“Fixing” the NFL playoffs

Someone needs to punch Mike Florio in the mouth for being so abjectly stupid and trying to break what isn’t broken:

Today, the NFC West has a trio of 10-win teams; the fourth-place Rams have the same record as the Seahawks did when they won the division in 2010. But winning the division, no matter how bad a division may be, continues to carry a playoff berth and a home game.  While it would be unfair and impractical strip a division winner from a berth in the postseason, why does the best of four bad teams deserve a home playoff game?

The league has shown no inclination to take the automatic home game away from the division winner, but there’s no reason to continue to reward the best of four bad teams with a home playoff game.  Home-field advantage in the postseason should be earned not via six divisional games but by all 16.

Fortunately, the NFL has shown in recent years that it understands what so many media idiots do not, and that is the value of the divisional rivalries. The single reason there have been so many good games at the end of the last two seasons is that the NFL has finally gotten wise to the notion of ensuring that teams play a divisional rival on Week 17. This increases the chances that a Week 17 game will matter; three of the four NFC divisional championships were determined yesterday.

Here are the two primary problems that all the “seeding” criers fail to recognize. First, it would absolutely not be more fair to ignore the division winners and seed each conference by record. Because each team plays each divisional rival twice while not playing some teams in the conference at all, the schedules are not directly comparable. Within the division, the schedules are much more evenly matched, since each team not only plays each other twice, but also plays against teams in the same division. Each of the division races are therefore qualitatively different.

Second, even if we ignore the schedules and decide that the regular season records are the only things that matter, then how can it be argued that conferences are important when divisions do not?  If it is unfair for San Francisco to have to play at Green Bay when the 49ers have the better record, how can it be denied that it is even more unfair for a 10-6 Arizona team to miss the playoffs when an 8-7-1 NFC North champion Packers and a 9-7 San Diego wild card team qualify? If records matter more than divisions and conferences, but “it would be unfair and impractical strip a division winner from a berth in the postseason” then shouldn’t Arizona not claim the last seed in the AFC playoffs?

In fact, if we stick with the logic being cited, it should be obvious that it is unfair to permit a single game to decide the NFL champion rather than 16 regular-season games. In addition to getting rid of divisions and conferences, record-based fairness demands getting rid of the playoffs. Sound ridiculous? That’s precisely how Serie A awards Lo Scudetto. That’s how the English Premier League settles the English championship, along with every other European and Latin American country.

The NFL isn’t broken. People like Florio should stop trying to fix it. There are legitimate some problems, such as the officiating and the concussion/tackling issue, but there is absolutely no problem with how teams qualify for the playoffs. The move to four divisions per conference was a good one and the importance of the divisions, and winning a divisional championship, should not be reduced.