stake, can’t imagine Thanksgiving without Detroit and Dallas at home, and like things to stay the same way I remember them. But when tradition stops making sense, we should stop clinging to it. Tradition for tradition sake just isn’t a good enough reason.

I understand you can’t fix everything in the NFL, and there are some challenges that have to be met by teams, rather than smoothed out. But this one is an easy fix, and guaranteeing division champs a playoff berth—but no accompanying home playoff game—seems like the right middle ground to follow.

The bottom line: Finishing with a record that’s 3 1/2 games better than your playoff opponent should count for something.

After all, traditions change all the time. Some are worth keeping. Some aren’t. Believe it or not, the NFL actually used to rotate the home field of its NFC/AFC Championship Games between divisions in the early ‘70s, which is how the undefeated 1972 Dolphins actually had to go on the road to play at 11-3 Pittsburgh in the AFC title game that year. It was the same story in the NFC in 1973, when the 12-2 Vikings had to play the conference title game at Dallas, even though the Cowboys went just 10-4 that season.

If the NFL went by records alone in its playoff seeding, this weekend’s matchups would be quite different in a sense. In the NFC, No. 1 Seattle (13-3) and No. 2 Carolina (12-4) would have still earned a first-round bye, with the Panthers having beaten the 49ers (12-4) head to head in Week 10. But San Francisco would have earned the No. 3 seed with its 12-4 mark, with the Saints being slotted fourth at 11-5. The 10-6 Eagles and 8-7-1 Packers would have brought up the rear at Nos. 5-6.

That would have, of course, flipped this weekend’s two NFC games, with the Packers visiting Candlestick Park, and the Eagles hitting the road for the Superdome and a date with the Saints. Instead of Lambeau and The Linc, the games would have taken place in the relative mild of San Francisco, and under the big top in New Orleans.

This seems like the right time to point out the following:

There’s no team in the playoffs this season with a bigger discrepancy between their home record and road record than the Saints (8-0 versus 3-5), although Cincinnati has the same split. And New Orleans is 0-5 in its playoff history on the road. As for the 49ers, they’ve beaten the Packers three times since the start of 2012, but two of those meetings have come in Candlestick, in last year’s divisional round playoffs and Week 1 of this season. And the bottom line is this: Finishing with a record that’s 3 1/2 games better than your playoff opponent should count for something.

Drew Brees and the Saints didn't lose a game in the Superdome this season, but went 3-5 on the road. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Drew Brees and the Saints didn’t lose a game in the Superdome this season, but went 3-5 on the road. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The AFC playoff picture this weekend would still feature Denver (13-3) and New England (12-4) holding down the top two seeds and receiving a bye. But Indianapolis, rather than earn the No. 4 seed, would be the No. 3 seed, because it would win a three-way tiebreaker at 11-5 with Cincinnati and Kansas City, via its superior conference record. The Bengals would have been the No. 4 seed, while the Chiefs and Chargers (9-7) remained fifth and sixth seeds, respectively.

The change at the No. 3 and No. 4 seed would have resulted in San Diego playing at Indianapolis this weekend, rather than Cincinnati, with Kansas City drawing a trip to the Bengals rather than the Colts. Unless, of course, the locked-into-the-No. 5-seed Chiefs would have played their Week 17 game at the Chargers differently with a high seed still on the line, choosing to not rest seven key starters in what ultimately became a controversial overtime loss to the Chargers.

Which is another good reason the NFL should be interested in seeding by records alone. It would make for more interesting and competitive games late in the season, with teams less likely to rest starters and ease off the gas, because improving one’s seeding would be more within reach. The league a few years back took the welcomed step of moving division games into the final two weeks of the season in order to add more drama to the end of the schedule, but some of those games can still get short-shrift by the vagaries of the seeding system.

It’s time to go all the way on this one, NFL. And it’s time to stop rewarding mediocrity. Just because a team wins a bad division doesn’t mean it deserves the extra treat of a home playoff game. Every win should count for something in the NFL, and homefield advantage should go to the team that won more games all season long, not just proved its mettle in the race with three weak division opponents.

Rather than stay home this weekend, San Francisco will travel to Green Bay and battle both the elements and the Packers at Lambeau. And we know how different the Saints-Eagles game might turn out if New Orleans were in its Superdome comfort zone Saturday night, rather than heading to the chilly northeast on a short week. If the 49ers and Saints hit the road this week, and the road hits back, let’s hope the NFL finally sees fit to outlaw that particular kind of contact in the playoffs.

