FanDuel - WFBC

January 04, 2010

A Solution to the Late Season Lay Down?: NBC Sports Morning Aftermath proposes a solution to the problem of meaningless late-season games.

posted by scully to football at 09:29 AM - 22 comments

I like their proposal to seed the teams as the NCAA does for the basketball tournament and not by overall record. I like the idea of doing away with first-round byes and adding two more teams from each conference. I dislike the idea that those teams would be picked based on how well they play at the end of the year rather than just the next two best teams.

posted by scully at 09:32 AM on January 04

I hate the seeding idea. The love affair with the Patriots as always the team to beat is reason enough to hate it. Teams should be judged on wins and losses equally, no matter when they come.

I like the number of teams making the playoffs now. It usually makes the last week of the regular season pretty interesting. By expanding the playoffs, this year we would have added some 9-7 teams and an 8-8 team. That seems to be making things worse not better.

posted by bperk at 09:41 AM on January 04

I think they should change the way division champ is assigned. They should move all six division games to the last six weeks of the season. Your division record would determine who wins the division (5-1 vs 4-2 etc) with the non-divisional record as a tie breaker (and further tie breakers as necessary). I think this would greatly decrease the odds of having a throw away game at the end of the season, and definitely decrease the chances of more than one such game. The wild card spots would still be decided the same way.

posted by apoch at 09:48 AM on January 04

I think the idea that would put the Browns into the post season causes the article to lose credibility. I think that the seeding idea could have merit, but I personally don't have a problem with the current system. Yes it sucks for teams like the Texans who are out because the Colts laid down to the Jets last week, but that was a prerogative that the Colts earned. The Texans had 2 shots at the Colts to have forced them to care about the Jets game and didn't get the job done so this is the price they have to pay.

posted by Demophon at 10:12 AM on January 04

It's a radical change, but I'd like to see the NFL stop dividing teams into AFC and NFC when the playoffs begin. Seed teams across the entire league, so that when the league's two best teams are in the same conference (Dallas and San Fran in the early '90s, Indianapolis and San Diego today), there's a chance they will meet in the Super Bowl.

Seeding the playoffs across the entire league lowers the chances that the top teams will have nothing to play for in the final weeks of the regular season.

posted by rcade at 10:19 AM on January 04

I think this is a non issue. Teams that win enough games to cinch their divisions and lock up home field advantage early have earned the right to rest players. Teams that don't frankly don't. Teams that win enough to control their own destiny deserve to. The teams that don't control their own destiny have to suffer the fate of watching someone else win or lose for them. That is the way it should be.

Some of the suggestions made may in fact put more emphasis on late season games but some of them make early season games less important as they suggest a subjective system of allowing teams in the playoffs with late season runs, effectively nullifying early season losses. The system now makes every game important. Most teams have something to play for in every game. The few that don't either have earned the right by winning 13 or more games or are such a disaster that they can't win at any time. The fact is most teams play every game to win because they want to.

I for one think the Colts made a huge mistake but only time will tell. Going into the playoffs after two straight losses is not a good idea. So regardless of records as good as the Saints and Colts played all year, both teams are heading into the playoffs after loosing several straight games. On the other hand you have teams like the Cowboys, Minnesota, Packers, Jets, and Ravens heading into the playoffs with momentum. Football is a game of momentum, emotion, and execution. No have any of these three things going into the playoffs is just BAD. The Colts especially should have learned this lesson. Maybe they just figured that is was better to loose on purpose then to have a bad game and be beaten by what they considered a lesser opponent in the Jets. In the ultimate justice they may have an opportunity to play the Jets when everything is on the line now in the playoffs, and then if the Jets win again what will losing to them on purpose two weeks earlier have accomplished? Maybe the Colts should have finished the Jets off and kept them out of the playoffs rather then give them a chance to come back to haunt them. Just sayin......

