I cannot remember a time in my recent memory (meanwhile the NFL is not my specialty in terms of pre-1996 so I’m sure someone else can come close) where the playoff picture was this… strange. Yes, that is a good word for it... strange. I can't call it an abortion, say teams got raped, etc., because this is the nature of divisional play. I know Grau Geist and his wisdom to fix the MLB and NFL to perfection (i.e. making penalties reviewable and changing the MLB playoffs) is definitely more suited to write this. However, I hope my comments will simply get him going on this site again and he'll write a rebuttal or something.
The first order of business the NFL needs to deal with this offseason (other than a lockout?): A team with a losing record simply should not make the playoffs. The 7-9 Seattle Seahawks got an ever-so-painful to watch win last night against the St. Louis Rams. Charlie "Who's that? No really, who is that?" Whitehurst, making his second NFL start ever, was described as “almost perfect” by Michaels and Collinsworth in the booth. Now, while the Rams showed promise all season as a much better team than last season, they simply aren't the most equipped team either. For Whitehurst to complete 61% of his passes for under 200 yards and a touchdown does not deserve that kind of a compliment. He simply wasn’t bad enough to lose the game,and his defense held a one dimensional offense to no touchdowns so they won. More simply, the Seahawks second string quarterback beat a second rate team to get into the playoffs.
To put this in perspective, the 7 and 9 Seahawks are one of the 12 teams to make the playoffs. This is saying they are in the top 35.7% of teams in the NFL (12 of 32). However the following teams all missed the playoffs: Rams and Dolphins (both 7-9) had equal records to Seattle, Raiders and Jaguars finished 8 and 8, Chargers finished 9-7, and the Giants and Buccaneers finished 10-6. These are 7 other teams equal or better than the Seahawks when omitting division play. Take SOMETHING else into account here. Football doesn’t really allow for 1 game playoffs like Baseball could, but there are so many stats followed that could decide this rather than if you beat your horrible division. Strength of schedule? Net points? Hell I’d even settle for number of pro-bowlers on the roster! The real kicker is how this team will now play AT HOME against the Saints that went 11-5 in the first round of the playoffs. Just too much to be said about this. Let’s look at the good side - going off at 150 to 1 to win the Superbowl as of this morning, the Seahawks may be worth your $5 investment as noted by a friend of mine via facebook.
The Colts will host the Jets, the Chiefs host the Ravens, and the Seahawks the Saints. Why is this strange? The Jets had a better record than the Colts, the Ravens better than the Chiefs, and the Saints better than the Seahawks. The Eagles who host the Packers, are even with them at 10-6, however the Cheese head Packers beat the Dog loving Eagles in week 1 this season IN Philly. Simply switch the location for all of these wildcard playoff games and you’d get it right.
Those are my two main gripes. This is my favorite stat at season's end. Quiz time: Who had the best divisional record this year? If you guessed the 14-2 Patriots, you’d be wrong. While the Pats finished 5-1 in the AFC East (losing only to the Jets once), the 8 and 8 Oakland Raiders would be the correct answer. Going 6-0 in the AFC West, the Raiders become just the second team ever to go undefeated in their division and miss the playoffs. According to the NFL what you do in your division is absolutely insignificant unless you beat the same amount of other teams (but it doesn’t matter who) outside the division as someone else in your division. Congrats boys!
Screw it… I’m done. This is actually making me sorry I used the word "strange" before and not the acronym "FUBAR." This divisional way of seeding the playoff matchups is disgusting. Why play the other teams at all? All I know is that it is wrong for a 7 and 9 team who gave up 97 more points this year than they scored, to have a shot at the Super Bowl. You can argue the Saints were bestowed upon them a BYE week of sorts (anything can happen I know but come on!). Some of you may think I am just a bitter Giants fan, that at 10-6 we didn’t get in. This is not true. Giants lost to the Packers and lost to the Eagles twice. Under my psudo-rules that I didn’t even bother to outline of come up with, I’d leave them out of the picture too over those guys (Note: Just remembered the Giants pooped on the Seahawks in week 9, 41-7, so maybe they do deserve it). However the Buccaneers maybe deserve the nod more? I don’t even know because I think I read that they only beat one team with a winning record this year. I will not go check because it is moot. I know what team doesn't deserve it. Truth be told, I'd have been happier with any of the other 5 teams with better records taking their spot for any reason. I’m also not saying to get rid of divisions completely – the rivalries are awesome for the game – but someone much smarter than I am needs to fix this when there are at least 5 and perhaps 7 better teams sitting than one is in the playoffs.