Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Save Our Playoffs!

As the fan of a team that could become the first team in the modern playoff era to go 11-5 and miss out on the postseason, I feel very comfortable saying that Greg Easterbrook is dead wrong in his complaints about the NFL's playoff system. I'm confident the Patriots will manage to find their way in, but even if they don't, you'll hear no complaints from me. This is a season where, if the Patriots had beaten the Steelers a few weeks ago, they'd be playing not in the hopes of the playoff spot, but for the guarantee of a two seed. That's how the NFL works, as a literal game of inches and I've got no regrets.

TMQ's proposal is to eliminate the conference and division distinctions and just seed the best 12 teams. That way, faltering teams like the Cardinals and Broncos would be out, and more deserving teams like the Patriots, Jets and Dolphins would be in. Except, that's not how football works. If you're eliminating the automatic divisional playoff bid, then what's the point of divisions in the first place? Why have them if they're ultimately meaningless. I think most football fans would agree that there's value in divisional play and you don't want to eliminate that value by scrapping the playoff system.

Now perhaps there's something to be said about changing up the seeding. The thought of an 11-5 wild card team in the AFC having to go to play an 8-8 Chargers team or a 9-7 Broncos team seems a bit unfair. But that's a simple, not-so-radical fix. Just seed based strictly on record, with no regard to how one made the playoffs.

Yeah, the NFL has changed it's playoff system several times before, but that doesn't mean scrapping the divisions is a good idea. Divisions have up and down years, as do conferences. Sometimes good teams miss out, but that's just football. Some years, the league as a whole is just more mediocre and you find more 8-8 and 9-7 teams in the playoffs. But don't forget the flip side of mediocrity. All of these teams with good records this year have benefitted from games againast an unusual number of stink factories.


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