What’s all of the Fuss About?

I feel the need to apologize for the lack of posting as of late, but as Scottie mentioned my computer has taken a nose dive from 10,000 feet without a parachute.  I’m probably going to be without a computer for nearly two weeks, so I’ll post as often as possible, but they may not come with the regularity that you are used to.  Until then, Scottie will hold down the fort as well as he can…

Much is being made of the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks making the playoffs because they have a record below .500, but all of this complaining has me wondering what’s all of the fuss about?  Every team in the NFL knows that coming into each season there is only one guaranteed way to make the playoffs, and that is by winning the division.  The Seahawks did what they had to do to ensure they would be playing past week 17, so why is everyone so aggravated?  I find myself recalling SportsCenter segments just a few years ago that had everyone predicting that an 9-7 Arizona Cardinals team would be a sure bet to lose in the first round of the playoffs.  Sure enough, Kurt Warner and the Cardinals rattled off 3 straight playoff wins and were an amazing Santonio Holmes catch away from winning the Super Bowl.  That same year, an 8-8 San Diego Chargers squad squeaked out an AFC West crown over the Denver Broncos.  How did they celebrate a division win?  The Chargers welcomed in a 12-4 Indianapolis Colts team in the first round of the playoffs and beat them 23-17.  The Chargers lost in the next round to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, but knocking Peyton Manning out of the playoffs is no easy task.

Now that there have been “flaws” discovered in the current NFL playoff and division system, people are beginning to call for division realignment or even playoff reseeding all together.  Honestly, I wouldn’t be completely against playoff reseeding.  I would like to see the NFL stick with the current format in terms of number of teams, but reconsider the seed that each team is given.  For instance, whether or not a team wins the division should have no effect on the seed that they receive, it should only ensure that they receive a playoff birth.  For instance, because the Seahawks won their division, but have the worst record of the 6 NFC playoff teams, they should receive the 6th seed.  The top two teams record wise would continue to get first round byes, then the team with the 3rd best record will play the team with the 6th best record, while the 4 seed will play the 5 seed.  The playoffs would then continue under the current format.  This new method would place a value on both the amount of wins a team gets as well as winning their division.

Although I’m not against revising the current playoff system, that doesn’t mean I’m in favor of blowing up the divisions either.  How quickly we forget that in the early 2000’s, the AFC East was considered to be among one of the worst divisions in the NFL.  In 2002, the Jets won the division with a 9-7 record.  In 2005 the Patriots won the division with a 10-6 record, while the Jets, Dolphins, and Bills combined to have 18 wins.  In 2007, aside from the Pats’ 16-0 regular season, the division did not contain another team with a winning record.  The argument could even be made that without the Patriots’ dominance over the past ten years, the AFC East may be comparable to the NFC West in terms of wins.  That may be a bit of a stretch, but who knows?  I guess my main point here is that the NFL and what divisions are successful are essentially cyclical.  There are particular teams like the Patriots, Colts, Steelers, and Cowboys that are good usually more often than they are bad.  But, even storied franchises like those have their down years.  For all we know, within the next five years, the NFC West could turn into the NFC East or the AFC South of the last five years, where every season those divisions are putting at least two teams, and sometimes three into the playoffs.

As Bill Belichick so eloquently put in his media conference call yesterday, the twelve teams that are in the playoffs all have the same record…0-0.


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