You can blame the New Orleans Saints, if you want, but the NFL is looking to make changes to the way the playoff teams are decided. The reason you can blame the Saints (or the Atlanta Falcons), by the way, is because they’re currently slated to make it into the postseason with a less than impressive 6-8 record — which says more about the dismal NFC South than anything else — which really hurts fans of teams like the San Diego Chargers or the Kansas City Chiefs, who are both above .500 but look to be on the outside of the hunt for the Lombardi trophy when all is said and done.
No one likes this. Well, that’s not exactly true (we’re sure that Saints and Falcons fans are thrilled), but it does speak against the innate idea of fairness that most fans take to be gospel when it comes to sports. There’s a reason why everyone hated the replacement referees, and it had little to do with the fact that the real referees were gone: It was simply the fact that they were getting things wrong. Your mind probably leapt to Golden Tate’s touchdown that really wasn’t against Green Bay last year, and that’s exactly it. The same way that awarding points to a catch that never happened doesn’t rub many people the right way, leaving “better” teams out of the playoffs because of divisional rankings seems wrong.
Luckily, the NFL is looking to vote on playoff expansion, and in the process, they’ll be examining how reseeding would look. We’ll apply that to this year’s current slate of playoff teams, and give you an expanded overview of what the postseason would look like under these new rules (which won’t apply to the games coming up in a couple months). All standings courtesy of Pro Football Reference, and accurate through week 15.
First and foremost, under the proposed new rules, the two teams with the best records (one in the AFC, one in the NFC) would get a first round bye, so the New England Patriots and the Arizona Cardinals(?!) would each be sitting out the first round with their 11-3 seasonal win-loss totals so far. From there, because the other goal is to expand the playoff pool from 12 total teams to 14, two divisional champions would get home field advantage — while the exact method is unclear, we’ll assume that it would be the Lions in the NFC and the Denver Broncos in the AFC — with the remaining eight teams ranked according to their record.
For the NFC, that would mean that, in descending seeding order, the remaining teams in the playoffs would be the Dallas Cowboys, the Green Bay Packers, the Seattle Seahawks (all at 10-4) and the Philadelphia Eagles, who are currently 9-5. In the AFC, the remaining playoff bracket would be filled by the Indianapolis Colts (at 10-4), and three NFC North teams — the Bengals (9-5), the Steelers (9-5), and the Ravens (also 9-5).
That seems much more just to us, even if it does give the short end of the stick to the NFC South. Anyway, the owners will vote on this idea, or something close to it, in March, so this winter’s playoffs will remain business as usual. We just hope this is adopted soon, not only because it leads to more football, but also because it would raise the quality of the NFL postseason, which is what we all really want in the end, right?