The Steelers need to win this Sunday against the Browns for the other parts of Playoff Scenario Hell to even begin. For any Steelers fan, the past three weeks have been filled with stress as we pray for a Ravens loss and a Steelers win. If the Steelers can’t win the division, they will be playing a road game against a team with a worse record. According to former Ravens coach, Brian Billick, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Brian Billick has turned retirement into a pretty good start in a career in broadcasting. As a Ravens coach, I didn’t like him but only because he was the Ravens coach. He was a hundred times the classy guy that Harbaugh is, and so even though I didn’t like him, I could respect him. Billick contributes to the NFL Network and nfl.com, and yesterday he wrote up his anual plea for the league to change the seeding rules of the playoffs.
I completely agree with this analysis from Billick. Playoffs should be determined the way they are now – four divisional winners and then two more teams with the better records. However, reseeding should take place instead of each divisional winner getting a home game. There are obvious weaker divisions out there – AFC South, AFC West, NFC West.
The Seahawks really bucked the trend when they won the division at 7-9, and that moment last season really put the spotlight on the problems with the playoff seeding as it currently is conducted. The Saints with a much better record went into Seattle because the Falcons had the better record in the NFC South division. It was a tough race for both teams, and the Falcons came out on top. But why should the Saints be essentially penalized for having to duke it out with a division rival and fall short?
The weaker divisions mean a wide open contest for teams within those divisions – good for them. But can anyone really argue that the Steelers or Ravens deserve to travel to Denver or Oakland (potentially 9-7 teams) who will barely crawl into the playoffs? The AFC North is easily the hardest division in football. Especially this year with the Bengals having a bit of a turnaround season. Two very strong physical teams and a third that can be dangerous at times. Where else in the NFL do you see a division like that? You don’t. Why should teams in really tough divisions get penalized? I’m sure the Saints have something to say to that too from last year.
This also holds true for the team that will be unfortunate enough to fly into New York or Dallas. Both teams have struggled and will limp their way into the playoffs. Yet because neither team since November could decide if they wanted to actually win football games, a better record team, such as the Lions, very well could make the trip to either city. Hardly fair for them since they’ve had a tough schedule and still made the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
The most ridiculous of all the seedings would be the 10-5 Texans as a #3 seed. The AFC South is one of the weaker divisions aside from the Colts (when there’s a healthy Manning). Billick wants a change in the seeding because he wants the last game against the Titans to matter. The Texans will more than likely sit the starters or only play them for a series. And, more than likely the Texans will lose to the Titans, which hurts teams such as the Jets and Raiders of making a wild card slot. The Texans will still get the seed and home field against the #4 seed. Lame.
If the playoffs were re-seeded by record then the AFC seeding would look like this:
#1 Patriots bye and home field throughout
#2 Ravens bye and at least one home field game
#6 Denver vs. #3 Steelers
#5 Bengals vs #4 Texans
A much more favorable situation for the Steelers. They would have at least the one playoff game at home and then take on the Ravens the following week in Baltimore.
I’m not making this argument for just this moment because the Steelers are getting the short end in home field advantage this time around. Were the Steelers to be on the other side of the coin – win the North Division but have a worse record than a wild card (highly unlikely with the North, but ok I’ll run with it) – I would still make the same argument. The team that would have the better record than the Steelers should deserve to have a home playoff game over the division winner with the worse record. I think the only thing the division gets you is a guaranteed spot in the playoffs, not an advantage over another team with a better record.
Every team fights equally as hard as the other to win the games they do. Why should one be penalized for it? The league should seriously consider re-seeding the playoffs. It will make the games in weeks 16 and 17 matter more to divisional winners already guaranteed a spot (aka force them to play), and it would reward the teams with the better records. I’m sure I’ve made no friends over this one, but that’s the way I feel about it.