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336 comments
RoyCrim
RoyCrim

amazing an article about making the game better .. and even easier for a team like the Patriots who have dwelt in the least competitive Division in the NFL for over a dozen years.... 

Don I like you as a writer.. let me do a 180 ---you need to change from the position of  cliched authority figure that you think you write from ..you sound dangerously like Mike Greenberg these days 

JimNoonan
JimNoonan

There are already 334 comments, so I assume someone covered this, but if seeding should be strictly by W-L with no regard to Division record (because that somehow signifies what is "best" in football), why not also ignore Conference records and seed a "NFL Championship Playoff" from the top however many in the league? 


Also I've heard some say that the NFL hangs on to Division seeding in the Wildcard round only because "that's how it's always been done." But if that statement is true, how does one answer that the league has hung on to a Conference structure for exactly the same reason. And then where are you?

jkam
jkam

All divisions have up years and down years.  I don't deny the contention that a better record ought to be given some weight, but ultimately, why have divisions if they don't matter?  Dome teams also have built-in advantages (the Saints defeating the Vikings in the dome); sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn't, but regional differences should play a part in the tradition of the NFL.  Otherwise, play all games on a neutral site--not going to happen!

dopatka
dopatka

Or you could just win your division

JeffMuetz
JeffMuetz

Borrowing a line..No Crying in Football!  The system says you win your division you get a home game. Its that simple. Record be damned just win your dvision.  Packers had a 12-4 season a while back and were still a wild card. We didn't get all mad at the nfl. We just went on the road and played.  Its always easy to complain when you have to travel I guess.   SF should have just beaten the 'hawks and they would have had a home game.

JoeyPerrone
JoeyPerrone

The NFL isn't interested in fairness, it's interested in building it's brand with more entertaining and intriguing games.  Imagine if the Saints would have hosted the Eagles this weekend and the 49ers would have hosted the Packers.  The home teams probably win easily.  But, since the two teams with better records had to play on the road, (which they still won by the way), it creates a much more even matchup.  The NFL would rather have close games with more viewers tuning in than reward the teams with better records with a home playoff game.  Clearly, the better teams all won the wildcard games this weekend.    


The only way to resolve this issue is to realign the divisions.  Two eight team divisions in each conference.  The top three teams in each division goes to the playoffs, the two division winners get the byes.  The two wildcard teams play each other in the first round, then the winner plays the division winner in the second round.  Now, I'm not sure how the regular season schedule would be created from this type of realignment, obviously you wouldn't have four teams in one division playing each other six times during the season.  Now some people would argue that this may destroy the rivalries in the NFL, but I disagree.  Can you honestly tell me that the Jaguars and Titans is a rivalry, just because they play in the same division?  The 49ers and Packers have on of the biggest rivalries in the NFL, and they don't play in the same division.  Playoff meetings create rivalries, not meaningless division games.  

gregatacd
gregatacd

Simple solution. Use the current system to figure out WHO you play, then use the record to determine WHERE you play. So in this case, they should have been at Candlestick instead of Lambeau, and New Orleans would have hosted the Iggles.

Fred29
Fred29

Division winners should get a first round home game. They deserve it for winning the division...


...unless they finish at .500 or worse, then the home game goes to a wildcard if they have a better record.


No 7-9 team should ever again be rewarded with a home playoff game. No reward for mediocrity. You should need a winning record to host a playoff game in the first round.

ianlinross
ianlinross

Next week's topic for Don is seeding according to strength of schedule.

BallRush
BallRush

Don - I have read below the many well thought out arguments that readers have against your thesis.  I think it's clear that you missed the boat on this one.  So I think you should do a retract or add a comment below and give a pat on the back to the fans who got their minds working and wrote solid and convincing arguments.

jrunner746
jrunner746

And I get it, I had a few grammar mistakes. Hopefully if you decide to disagree you use more than the classic "learn to spell or use proper grammar" argument to try to refute me. And when I said "even if Dallas had won if San Antonio had dominated," I meant that even if Dallas won the first round and then San Antonio dominated the 2nd round. 


I"m sorry, I just wanted to clarify!  

jrunner746
jrunner746

The only way that the NFL will think about changing is IF the Saints and 49ers both win. If they lose, the NFL can do what its' always done and say "well, the system works, the "higher" seed won." Before you bash me and vehemently disagree, please actually read everything below.


