It’s time to talk about playoff restructuring in football.
The NBA smartly reshuffled things prior to the start of the season so that overall win-loss record determines a team’s seed in the playoffs, rather than finishing atop an arbitrarily created division.
Now it’s time for the NFL to follow suit and fix what’s proving to be a broken system.
Let’s take a look at the division leaders in the AFC:
AFC East: New England Patriots (7-0)
AFC North: Cincinnati Bengals (7-0)
AFC West: Denver Broncos (7-0)
AFC South: Indianapolis Colts/Houston Texans (3-5)
One of these — you’ll notice — is not like the other. Whichever team in the dumpster fire that is the AFC South manages to limp its way to the top of the division come Week 17 (and every team, including the 1-6 Titans, is still alive) will host a playoff game against an outrageously better wild card team.
This is a division in which one head coach (Ken Whisenhunt) has already been fired, another (Chuck Pagano) is a dead man walking who likely won’t make it to Christmas, and the other two coaches (Gus Bradley and Bill O’Brien) don’t exactly have a lot of job security.
We talk about this every year, because every year a putrid division-winner gets a top-4 seed and home-field advantage while a much better team elsewhere in the same conference must play on the road, or miss the playoffs entirely, because of its division. We talked about this in 2008 when the 11-5 Patriots missed the playoffs and the 8-8 Chargers won the AFC West. We talked about this last year with the NFC South and the 7-8-1 Panthers.
But the AFC South this year feels like an entirely different beast of god-awfulness. And let’s hope it stays that way. Let’s hope all four of these teams finish well below .500. This is the only way the current, broken system is going to change.
[Last week: 8-4-2]
Cleveland Browns (+11) @ Cincinnati Bengals
Gary Barnidge has enjoyed a nice season for the Browns. The 30-year-old veteran tight end has hauled in 40 receptions and 6 touchdowns, which is especially impressive when you consider that (a) he is on the Browns and (b) he’s put up these numbers while also moonlighting as an Internet movie blogger on his personal website, Moviegameplan.com.
Let’s hear from Gary, in his own words, on the power of film:
Everyone loves movies. When I was younger I didn’t watch a lot of movies, but the first time I watched the Goonies at the age of 10 I was instantly hooked on movies. Ever since that moment I have always watched movies and it became something I tried to do once or twice aweek. Over time movies developed into more then just something I like to watch. I started watching more and more movies older and newer movies such as Cool Hand Luke, Casablanca, The Original Frankenstein, and all kinds of movies. The more I watched movies the more I started critiquing movies and giving my own opinions.
I, like Gary, love movies. Watching them is something I try to do once or twice a week, too. Sometimes I give opinions on movies, like to my friends or family. Gary Barnidge is my favourite athlete, and I’d like to go to the movies with him sometime.
Anyway, I can’t in good faith bet on Manziel on the road against an undefeated team.
The pick: Bengals -11
Oakland Raiders (+4.5) @ Pittsburgh Steelers
I’m riding shotgun in the Raiders bandwagon right now. This team hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2002!
The pick: Raiders +4.5
Jacksonville Jaguars (+2.5) @ New York Jets
Poor Geno Smith. Even Ryan Fitzpatrick’s thumb — which needs surgery! — can’t get Smith on the field. Remember how this was supposed to be Geno’s big breakout year? Curse you, IK Enemkpali.
The pick: Jets -2.5
St. Louis Rams (+2) @ Minnesota Vikings
Best game of the week!
The pick: Rams +2
Miami Dolphins (+3) @ Buffalo Bills
Tyrod Taylor and Bills bounce back.
The pick: Bills -3
Tennessee Titans (+8) @ New Orleans Saints
Remember when Drew Brees was dead?
The pick: Saints -8
Washington Redskins (+14) @ New England Patriots
Whatever sort of snake oil Alex Guerrero is giving to Tom Brady is working, man. The guy is ageing like Benjamin Button.
The pick: Patriots -14
Green Bay Packers (-2.5) @ Carolina Panthers
Hard to believe that this could be an NFC Championship preview, but is anyone else in the NFC any good?
The pick: Packers -2.5
Atlanta Falcons (-7) @ San Francisco 49ers
Blaine Gabbert Fever!
The pick: Falcons -7
New York Giants (-2.5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It takes a special team to turn its quarterback’s 6-touchdown, 0 interception performance into a loss. Just unbelievable.
The pick: Giants -2.5
Denver Broncos (-5) @ Indianapolis Colts
Hot take: Pagano won’t be coaching this time next week!
The pick: Broncos -5
Philadelphia Eagles (-2.5) @ Dallas Cowboys
Dez Bryant vs. PETA is the most interesting rivalry of the season.
The pick: Eagles -3
Chicago Bears (+4) @ San Diego Chargers
Just an awful Monday night game.
The pick: Chargers -4
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