SportsProf

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

Unintended Consequences or Goofiness or Worse in the NFL: St. Louis (7-8) at Seattle (6-9) for NFC West Title and First-Round Home Game

That's not a misprint. Whoever wins this game will host the defending Super Bowl Champion, the New Orleans Saints.

Why? Huh?

Well, because that's what the rules say, namely, that a wild-card team may not host a first-round playoff game, that the division champions who don't get the first-round byes must. So, that means that the Eagles, the NFC East champs, will host one game, as will the NFC West champs, because the NFC South champs (Atlanta) and NFC North champs (Chicago) get the first-round byes. That the two wild-card teams, New Orleans (11-5) and Green Bay (10-6) have better records is of no consequence.

None.

Zippo.

Zilch.

Nada.

So, it's probably time to put up the stop sign after the accident and change the rule to avoid the unintended consequence of having a mediocre if not sub-.500 division champion (which will be the case if Seattle wins tonight) making the playoffs, let alone hosting a first-round playoff game. At a minimum, the owners should change the rules to prevent a sub.500 division champion from hosting a first-round playoff game. Instead, the wild-card team with the better record should get that honor. At a maximum, the no sub-.500 division champion should make the playoffs, period, out of a view that a non-winning season shouldn't be rewarded with a playoff berth.

So, under the "minimum" scenario, New Orleans should be hosting the winner of the St. Louis-Seattle game. Under the "maximum" reform scenario, New Orleans, the best wild-card team, should be hosting a playoff game, with the next-best wild-card team making the playoffs instead of the sub-.500 division champion. That team, I believe would be Tampa Bay (10-6) and, if not, the New York Giants (also 10-6). Under this scenario, Atlanta and Chicago still would get the byes, the Eagles, as the #3 seed, would host Tampa Bay, and New Orleans, the #4 seed, would host the now-#5 seed, Green Bay. Under this scenario, the NFC playoffs would be as competitive as possible.

St. Louis fans, who have reason for optimism, and Seattle fans will not like this commentary or this proposal, but Tampa Bay's and the New York Giants' fans will. If the NFL really means that the playoffs are for the best teams, its competition committee should review the playoff scenario that will arise after tonight's contest in Seattle and see if it can improve upon the status quo.

Especially if Seattle wins, because sub-.500 teams should not make the playoffs.

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