NFL Play-off Revision?

Imagine a world where the NFL resembles the NBA, ok so not that hard to imagine, but a world where the NFL has two conferences East and West, not AFC and NFC. Two 16 team conferences to decide the NFL play-offs, rather than the system they have now. Where you have 6 teams, 4 division winners and 2 wild cards in each conference. It will be based purely on who has the best records in the NFL. Finished 3rd in your division at 10-6 but still missed the play-offs because the AFC South winners won 8 games? Congratulations this system is for you. But the question is, Will it work? Is it worth it? and Would it be better than the existing system?

The hard part comes in splitting the NFL into East and West because of the existing divisions. This will ignore the AFC and NFC split because of geography and the hardest thing to do will be the split up historic rivalries, such as the the Cowboys and the rest of the NFC East. So let us look at the map of NFL teams.

Screen Shot 2017-07-26 at 16.32.09

Where we encounter problem number 1. It is East dominated. Finding the split will be the challenge. A North/South split would be easier but let’s split the NFL like the NBA. East and West. If we take the logical seam given to us from Louisiana and west to California that leaves us with 12 teams in the West, which we can’t have since we are aiming to split this 16/16 but those 12 teams can be locked into the West.

West: Rams, Raiders, Chargers, 49ers, Broncos, Texans, Cowboys, Chiefs, Saints, Seahawks and Vikings.

Logically, we would have to put in the next 4 teams that are the most western. Which would be the Packers, Bears, Titans and Colts. The Colts are already illogically placed in the AFC South but if we take these four to fill out the Western Conference of the NFL.

1. LA Rams
2. LA Chargers
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Arizona Cardinals
5. San Francisco 49ers
6. Oakland Raiders
7. Denver Broncos
8. Dallas Cowboys
9. Houston Texans
10. New Orleans Saints
11. Kansas City Chiefs
12. Minnesota Vikings
13. Green Bay Packers
14. Chicago Bears
15. Tennessee Titans
16. Indianapolis Colts.

The bottom 5 teams feel out of place. They are colder weather teams that don’t fit with the hot weather of the Western Conference. They feel out of place because the NFL is so eastern dominated. It would break up the Cowboys from their 3 biggest rivals but they would play their historic rival, The 49ers, more regularly. The Lions would lose their three division rivals. The Jacksonville Jaguars would lose 3 also. Which leaves us with…

NFL Eastern Conference:
1. New England Patriots
2. New York Jets
3. New York Giants
4. Buffalo Bills
5. Philadelphia Eagles
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Baltimore Ravens
8. Washington Redskins
9. Cleveland Browns
10. Detroit Lions
11. Cincinnati Bengals
12. Miami Dolphins
13. Jacksonville Jaguars
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
15. Carolina Panthers
16. Atlanta Falcons.

So with this new split, We have 6 teams qualify from each conference (No extra games will be played). Working the same way as the existing play-offs. So how would the play-offs have looked with this new format (Based on last seasons record)

1. Dallas Cowboys (13-3)
2. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) Tiebreaker over the Raiders
3. Oakland Raiders (12-4)
4. Seattle Seahawks (10-5-1)
5. Green Bay Packers (10-6)
6. Titans/Broncos/Texans (9-7)

1. New England Patriots (14-2)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5) Won the Tiebreaker w/ victory over The Giants
3. New York Giants (11-5)
4. Atlanta Falcons (11-5)
5. Miami Dolphins (10-6)
6. Detroit Lions (9-7)

It was just a re-shuffling of the existing teams in the play-offs with potentially just one team different, dependent on tiebreakers, but it would certainly make for some interesting play-off games. For the sake of argument let’s say the Texans are the team that get in as they were in the play-offs last year.

6 Lions @ 3 Giants
5 Dolphins @ 4 Falcons
6 Texans @ 3 Raiders
5 Packers @ 4 Seahawks

The Texans Vs The Raiders happened last year but Packers are given a second chance against The Seahawks after their Play-off collapse. The East provides two matchup that are never going to happen outside a Super Bowl in the post season. Assuming we go with highest seed winning. We get divisional games of:

4 Falcons @ 1 Patriots
3 Giants @ 2 Steelers
4 Seahawks @ 1 Cowboys
3 Raiders @ 2 Chiefs

Raiders and Chiefs happens twice a year. Giants Vs Steelers in the play-offs, that would be a great matchup. A repeat of Super Bowl 51, yes please and Seahawks Vs Cowboys would be intriguing. You can assume what happens from here. Steelers @ Patriots in a repeat of the AFC Championship and Chiefs @ Cowboys. That is based purely on records from last year and I am sure that it would provide some seldom seen but widely wanted play-off match ups.

Is it better than the existing system? In the short term, probably not. Long term would probably be more interesting with teams split into divisions with the NBA style play-offs but no guarantees for division winners. Every system has it’s flaws but the NFL system works for the league.


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