NFL playoff structure needs revising


Evan Smyth, Staff Writer

With the NFL season past the halfway point, teams are starting to make their final playoff push. For many teams, their weak division allows them to win very few games, but still make the playoffs. This begs the question: should the NFL just take the top six teams in each conference, thus eliminating the teams that play in weak divisions? This would not only create better competition in the playoffs, but the teams that deserve home field advantage get it, and the regular season would be better, too. Plus, no fan likes seeing sub .500 teams in the playoffs.

If the NFL were to change the rule and let the top six teams in, then the fans will get the best play. The AFC South and NFC East are both in areas where even a one or two-win team can be at the top of their division. These subpar teams that make the playoffs are constantly keeping the teams that are playoff caliber out of the playoffs, which is what fans look for. They want to see the best teams compete for the ultimate prize.

In last year’s playoffs, the 12-4 San Francisco 49’s had to go on the road to freezing Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers. If the playoffs were set up with the best records at the top seeds, the 49’s would not have needed to go to Green Bay, but instead hosted a game in warm California. In this instance, the venue caused the outlook of the game to change.

Fans also want to see high quality games during the regular season, and the rule that the top six play on would force teams to play to get the best record they can get, creating a real importance in the regular season. In some divisions, teams are allowed to think for the postseason because the other teams in their division are not good at all, causing a lack of importance on the regular season. If the NFL wants the best experience for their fans, which they should, the best move is to eliminate the need to win divisions.

Along with improving the regular season, removing the need to win divisions would eliminate the teams that only are in the playoffs because they won their weak division, and improve the competition in the playoffs. The teams that finish at or below .500 and still make the playoffs are no match for the truly elite teams that finish with ten or eleven wins, so why let them in. Yes, it is football, and weird things happen in  the playoffs. Sometimes a play goes one way that changes the complexion of the whole game, but the team with the lower record is never favored to win a game except in some strange cases.

I’m not calling for a complete change in the way that the NFL schedules. All fans should want is for better competition in all aspects of the game and for the weak teams that don’t deserve to be in the playoffs, not be in the playoffs. Take a page from the NBA’s book and let the best teams play on.