The NFC South Plays Poker
Every year, one whole division largely under achieves. The division winner ends up 8-8 or 9-7 and everyone starts having the same tired discussion. “How can we let these teams in the playoffs? We are leaving out much more deserving teams! We had to watch the 10-6 Cardinals miss the playoffs while the 8-7-1 Packers got in! Outrageous! Fix the Playoff system! It doesn’t reward who is the most deserving!”
The playoffs are fine. The current system is fine. In 2010 the Seahawks won at 7-9 and everyone lost it, only to laugh when they went on to beat the Saints. Now the NFC West is largely one of the strongest divisions. In 2007 the NFC East sent 3 teams (Skins, Giants, Cowboys) to the playoffs, and the Eagles were 8-8. But the past couple of seasons the NFC East was a joke. Things change in the NFL pretty quick, it’s one of the reasons the sport is so engaging. Unless of course you are the AFC East.
If you win your division, you deserve a playoff spot, plain and simple. I don’t care how bad everyone else is, a division is only 6 games out of 16. Winning a division is an accomplishment. It gives teams a reason to fight, even in dismal crap divisions. If you cannot win your division, then you need to win enough to be worthy. I think that system is fine. The Cardinals last season were probably a better team than the Packers or Eagles, but they didn’t beat their division rivals enough to warrant inclusion over the 49ers or Hawks. I think it’s fine that way. If you can’t get past 3rd in your division, when you play all but 2 of the exact same teams everyone else in the division plays, why do you deserve a playoff spot? It’s not the NFL’s fault you got unlucky and ended up in the division that was good that season. Bad luck happens. All teams want a trip to the dance to prove their worth, but they need to prove their worth to reach there too. If we get a bad team in the playoffs once in a while, so what. Either they prove they deserved a chance (the 2011 Giants, the 2010 Seahawks) or they get knocked aside by a better team immediately. I might be okay if they seeded the playoffs purely based on record, so no home field advantages for crappy division winners, but even then, why does a team that couldn’t win the division deserve a home playoff spot more than a team that did? I don’t think the point has a clear answer, so I’m happy keeping things the way they are. I do not want teams missing the playoffs even after winning a division because that feels unfair, it feels like how the BCS system would avoid teams in lesser conferences even if they were undefeated. Give those teams a chance to fight for it. If they lose then they lose, but they still accomplished something, and that should give them a chance at the dance.
Also, I’m rooting for the Saints to win the division at 7-9, host the reigning champion Seahawks in the Superdome, and beat them on a Mark Ingram Pinball run, completely deflating all the irritating bandwagoners. Of course it sounds absurd, but didn’t the 2010 Seahawks beating the reigning champion Saints on a Marshawn Lynch pinball run, deflating all the bandwagoners seem absurd at the time? Yeah. It would be the world’s most perfect justice.