December 2, 2022

Smedley: National Football League must change playoff format


Kyle Smedley is a freshman in journalism and telecommunications and writes for The Daily News. His opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.

Following the National Football League (NFL) Wild Card results, an obvious problem with the current NFL playoff model became clear.

The seven-team-per-conference model creates poor competition, as we’ve seen with the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots combining for a -67 point differential.

Before the American Football Conference (AFC) No. 7 seeded Steelers lost to the No. 2 seeded Kansas City Chiefs, 42-21 on Jan. 16, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told reporters on January 12: “We don’t have a chance.”

Roethlisberger’s quote shows that the playoff system needs to change.

In the National Football Conference (NFC), the No. 7 seeded Eagles lost to the No. 2 seeded Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Jan. 31-15, 16. Philadelphia went 9-8 in the regular season, but his record is misleading. The Eagles finished 0-6 against another playoff team in the regular season.

In the AFC, the No. 6-seeded Patriots finished the regular season 10-7 and lost to division rival AFC East and the No. 3-seeded Buffalo Bills 47-17 January 15. It was the biggest playoff loss in 22 years under coach Bill Belichick.

The NFL playoffs aren’t expected to expand, but rather shrink.

The Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach and the New England Patriots welcome the Pittsburgh Steelers to start their 2019 season. and #23 Patrick Chung celebrates with teammates after breaking a 2nd quarter pass to #11 Donte Moncreif. (The Providence Journal/Bob Breidenbach/TNS)

I believe five teams from each conference should make the playoffs. Each division winner receives an automatic bid, while an npn division winner enters as a Wild Card based on record and tiebreakers.

The top seed from each conference would receive a bye, while the other four teams from each conference would compete based on seeding.

It would increase the level of competition, and good football is the best football.

The No. 6-seeded San Fransicso 49ers defeated the No. 3-seeded Dallas Cowboys Jan. 23-17. Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams teams. The 49ers have beaten the Rams twice and beat the Eagles head-to-head September 17-11, 2021.

In my new playoff model, the 49ers wouldn’t have made the playoffs, which is how the sport sometimes plays out. Heartbreak comes with the territory (trust me, I’m a Colts fan).

Yes, there is less potential for the huge upset of the No. 7 seed beating the No. 2 seed. However, more often than not, the No. 7 seed has similar results to the Eagles and Steelers.

My proposal will never happen, because the NFL and its corresponding sponsors and television networks would laugh at the proposal for fewer games. However, the NFL and viewers’ experience would be much better for it.

Contact Kyle Smedley on Twitter @smedley1932 or by email at [email protected].

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