Case in point, the NBA. Until 2006, the playoffs used to be similar to NFL - division winners automatically got the top seeds. That year, San Antonio and Dallas were in the hunt for the best record in the league. One problem - they both played in the same division. So instead, Dallas, which had the 2nd best record, was the 4th seed. Adding to the problem was the fact that another division champ and #3 seed, the Nuggets, were actually weaker than the Grizzlies and Clippers, who were going for the 5th and 6th seeds. So this turned into a tankfest between the Clippers and Grizzlies, which the Clippers "won" because though they were the 6th seed, they played a significantly weaker Nuggets team, while Memphis had to play Dallas.

Here's what happened: Dallas swept Memphis, proving they were the better team, while the Clippers beat the Nuggets. Then, as Dallas and San Antonio had to play in 2nd round instead of Conference finals, had an epic 7-game series which resulted in Dallas winning. NBA soon changes the rules to allow a chance for a "wild card" at a 

top 3 seed, and even after that the teams with the better record regardless of seed still had home-court advantage.


Why did the NBA finally change?? Because everything that NEEDED to happen happened. Dallas needed to sweep Memphis which was step 1 of the "flaw," the Clippers needed to beat Denver, and finally Dallas and San Antonio needed an evenly matched series with a bonus of Dallas winning. At that point, it was clear it didn't work. If Memphis had beaten Dallas or at least played them to 7 games? If Denver beat the Clippers? Or even if Dallas won if San Antonio dominated? - Guaranteed, NBA playoffs would NOT have changed.


What does this have to do with NFL? In 2008 the wild card 12-4 Colts had to visit the division champs 8-8 Chargers, and in 2010 the wild card (and defending champion) 11-5 Saints had to visit the division champs 7-9 Seahawks. Both the Chargers and Seahawks won. IF the Colts and the Saints had won, I am willing to bet the NFL would have made changes. But because the home team and "higher" seed won - NFL could simply say, "the system works, higher seed wins."


There will be NO changes unless the 49ers AND the Saints not only win, but thorouglhy dominate.

kwp61
kwp61

Remember folks, it's all about the money! That is what created the wild card. More games more $$$$$$$$$  Send them all to Honolulu one week at a time to spread the warm rainbow and every one can have a chance one week at a time. Oh, more importantly SI needs some thing to write about to keep its eventual paper death prolonged.

Christian_X
Christian_X

Hey, maybe we should make some concessions here: a process by which teams who couldn't manage to win their division could still have a shot at the Superbowl.

Oh, wait.  We already HAVE that.  It's called "the wildcard".

To be granted a second chance which you haven't actually earned, then to piss and moan because you don't get home field advantage on top of it?  Really?

What next?  "No Team Left Behind"?  Everyone gets a trophy, so nobody gets butthurt?

Pull your damn skirts down and count your blessings.  Seriously.

Christian_X
Christian_X

Why should it count for something?  If you want home field, WIN YOUR DIVISION.  If you don't win your division, you are NOT a division champion, therefore you haven't earned a damn thing. 

The very fact that wildcards even exist in the first place was to be fair: to give LOSERS with a strong season record a 2nd chance to remain in the hunt.  In short, the concession for which people are whining has already been made, by creating the wildcard.

Alternatively, they could just eliminate wildcards altogether and have only the division champions proceed to the playoffs.

Ajax418
Ajax418

The divisions were created to generate or to keep storied rivalries that are more or less regional. Think about the Seahawks-49ers, Ravens-Steelers, Jets-Patriots, Green-Bay-Chicago, these rivalries are alive and well because the teams meet twice a year and play in the same division. 


The goal of each NFL general manager is to win its division because it's the only way to assure you of getting into the playoffs. Remember the Texans drafting Mario Williams so they could finally pass the Colts and sack Peyton Manning on their way to the AFCS title. Now, we know how it turned out, but back then it seemed like a good plan.


If you don't win your division there's a way that we'll allow your team in the tournement and it's to play agaisnt a team that won its division and to play at its premises. 


Keep it as it is. 

DonnyZunker
DonnyZunker

Hmmm... Sounds like you don't like the rules... okay... let's just have the 2 best teams in the NFC and the AFC play each other for the league championship then have the Super Bowl... skip all the Wildcard games... that would remove worst teams that win a division by 'accident.'


In 2010, the Packers were the 6th seed and went all the way, playing road games all the way... Howie Long called the Packers the most dangerous 6th seed ever...