One of my favorite things about football is that unlike baseball, and basketball and hockey, there are so few games in a season that really every one is important and no team can afford to let down even one week or it will usually cost you a lot in the end.

posted by Atheist at 11:26 AM on January 04

The idea of seeding teams based on their performance down the stretch would be almost impossible to fairly administer.

Who's on that committee? You think the owners are going to let some outside group determine who gets seeded first? Would it really change anything? In the NCAA we have teams that get left out each year, and teams that get in that shouldn't be.

Besides, we could debate strength of schedule for the various teams for weeks and not come to a consensus. Does a team that goes 4-0 against weaker teams really deserve a break over a team that goes 2-2 against winning teams? The Saints and Colts earned the right to coast into the playoffs, just like many teams in the NBA/MLB/NHL do every year.

I'd be for more divisional games being at the end of the year, however, I would not be for using those games to determine the divisional winner. That would lessen the impact of early games, and benefit the teams that have that year's Rams/Lions in their division.

Besides, would this also mean that teams that are out of the playoffs would have to play all of their starters the whole game as well? Teams often experiment with younger players down the stretch, which can impact games just as much at the top teams resting does. Extra draft picks for them as well?

I don't see anything changing.

posted by dviking at 11:37 AM on January 04

I like apoch's idea of addressing division champs differently.

posted by Joey Michaels at 01:21 PM on January 04

They should move all six division games to the last six weeks of the season.

This idea intrigues me. Kinda like NCAA basketball again, where the first half of the season is playing teams outside of the conference and the last half is all conference. Not sure how/if it would work, but it is an interesting idea.

posted by scully at 01:23 PM on January 04

I kind of miss the old days:

A pre-season featuring a lot of unproven rostered players getting long looks because the NFL had more rounds in the annual draft and didn't have today's sophisticated scouting and evaluating tools and techniques. Teams didn't know if their 13th rounder was a dud or a Brian Sipe. It was fun finding out.

A 14 game season, where the teams went hard for all 14.

(If you were a decent team in the NFC in the 70's and didn't kick butt every week, you knew you would be facing the Vikings outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium in December. )

A shorter post-season featuring teams that were mentally ready to compete coming out of the regular season, were in better overall physical condition because they had played fewer snaps to that point in the year, and had never heard of a bye week or tanking a Week 16 game and coasting in.

posted by beaverboard at 01:54 PM on January 04

(If you were a decent team in the NFC in the 70's and didn't kick butt every week, you knew you would be facing the Vikings outdoors at Metropolitan Stadium in December. )

Does anyone remember when the home field was added? According to the linked article, in 1972 the Steelers hosted the 15-0 Dolphins.

posted by scully at 02:02 PM on January 04

The grouping of all the division games at the end would be horrible for TV. Most of the big rivalries are division rivalries, and you want to have them spread out over the course of the season.

I'm also totally against any sort of subjectivity in playoff seeding or mixing of conferences. The way it is in that regard is just fine, though if you want to give a wild card team a home game if they are better than the division winner, that's fine.

I totally agree that a team that has nothing to play for in the later weeks has the right to do whatever they want. However, I have a problem with a team like the Jets skating into the playoffs because they played two teams that couldn't be bothered to give an effort since they had nothing to play for in the past two weeks.

I prefer the idea of some sort of "carrot" for teams that have already clinched something. Monetary bonuses, an extra draft pick, something along those lines. I don't think those teams should be punished for not trying, but I think they could be rewarded in some alternative fashion if they keep playing it out.

posted by TheQatarian at 02:08 PM on January 04

Or they could just do a split season, first half gets four playoff spots per conference, second half gets four, and any that had repeat winners could go to wildcards based on entire season record. Repeat winners would get first dibs on homefield advantage.

