Reading Brian's article on the main page today, made me revisit a view that I have had, in regards to overall record versus the weight of being in a given division. First, should a division winner with a weaker overall record get into the playoffs, when another team has a better overall record? Does this not make divisional games worth SIGNIFICANTLY more than any other games, and does this maybe make it unfair for teams that are not competitive in their division? At the same time, are there some teams that basically get a free ride to the playoffs, for being nothing more than the best of mediocrity? Read more, after the jump.
Obviously, as a Buffalo Bills fan, I recognize the impact of being in a strong division. I personally, have not been in the camp that a team who has won less games than another conference team, deserves a playoff berth, simply because they competed better in their potentially weaker division.
Take the AFC North, for example. Their division placed 3 out of 4 teams in the playoffs this year, and that was while competing with each other twice. That almost inherently dictates that they are overall better teams, than say, the AFC East. They were competitive with their division rivals, as well as their other league opponents. Meanwhile, if we look at the AFC West, each of these teams did no better than split their division (all had a 3-3 divisional record) and all of them were still in the playoff race, only because of their division. The closest in the NFL, they finished with 3 teams with a record of 8-8, one team 7-9. When we look at the NFC West last year, we see a team that didn't have a better overall record (Seahawks), getting into the playoffs ahead of teams with better records (Buccaneers), simply for winning their weaker division. Strength of schedule doesn't really become a factor, even divisional record may not play a role, and I personally have to question why a team with a better record doesn't get into the playoffs. I don't see why when the Buccaneers were in a division of better teams (who they had to play twice, while the weaker divisional team who got into the playoffs, had lesser competition to beat) fail to get into the playoffs ahead of the Seahawks who didn't even manage a winning record while in a terrible division, or a team like the Broncos, get in AGAIN this year, when they didn't also didn't manage a winning record.
So, fellow Rumblers, my question is this: Should divisions be as heavily weighted as they are, or should playoffs be decided by overall record? Is there some other other way of determining who the best teams are; OR, is there no fault with the current system because it is fair for all the teams, simply because they know what the expectations are, or because the whole point of divisions IS to make the games more valuable? Feel free to leave your thoughts, or answer the poll, or both. I just wonder if I am making an issue of nothing, or if divisions are somehow necessary in a way I hadn't considered... Or if it seems unfair that the teams who played better competition, ended with a better record, still fell short of the playoffs, while some mediocre (at best) team who played equally poor against poor competition, gets to beat the aforementioned better team out for those incredibly sought out playoff berths.