For the Birds

Well, it was bound to happen when the NFL decided to split the league into eight divisions; it was only a matter of time.  And here we are, with the embarrassment of a 7-9 team hosting a playoff game while two 10-6 teams are sitting at home.  Almost everyone outside of Seattle agrees that this is a travesty, and, unlike some arguments I have heard, this is not an aberration—it will happen again.  When you have nearly as many divisions as playoff spots, you are practically begging for it to happen again.

Even if you want to make the argument that Seattle deserves to be in the playoffs because they won their division (not much of an accomplishment considering that my cousin’s midget football team could win seven games in that division), you can’t possibly believe that the Seahawks deserve to host a playoff game, that the 11-5 Saints should have to travel to Seattle to play this game.  And consider this: if things had fallen a little differently in the last week of the season, it would have been the Falcons with a 12-4 record heading to 7-9 Seattle.  Does anyone seriously think this is good for the NFL?

So what should they do about it?  They’ll never go back to six divisions, so that’s not an option.  Ideally, only the top three division winners in each conference should be guaranteed playoff spots, but the owners would never go for that, either.  At the very least, the owners should agree that winning your division should not guarantee you a home playoff game.  The playoffs should be seeded according to record.  Not only is this the fair thing to do, but it would also make the final games of the regular season more interesting.  Think about how many teams rest players during the last two weeks because their seeding is locked up.  For example, the Eagles would not have been able to rest their starters in last week’s Dallas game under this proposed format because they would have fallen behind Green Bay in the seedings and lost their chance to host a playoff game.  Also, the Bears would have had more to play for in the final week because a loss would have meant falling behind the Saints and losing their first-round bye.  In fact, every playoff team in the league except for the Patriots would have had something to play for in the final week.

The NFL has been searching for ways to make that final week more interesting and this seems like a perfect solution.  Not only would fewer teams be resting players at the end of the season, but the playoff seeding would be much more equitable.  Yeah, you would still have crappy 7-9 Seattle in the playoffs, but at least they wouldn’t be rewarded with a home playoff game against a much better team.  They would be the 6th seed, where they belong.

But I didn’t come here to talk about that 🙂

Time for this week’s picks.  Might as well start with the team in question…

New Orleans at Seattle
Seattle might actually have a chance to win this game . . . if a wormhole swallows up the Saints’ plane on the way to Seattle.  I’m feeling generous, so I’ll give the home team a special teams TD to go with a couple of field goals.  Saints: 31, Seahawks 13.

Baltimore at Kansas City
Kansas City has had an admirable season, but they’re not ready for a game like this against a team of this caliber.  Ravens 23, Chiefs 14.

New York at Indianapolis
This is my slight upset pick of the week.  Manning just doesn’t have the weapons this year and I think the Jets will win the battle up front.  Jets 24, Colts 21.

Green Bay at Philadelphia
This should be the game of the week between two teams with explosive offenses.  Green Bay seems to be the popular pick around the country, but I’m going to be a homer here and pick the Birds to eke one out.  Eagles 28, Packers 24.

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