Could the Patriots Find Themselves Back in San Diego?

While watching the Chargers reduce the Broncos to rubble last night, I was left with a few thoughts.

A) The Chargers are rolling and they will win the West with ten wins.

B) The NFL’s playoff system, as it applies to where games are played, is completely hostile to logic and merit.

C) The loser of the Pats-Jets game on December 6th could end up with thirteen wins and still have to play an opening round playoff game in San Diego.

Forget equitable, the possibility that “C “will happen is downright laughable. And it’s time for the NFL to break with major league baseball and stop this charade that sometimes rewards blemished division winners over more deserving wildcards.

Go ahead and accuse me of self-dealing. And ask me where I was a couple years ago when an eleven-win Atlanta team was forced to travel to Arizona to play the nine-win champions of the NFC West. But could someone explain to me how it makes sense to reward a nine or ten-win team with a home playoff game and penalize a twelve or thirteen-win team by sending them on a 2500 mile trip?

By automatically giving division winners a home playoff game, the NFL is doing nothing but arbitrarily inflating the value of a division championship. It’s one thing to give division winners an automatic berth to the playoffs but to reward them further – particularly the ones that limp in or prevail over weak sisters – is hostile to the concept of “merit.” Baseball does this as well but just because the NFL has company, doesn’t make it right.

Of the three leagues, the NBA is the only one that has it right. Sure, they have divisions and division winners and a rule that a division winner can be seeded no lower than fourth. But when the playoffs start, home court goes to the team with the better record …. Period!

As a Pats fan, the concern here is the Pats lose their rematch with the Jets, drop another game, and end up making the playoffs as a twelve win wildcard. A lot can change over the next six weeks, but if that were to happen, the crystal ball suggests a playoff game at Indy or at San Diego is likely. This is a complete farce as the Pats have already beaten both of those teams and yet the two division winners would be the ones playing those games at home. Does that make any sense?

And whatever happened to rewarding success and consistency? Let’s be honest, there is a big difference between winning twelve games and winning ten. Yet the NFL’s playoff rules brazenly ignore the difference. “Get off to a slow start? No problem. Finish fast and we’ll take care of you in January.” That, in a nutshell, is the NFL’s playoff welfare policy and its reform is long overdue.

[Yes, I know the Pats were on the dole back in 2005, playing a home game against the twelve-win wildcard Jags. It was wrong then and it is wrong now!]

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