IF you are the best, regardless of your seeding, prove it. Play the games, regardless of location, win and move on...


History, the fans, and sport writers will debate the results forever...

dongardner88
dongardner88

Why are all of the SI writers whining about playoff seedings now? Never heard a peep while the Patriots were having 12 win seasons while going 6-0 against a very weak AFC East. Why not eliminate divisional rivalries and just make it conference standings? Because the fans (remember them?) would lose interest.

RyanWI
RyanWI

If we want to give a trophy to the best team, just award it at the end of the regular season to the team with the best record and be done with it.  The NFL playoffs aren't about crowning the "best team."  They are about crowning a "champion."  The playoffs are a tournament of division champions to create a conference champion.  Then a game between conference champions to select a league champion.  The wild cards are thrown in to acknowledge good teams in tough divisions.  We don't need to baby non-champions any more than we already do by giving them a playoff spot.


If you want to seed the teams by conference, then there is really no point to having divisions to begin with.  In fact, why not just eliminate the conferences and seed all of the teams in the league?  It's the same argument.

Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan
Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan

Switching to playoff seeding based on record alone makes little sense.The current system is a little like our jury system.While certainly not perfect, it’s the best thing out there.

If playoff seeding should be based on record alone, then why even have divisions within a conference?In theory, divisional matchups are more competitive because those teams are far more familiar with each other—i.e., they play each other NOT ONCE, but TWICE EVERY SEASON.The divisional winner should therefore enjoy what little comes with home field advantage, which, I think, is overrated—except for the Saints.(If the Saints can’t secure a playoff win outside the comfy confines of the Superdome, then should a team with such a fundamental playoff flaw ever be considered a champion?)

The current system does NOT reward mediocrity.It rewards excellence.If NFL history teaches us anything, it’s that anyone—REGARDLESS of record—can win the Super Bowl.Just ask the last three Super Bowl winners—the “mediocre” 2012 Ravens, the “mediocre” 2011 Giants, and the “mediocre” 2010 Packers.

Senseone
Senseone

The next step in this theory is that the top 6 teams are in the playoffs for each conference.Why should a team that can't win it's Division get some special treatment. If they want home field advantages then a team should win their Division, end of story. This tearing down of the fabric of the NFL to make it more a fantasy football league is getting old. 


If all these changes continue, then the NFL should lose it's exemptions and the game blackouts should also be a thing of the past. See what the owners and Goodell think of that.



Ruprecht
Ruprecht

The most valid point is that the sitting of the starters does take away from 1 game (rarely, possibly 2) at the end of the season. But that's not enough to re-work the only legitimate playoff system system in the big 4 leagues (baseball is arguable, but losing ground with this ridiculous 1 game additional wildcard crap). If the highly improbable scenario of a team winning its division with a record of 3-13 comes to pass (or the even more ludicrous 0-10-6), then let's argue about it.

ArvinMarvin
ArvinMarvin

Be careful what you ask for. There needs to be motivation to play for the division championship. Coasting to a wild card while resting veterans for the playoffs... that is what you want??? Really???

thepatrat
thepatrat

The seeding should stay the way it is because comparing records between teams within a divisions is comparing apples to apples but comparing records between teams in different divisions is comparing apples to oranges.

Any 2 teams in the same division play each other twice and 12 of their remaining 14 games are with common opponents.  Thus the team that wins the division has achieved a better record than all their division rivals on essentially an even field of opponents.

Not so with 2 teams in the same conference but in different divisions.  Depending on the schedule they could at best they play each other once, and share common opponents in 8 of the remaining 15 games.  At worst, they could not play each other at all and play only 4 of their 16 games against common opponents.  So if wildcard team A has a record of 11-5 and division winner team B (from a different division) has a record of 10-6, who is to say that team A is really the better team.  No! Don't mess with the current system that rewards the division winner that has clearly beaten out 3 division rivals on essentially equal footing with higher seeding and a home game.

Hythedoc
Hythedoc

As a season ticket holder, I like the fact that I have a 25% chance of a home playoff game. I would agree to your system if the NFL played a balanced schedule. A strong team in a weak division has the strongest advantage for a high seed, but all of your points are quite valid.  I propose that to have a home playoff game that a team must win a division and achieve 9 wins otherwise the game is awarded to the wild card with the best record.

