NFL playoffs deserve winners

By Peter Bailey-Wells

The last team to make the playoffs with a losing record in the NFL was the Seattle Seahawks in 2010. After winning their wildcard matchup, the Seahawks lost to the Chicago Bears in the divisional round (Jay Cutler won a playoff game, imagine that.)

That Seahawks team is the only losing team to make the playoffs so far in the 21st century, but that could change this year. The NFC South is currently lead by the 5-8 Atlanta Falcons, who need to win their final three games to make it to .500 on the season.

That’s wrong. A losing team should not be eligible for the playoffs in the NFL, especially not if it means a winning team being left out. One of four teams that currently stand at 9-4 (Eagles, Cowboys, Lions and Seahawks) is going to be left out of the playoffs to make room for the representative of the lowly NFC East.

The NFL’s weakest division has three teams still mathematically eligible for the postseason — the Falcons, the 5-8 Saints and the 4-8-1 Panthers. How does that happen? How does one division have so many bad teams? At least the 2010 Seahawks beat a few good teams in the regular season. Four of Atlanta’s wins have come against division opponents, including two against lowly 2-11 Tampa Bay.

The Falcons managed a surprising win last week against the 10-3 Cardinals, but Arizona is just 3-2 with Drew Stanton as quarterback, and don’t look like the same team they were at the beginning of the year.

In the NBA last season, the 38-44 Atlanta Hawks made the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, while the 48-34 Phoenix Suns sat out as the No. 9 team in the Western Conference. That’s just silly.

Unlike in the NCAA, professional sports teams are on equal footing — there’s no real reason Atlanta should be less competitive than Seattle or Arizona. Wichita State basketball only lost once last season, but no one in their right mind would place the Shockers above Connecticut, the eventual national champion, who lost eight games.

If the Falcons win out and finish undefeated in their division, they will still only stand at 8-8. Six teams in the NFC already have more than eight wins, and an additional three teams currently have better records than the Falcons.

That’s right, in a 16-team conference, Atlanta stands at 10th. At least, in 2010, when the Seahawks made the playoffs, they were the eighth best team in the conference.

Maybe I’m just whining, but doesn’t it seem like the best six teams in each conference should make the playoffs? And even if that is unrealistic, doesn’t it seem like a team that has 11 wins shouldn’t be left out of the playoffs? Each division winner should at least have a winning record, which is where we finally get to my big suggestion.

Two divisions per conference, just the way the NHL does it. The top three teams in each division and the next two best teams overall make the playoffs in each conference. Simple enough to change and practical enough to allow the best teams into the playoffs, especially considering the NFC and the AFC are relatively equal when compared with the competing conferences in most of the major sports leagues.

So please, Roger Goodell, make a change. You’re a lousy-at-best commissioner, but make a change. Don’t keep teams with double-digit win totals out of the playoffs and don’t let losing teams in. It makes the NFL look embarrassing on the field as well as off.

Peter is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @PBaileyWells.