NFL Playoff Format

 

 

NFL Playoff Format

Is it fair for a 10-6 team to miss the playoffs to have a 9-7 team play in their place? Furthermore, should it be so because 9-7 won the team their division? The current NFL Playoff format says so.

The New York Jets went 10-6 to end up 2nd in the AFC East while the Houston Texans went 9-7 but won their division with such a record. This scenario has been under extreme criticism for a while since this playoff scenario was introduced in 2002 with the divisional format. It doesn’t give teams the advantage who clearly performed better than division winning teams with worse records.

Five glaring cases of this problem have happened, with this year’s result being the sixth. The years of 2008, 2010-2011 and 2013-2014, have seen the NFL send the division winner to the playoffs over a team with a better record. The reasoning, going behind the numbers, is because within the division the losing team was in their winning percentage, home/away record, and miscellaneous data didn’t catch the teams above them in the division to secure a spot with the playoff conference. There are two ways to configure the playoffs to allow for the best record teams to participate rather than a division winner with a 8-8 record or worse participating.

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One option involves the league maintaining the divisional format but that simply allows for scheduling to remain consistent every season. In that format, all divisional teams play each other twice and that record will come into play for getting into the playoffs. But the most important aspect of this format is record. The best records make the playoffs in their respective conferences. Winning percentage remains a factor but also, points scored and points allowed can be a stronger statistic to use in seeding. FIFA uses goal difference in helping to seed placement in all league competitions. The six teams in both the AFC and NFC remain the number of playoff teams in hunt for the Super Bowl. The teams with the best records take the top two divisional spots with tie breakers being winning percentage, home/away records, and points scored. Even in the event of there being a virtual tie for playoff seeding, if both teams win their games in the divisional round, whoever scores more points gets the home advantage, and if that is tied, points allowed will be the tie breaker. In the event that is tied, the NFL could do a coin toss to determine the home team in a separate event.

The second option completely eliminates the divisional format and conference in playoff seeding and puts all 32 teams against each other for playoff spots. The best 12 records enter the postseason regardless of conference. It allows for various competitions that don’t require the “divisional” teams considering there wouldn’t be any in this format to not have to play twice. Winning percentage, home/away record, and points scored also come into play. This format is the simplest of the options and again can be likened to the FIFA format.

These options could be the future of the NFL someday, but until then, the question of who will be left out next year remains.

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