Monday, January 3, 2011

NFL playoff system "broken" but can't be fixed

The NFC West division has been a weak link for years when it comes to the National Football League's playoff seeding procedure, but it hit a new low this season.

After defeating a hapless St. Louis Rams offense last night, led by rookie quarterback Sam Bradford, the Seattle Seahawks became the first team to win a division with a sub-.500 record (7-9). Recently several NFL employees have brought to attention the weak spot in the procedure for figuring out each conference's playoff seeds.

Because of the format (No. 1 thru No. 4 division winners, No. 5 and No. 6 the two Wild Card teams), the Seahawks get to host the 11-5 New Orleans Saints, since they are in a stronger division and didn't win the NFC South. Depending on how the sixth seeded Green Bay Packers do in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Seattle has a slight chance at hosting not just the first week, but the conference championship game as well if they make it that far.
Another thing that was brought to my attention is the fact that two 10-6 NFC teams (New York and Tampa Bay) are both sitting at home watching the playoffs while the Seahawks are not. Funny thing is that both the Giants and Bucs crushed Seattle earlier this season--New York won 41-7 during week nine and Tampa won 38-15 just last week. In the history of the league this is the first year that two 10-6 teams in the same conference missed the postseason.

It's clear that Seattle, who didn't even get to start Matt Hasselbeck in last night's game yet still managed to pull out a victory, doesn't deserve a playoff spot after finishing with a point differential of -97 and going 2-6 on the road.

But lets not get ahead of ourselves. This isn't a fixable system like the NCAA's.

Employees have brought up the idea of changing the format to just picking the top six teams in each conference (record-wise). But what exactly does that fix? I mean yes it does allow the top six teams to make it in to the postseason, but it also completely takes away the whole point of having divisions.

If this change happens sometime in the near future, I am not going to be a happy camper. There would be no reason to have division match-ups and it would take away from the rivalries which have been created through having four divisions in each conference.

If they want to fix the system, you might as well fix the entire format of the league. And that just seems like far too much trouble to go through.

I hope you hear me, Roger Goodell. Do not fix the playoff system. That may temporarily fix the problem, but it will only lead to new problems.

Photo credit: AP Photo/John Froschauer

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