How To Fix NFL Playoff Seeding

Remember how it felt in 2010?  The whole world was crashing down on the NFL because the Seattle Seahawks – at 7-9 – were not only division winners and eligible for entrance into the playoffs, but they also HOSTED a game against a superior team:  the defending Super Bowl champions New Orleans Saints.  As you all know, the Seahawks ended up winning that game, thanks to The Run, and some of that furor calmed down (except in New Orleans, where they surely must have felt jobbed because they would have definitely won if they’d hosted the game).

But, it’s back again, albeit a little less vociferously, thanks to the NFC East and its prospects of giving the world an 8-8 division champ.  These are the rules we play under, so no one should feel ashamed if they happen to host a playoff game against a superior opponent, but don’t you think it’s about time to change the rules a little bit?

I’ve got the perfect answer:  realignment.  There are two possibilities, but here’s the gist:  each conference has two divisions.  Each division winner not only gets a playoff spot, but it also gets a first round BYE.  We expand wild cards from 2 to 4 per conference, in order of record, regardless of which division (but still keeping the conferences separate until the Super Bowl).

The most practical way to re-align is simply to combine divisions.  The NFC West & North would combine and the NFC South & East would combine, so it would look like this:

  1. Seattle
  2. Detroit
  3. San Francisco
  4. Chicago
  5. Arizona
  6. Green Bay
  7. St. Louis
  8. Minnesota

and:

  1. New Orleans
  2. Carolina
  3. Philadelphia
  4. Dallas
  5. New York
  6. Washington
  7. Atlanta
  8. Tampa Bay

The AFC would look like this:

  1. Denver
  2. Kansas City
  3. Cincinnati
  4. San Diego
  5. Oakland
  6. Baltimore
  7. Cleveland
  8. Pittsburgh

And:

  1. Indianapolis
  2. New England
  3. Miami
  4. New York
  5. Tennessee
  6. Buffalo
  7. Houston
  8. Jacksonville

This way, you keep your more traditional rivalries, while also all-but-eliminating the possibility of an 8-8 team hosting a playoff game.  You could call them the NorthWest and SouthEast divisions, and you’d be all set.  If the season ended today, you’d have Indy and Denver with first round BYEs, with both Kansas City and New England hosting Wild Card games (instead of Kansas City going on the road, even though they’re sure to have a better record than most division winners).  In the NFC, Seattle & New Orleans would have the BYEs, with Carolina and Detroit hosting Wild Card games.

Just a thought, but what’s the fun in just mashing divisions together into Super Divisons?  Why not go Full Realignment?  Here are the new 8-team divisions as dictated by geography:

The West:

  1. Seattle
  2. Denver
  3. Kansas City
  4. San Francisco
  5. Oakland
  6. San Diego
  7. Arizona
  8. St. Louis

The North:

  1. Minnesota
  2. Green Bay
  3. Detroit
  4. Chicago
  5. Indianapolis
  6. Cincinnati
  7. Cleveland
  8. Pittsburgh

The South:

  1. Houston
  2. Dallas
  3. New Orleans
  4. Miami
  5. Jacksonville
  6. Tampa Bay
  7. Atlanta
  8. Tennessee

The East:

  1. Buffalo
  2. New York
  3. New York
  4. New England
  5. Philadelphia
  6. Baltimore
  7. Washington
  8. Carolina

As for how to break down the conferences, I say you pair the West division with the North and the South with the East.

It works out almost perfectly, except there’s technically one too many teams in the south, so I had to move the northeasternmost team – Carolina – into the East division.  Obviously, this would never happen in a million years, but imagine how much easier it would be on the players.  Especially in Seattle, who traditionally does the most flying!

The teams most-affected would be Dallas – who would be cut away from their longtime rivals in the NFC East – Miami – also cut away from their longtime rivals in the AFC East – and I guess Baltimore, but screw those guys because they never should’ve left Cleveland in the first place.  The AFC West would remain (and regain the Seahawks), the NFC North would remain, the NFC West would remain (though, the NFC West has gone through many changes over the decades), and 3/4 of the remaining divisions would still be together.  So, not TOO outrageous (especially when you consider that Dallas & Miami would still be in the same conferences as their longtime rivals, so they’d still play them every year regardless – see below).  The only team that gets truly screwed is Baltimore, but who cares about Baltimore?  That’s right, nobody.

And, how cool would it be to have our old AFC West rivals back in our division?  In breaking down our schedules, I’d make it so you only play each team in your division once, and break it up so every other year you get to play them at home (4 division games at home one year, 3 division games at home the next year).  That accounts for 7 games.  Then, you play each team in the other division within the conference (8 more games).  And, finally, 1 game against the opposite conference, either based on how the teams finished the season before, or on a rotating basis, so you play each team once every 8 years.

Is it just me, or does this make too much sense?

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