EmmittDale
EmmittDale

The number one goal goal for any coach or GM is to win the division. Entire rosters are built around that mantra. If you can't accomplish this, then you are LUCKY to make the playoffs. That's why it's a WILD CARD. Once the playoffs start, all bets are off. But winning the division should be priority number one for every team and it is.

tobywalker03
tobywalker03

The premise behind your argument makes sense, but in essence what your saying is the "the six teams with the best regular-season records should make the playoffs - with the seeding ordered by record." That defeats the entire purpose that division-system and the wild-card slots serve.


The wild-card slots are great. They take into account the existence of situations where talent-pools may be skewed towards certain divisions. For example, take a look at the NFC South: NO and CAR are two teams within the SAME DIVISION who have league-leading records ... it wouldn't be fair to exclude NO from the playoffs, so they take the wild-card route. If they would have executed better in the regular-season, they'd have their "wittle-dome" to play in, but they didn't. They knew what was at stake as well. 


NO does not deserve to outseed a division-winner when the division-winner knew what was at stake - just as they did. Plain and simple: WIN YOUR DIVISION. 


The idea of a wild-card team out-seeding a divisional-winner, IMO, will never materialize.

WindellCotton
WindellCotton

Divide the conferences into one big division and let the eight best records in. Never will happen. 

DamienW
DamienW

Want to play at home in the playoffs? Win.


Want to win the Super Bowl? Win every game in the playoffs no matter where it's played.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

You want to fix the problem? Eliminate wildcards altogether. Seed the four division winners in each conference  by record and that's it. I know that will never happen. In fact, I bet that in five years or so there will be more wildcards added. In time in will be worse than hockey. Why not seed every team for the playoffs? Give division winners a bye, then everyone else plays the first round. That way a team like the Houston Texans at 2-14 could still win it all. That's what Goodell and the gang has in store for us. So stop worrying about how the system works now. It will get worse, not better.

JayKerosetz
JayKerosetz

Wild card teams always travel because they were not good enough to win their own division.   You can't base seeding on record alone because playoff Team A and playoff Team B do not play the same schedule.   If your crying now that one division is weaker than another, your going to be crying later that one team's schedule is weaker than another.    Just shutup and win your division!

rakabar
rakabar

It's very easy, get rid of wild cards and go with Division winners.  

JohnFerguson
JohnFerguson

When the division winner has a worse record than the wildcard team, they could use there record in the final three games to make the decision. The team with the better record in the final three games gets the home field advantage.

DanaTanksleyCoffin
DanaTanksleyCoffin

Every team knows what it takes to be one of the higher seeded teams. Play and win in the regular season and this wouldn't be an issue during playoffs. No one can predict how good or bad a division will be any given season, but all teams know what they must do. Quit complaining when YOUR favorite team doesn't quite get the job done and then has to go on the road to play a team with a worse record. Get the job done playing that team with the worse record in the playoffs!

RockyFortune
RockyFortune

i'm not following logic here..you may as well get rid of all the divisions and put everyone in one conference if you take away the reward of winning your division.  you state its time to get rid of rewarding mediocrity...isn't going 3-5 away from your home field mediocrity?

bjvande
bjvande

@Senseone The solution here is to move away from the four team divisions, where division play is heavily weighted.   Go back to something like the AFC/NFC only, with 16 teams in each, pick the top four on each side (no byes), and play it out.   

Frostbite
Frostbite

@Ruprecht I agree on baseball, if they wanted to make winning the division mean more just do not give the wild card winner any home games, at least in the first round.

JCC1962
JCC1962

@thepatrat Not true. Every team plays a #1, #2 #3 & #4 place team based on the previous season's records, 4 times in any season. Teams in the same division DO NOT play the exact same opponents. Each division's opponents play each other in home & away games. That is 6 games. They will face an opposite conference division (on a rotational basis which was determined by the NFL several years ago) and will play 2 home & away games, brining the game count to 10. I will also point out that these opponents will not necessarily have the same home & away match-ups. They will also play a different division from the same conference on a rotational basis, same as above. 4 more games, total is now 14. The remaining 2 games are determined on where your team finished last year. The 1st place team then plays the 1st place team from the other 2 divisions from the same conference. The second place does the same & so on. The reason for this is that YOU CAN-NOT play yourself. This is the most sensible thing the NFL has come up with to ensure parity & can only be possible by having exactly 32 teams; 2 conferences & 4 divisions in each conference, 16 game total. And as an aside, this makes it increasingly difficult for NFL to expand or to change to an 18 game season. So, it is important to win your division to get into the playoffs & I believe the NFL is doing a great job with divisional matchups in the last 3-4 weeks of the season. Rivalries are great for the sport. But a wild card team that wins 11 or 12 games in the same division as a 13-3 or 14-2 team & has to play on the road to a division winner that has less wins does not make sense as far as parity is concerned as the NFL has devised it. There should be a reason why you play to the end of the season & not rest your starters because of a meaningless game (like KC did in San Diego).

