Let’s think back to the 2010 playoffs for a second. It was a postseason that culminated in a fourth Super Bowl title for the Green Bay Packers, but the Wild Card produced one of the most memorable runs in recent memory: Marshawn Lynch‘s “Beast Mode” 67 yard touchdown against New Orleans.
Years later it’s still the first thought that comes to mind when thinking of the Seattle running back (I ended up playing it nine times on Game Rewind), but largely ignored ever since were the circumstances that helped make the run and the NFL’s playoff format. Keep in mind that the Seahawks won their division with a 7-9 record and their division title alone gave them a home playoff game against the 11-5 Saints.
I’m not inferring that the run and their eventual victory would not have happened away from Seattle. I’m simply telling you that it would not have happened were the game played in the Superdome like it should have been.
Though the margin hasn’t been as egregious since, a similar occurrence has happened nearly every postseason since 2010 and this year will likely be no different with the AFC West second place team likely going on the road to face a team with a worse record in the first round.
So what kind of playoff reform am I proposing? Not expansion, as Roger Goodell suggested last month. What I’d like to see is an NBA-styled playoff format where the seedings are based on regular season record alone instead of division titles. This way, two teams in the same division could both get first-round byes if their records are better than those of the rest of the conference. Here’s how the playoff standings look versus how they would look under this proposed format:
Current AFC Playoff Picture: (1) Denver, (2) Indianapolis, (3) New England, (4) Cincinnati, (5) Kansas City, (6) New York Jets
Amended AFC Playoff Picture: (1) Denver, (2) Kansas City, (3) Indianapolis, (4) New England, (5) Cincinnati, (6) New York Jets
Under the new format, both 9-1 Denver and Kansas City would get the first-round byes that they deserve. I know that there isn’t much sympathy for KC getting a break like this, but they can only beat the teams that they’re put up against and they’ve done just that. The new format would also take away a home game for the Bengals, due to their record. What the new format does not do is put another team besides the Jets into the postseason.
Current NFC Playoff Picture: (1) Seattle, (2) New Orleans, (3) Detroit, (4) Philadelphia, (5) Carolina, (6) San Francisco
Amended NFC Playoff Picture: (1) Seattle, (2) New Orleans, (3) Carolina, (4) Detroit, (5) San Francisco, (6) Philadelphia
Over in the NFC, we get a lot of change in the Wild Card spots. Seattle and New Orleans remain at the top, but Carolina ends up jumping both Detroit and Philadelphia to earn a home playoff game (which I would undoubtedly go to). The Eagles — or whoever ends up winning the NFC East this season — would be relegated to a six seed.
I highly doubt that these changes would ever take place, but it’s something to ponder once the postseason rolls around.
It took a 7-3 record and a perfect storm of market teams playing primetime games, but the Carolina Panthers are finally on Fox this week in Hampton Roads. They’ll face the 5-5 Dolphins in the early game. Over on CBS, we’ll get another chance to see the Kansas City Chiefs defense as they host San Diego. Fox’s only late game will be a must-win NFC East bout between Dallas and the New York Giants. Good games all around, though I’ll also be interested in CBS’s late Indianapolis-Arizona game.
Now let’s pick. After going 9-6 last week, I’m now 108-55 for the year. I didn’t really pick a ton of upsets this week, so we’ll see how things end up going.
New Orleans over Atlanta
Oft-injured and struggling to capitalize on opportunities, the Falcons are officially the 2012 Saints on the field at this point.
Pittsburgh over Cleveland
Detroit over Tampa Bay
The 2-8 Bucs may not be hitting their stride with Mike Glennon and Bobby Rainey leading the offense, but they have looked competitive lately. The Calvin Johnson–Darrelle Revis matchup should be a great one, but I still think the Lions take this one at home.
Green Bay over Minnesota Kansas City over San Diego
For a minute, San Diego looked like they could sneak into the postseason. They’re only a game out from the Jets at the moment, but their upcoming schedule will do them no favors. The Chiefs defense should lead them to another win.
Chicago over St. Louis
The focus has been on the Long brothers matchup all week, because that’s the only thing that could possibly make this game watchable I guess. The Rams are favored at home, but without any quarterback controversy this week, I think Josh McCown and Chicago end up winning.
Baltimore over New York Jets
What a tough call. I struggle to find reasons why either team would win here. The Jets are the first team to alternate wins and losses through the first ten games of the season. They were blown out by Buffalo last week, but I’m taking Baltimore at home.
Houston over Jacksonville
Part of me thinks this game will come down to the final drive. But the other part of me thinks that Andre Johnson will dominate as he usually does against the Jags (104 catches, 1434 yards in 17 career games).
Carolina over Miami
A tough game for Carolina is made tougher by the loss of defensive end Charles Johnson this week. If his replacements can’t generate enough pressure, Ryan Tannehill could have a decent game through the air. But what it will probably come down to is whether Cam Newton can move the ball against Miami’s dangerous pass rush. Panthers win a close one.
Tennessee over Oakland
The Raiders aren’t great on either side of the ball and I think Matt McGloin could be in for a wake-up call against this Tennessee defense.
Arizona over Indianapolis
Don’t look now but the Cardinals are 6-4 and tied with San Francisco for the final NFC Wild Card spot. I think theie defense will handle Andrew Luck the Colts at home and stay in the hunt.
Dallas over New York Giants
They can’t fall this far, can they? The NFC East looked like a foregone conclusion early, but the Giants and Eagles are getting hot at the right time. Surely, Dallas’s sense of urgency will propel them to another key divisional win though. Right?
New England over Denver
While it could end up being a defensive struggle, a shootout is the likely outcome here. And with two of Brady’s favorite targets — Rob Gronkowski and Shane Vereen — back in full swing, I like the Pats at home.
San Francisco over Washington
Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick were the trendy first-year starters last season, but 2013 has been an entirely different story. Lucky for Kaep, he’s surrounded by a much better team. If Griffin thought the Eagles defense knew what was coming…
Record (Week): 9-5
Record (Season): 117-60