*shrug*

Seems kind of like a solution for where no problem exists.

posted by AaronGNP at 02:38 PM on January 04

My bad, terrapin. Good catch. I think home field didn't get in the mix until around 1975.

posted by beaverboard at 02:43 PM on January 04

Maybe the carrot is home field advantage...that would be difficult to manage due to the argument I noted prior (is 4-0 against losing teams really better than 3-1 or 2-2 against winning teams?), so I don't see anything changing.

posted by dviking at 03:10 PM on January 04

I'd like to see the NFL stop dividing teams into AFC and NFC when the playoffs begin. Seed teams across the entire league, so that when the league's two best teams are in the same conference (Dallas and San Fran in the early '90s, Indianapolis and San Diego today), there's a chance they will meet in the Super Bowl.

That was proposed when the new AFC was seen as the weaker conference right after the merger. The first post-merger SB was Cowboys v. Colts, two NFL teams. The anti-AFL bias held for many years after, despite the Dolphins' championship run.

Then again, I was against the merger. Made sense business-wise, but took a lot of fun out of pro football.

posted by afl-aba at 04:00 PM on January 04

I hate the seeding idea. The love affair with the Patriots as always the team to beat is reason enough to hate it

Was that actually said this year at all? Brady started out returning from injury, then they were inconsistent and finally, they can't win on the road. I don't think I've heard a single person say they were the team to beat all year.

For 2009, for example, we'd make the Texans and the Browns (yes, the Browns) the seventh and eighth seeds in the AFC playoff field, and we'd invite the Panthers and the 49ers (or maybe the Falcons) to join the NFC party.

Any model that proposes including the Browns and the 49ers should be immediately thrown out.

posted by dfleming at 04:13 PM on January 04

I don't think I've heard a single person say they were the team to beat all year.

You probably have to cast your mind way back to the storylines entering week 12 (before they were waxed by the Saints).

posted by bperk at 04:58 PM on January 04

You probably have to cast your mind way back to the storylines entering week 12 (before they were waxed by the Saints).

A lot of people called it the game of the year, largely because there were no NO-IND, IND-MIN or MIN-NO games on the schedule. I don't recall anyone saying they were the team to beat.

posted by dfleming at 05:10 PM on January 04

I agree with dfleming, the game was highly billed not so much because New England was rated that highly but because of their experience, some people were looking to see if the Saints were "real" since their schedule wasn't all that tough up til then.

The most absurd suggestion I have heard is this concept of having some sort of invitational slots for a couple of teams on late season hot streaks. It's stupid.

Football has a clear cut system for making the playoffs that is totally objective and that is how it should stay. Why would professional football incorporate the one terrible thing about college football, which is after the season there can be argument about who should be the national champ. Most would argue college football needs a clear cut playoff system to determine the champ. Pro football already has that.

Also as for games near the end of the season being meaningless, I have to say every game pretty much has some meaning. Although the game the Colts played against the Jets did not mean much to the Colts, it certainly had major repercussions for both the Jets and the Texans.

posted by Atheist at 05:25 PM on January 04

OOOPs - I was also thinking about a couple of years ago when the Giants and Patriots met in a seemingly meaningless game as far as the seeding went. If I recall nobody expected the Giants to play to win, and the Pats who did not need to still wanted to remain unbeaten. The Giants and the Pats both played a very tough game and although the Pats won, I believe the Giants won a great psychological victory which enabled them to win a Superbowl some weeks later.

I also saw a lot of teams this weekend like the Browns, Bears, Redskins, Chiefs, 49ers, and Seahawks who played tough games that did not mean much except player pride.

posted by Atheist at 05:40 PM on January 04

Belichick had a pretty good take on the whole thing in an interview on WEEI today: as he pointed out, the competition committee doesn't make the rules. Goodell can make a rule if he wants, that's within this power as commissioner, but apart from that, it's up to the teams that make up the NFL. Basically, he didn't sound real bothered by the possibility.

(Interview is here -- check out the transcript, it's almost comical how inaccurate it is)

posted by lil_brown_bat at 09:37 PM on January 04

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