EmmittDale
EmmittDale

Best analysis that I have heard, and I doubt anyone could forge a logical argument against it. Kudos.

JCC1962
JCC1962

@tobywalker03 I stand corrected, after a little research I find that it was NFC West 2010 Seahawks with a 7-9 record. It bumped both/either the Giants & Bucs who both had 10-6 records. The system is flawed.

JCC1962
JCC1962

@tobywalker03 I suppose you like the 7-9 division winner from the NFC north a few years ago? Do you believe they really deserved a home playoff game?

Frostbite
Frostbite

@Rickapolis I would actually like to see that but no byes. Have the first two rounds be intra division then always have the East winner play the South and the North play the West. Finally the winners of those two games play for the conference championship then the superbowl

BillMarkley
BillMarkley

@JayKerosetz That is exactly what I was thinking.  The Colts have three loosing teams in their division and were 6-0 against them.  Put them in any other division and they are 4-2 in the division and 9-7 overall but he is making an argument they should be a higher seed because they play in the weakest division.  That does not make sense.

jackal5
jackal5

@RockyFortune That's missing the point and putting words in his mouth. He's not saying Arizona should leapfrog Green Bay and make the playoffs which is what would happen in your one conference idea. Each division would still get representation in the playoffs. I'm also confused about why the logic of a team with a better record should get a higher seed is so difficult for you to follow.

thepatrat
thepatrat

@JCC1962@thepatratYou are right about the parity rule - which I think is wonderful since it has brought us so many Brady-Manning bowls over the year.  However note I said, "14 of 16 remaining games" and "exactly the same opponents".  I stand behind "essentially an even playing field" because the parity rule only accounts for 2 games, teams do not always perform consistently from year to year (see Houston), and it is purposely designed to make it a little bit tougher for good teams to maintain supremacy in their division and a little easier for bad teams to improve.  There is no such purposeful design when comparing two random teams from different divisions.  As to your concern about the 13-3 or 14-2 wild card team, their record indicates that they played two games against one strong divisional opponent but says nothing about the strength of the rest of their schedule.  All the rest of their opponents could be weak.  Under new seeding rules I could devise a scenario in which an 12-4 wild card, with a really weak schedule hosts a 11-5 division winner with the toughest schedule in the league.  We can trade scenarios all day because the reality is you are comparing apples to oranges (teams with potentially very different schedules).  You have a point about avoiding meaningless games at the end but reseeding would not eliminate the problem entirely, and in the KC case it would have lowered the stakes in its games with Denver earlier in the season. Bottom line: If you want a home game you've got to do better than the 3 teams with nearly the identical schedule.  That seems fair to me!

Frostbite
Frostbite

@JCC1962 @tobywalker03 As a Buc Fan I wish we made the playoffs that year but we were not the best team, were not even the 2nd best in our division so we really had no beef.

Frostbite
Frostbite

@jackal5 @RockyFortune Jackal, the logic is easy enough to follow, see if you can follow this logic: They are trying to determine the best team, if you finish in second place you are not the best team because there is 1 team better than you who has played a very similar schedule to you. A fist place team no matter their record is the best team from that group. As such the 2nd place team should be thankful the NFL has 6 playoff spots.

Paulland81
Paulland81

@jrunner746@Frostbite@JCC1962@tobywalker03You can't be certain the 10-6 Bucs were a better team than the 7-9 Seahawks unless they played the same opponents. Not to mention, this happened once (7-9 team winning a division). I don't see the sense in overhauling a system when these perceived inequities happen infrequently. Divisions need to mean something, otherwise, get rid of them like so many other posters have stated.

jrunner746
jrunner746

@Frostbite @JCC1962 @tobywalker03 Maybe YOU didn't. I am willing to bet that most of your fellow Bucs fans would have vehemently disagreed with you and some probably questioned if you were a "true fan." So don't say "we" because I find it hard to believe that most your fellow fans "had no beef." 

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