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Playoff performances since 1975 of second-place teams that would have been seeded #2 w/o division champ seeding priority


pf9

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Since the NFL began its current form of playoff seeding in 1975, division winners have, except in 1982, received seeding priority. This has caused problems, as division winners with single-digit wins have at times been seeded higher than wild-card teams with double-digit wins. In some cases, the second-best team in the conference was actually the team that finished second behind the conference's #1 seed in their division, but was not allowed to have the #2 seed because of being a second-place team.

The playoff performances of such teams is as follows:

Lost in wild card round:
1983 Dallas Cowboys - lost to Los Angeles Rams
1987 New Orleans Saints - had second-best record in whole NFL, but lost to Minnesota Vikings
2008 Indianapolis Colts (held tie-breaker over eventual Super Bowl champions Pittsburgh; the fact that Pittsburgh effectively finished third place in the AFC but got a first round bye by being the second-best division winner and parlaying it into a title frustrated me as a Browns fan) - lost to San Diego Chargers
2010 New Orleans Saints (held tie-breaker over Chicago) - as the defending champions, they lost in a shocking upset at the Seattle Seahawks, who won the NFC West with only a 7-9 record; without seeding priority, Seattle would have no chance at a home postseason game in 2010, as the #6 seed and would have had to open in Chicago

Lost in divisional round:
1975 Cincinnati Bengals - lost to Oakland Raiders, would have won tiebreaker for 2 seed over Oakland by virtue of beating them in the regular season, and thus hosted them
1979 Philadelphia Eagles - lost to Tampa Bay Buccaneers (making their first playoff appearance)
1988 Minnesota Vikings - lost to San Francisco 49ers
1993 New York Giants - lost to San Francisco 49ers
2000 Philadelphia Eagles (held tie-breaker over Minnesota) - lost to New York Giants (an NFC title game meeting was prevented by #3 New Orleans beating #6 St. Louis)
2018 Los Angeles Chargers - lost to New England Patriots

Lost in conference championship:
1977 Oakland Raiders - lost to Denver Broncos in Conference Championship (they were allowed to meet in that round because division rivalries couldn't be re-matched in the divisional round prior to 1990)

Lost Super Bowl:
1999 Tennessee Titans (held tie-breaker over AFC East champion Indianapolis) - lost the Super Bowl to St. Louis Rams; the Titans were the only team to beat Jacksonville in 1999, doing so three times

Won Super Bowl:
1980 Oakland Raiders (held tie-breakers over Buffalo, Cleveland, Houston; all AFC playoff teams in 1980 went 11-5) - won the Super Bowl over Philadelphia Eagles
1997 Denver Broncos - won the Super Bowl over Green Bay Packers
2000 Baltimore Ravens (held tie-breaker over AFC West champion Oakland) - won the Super Bowl over New York Giants

Special case:
1982 Dallas Cowboys - finished second to division rival Washington in NFC; division standings were ignored in 1982 because of a players' strike, but every division in both conferences sent at least one team to the playoffs; the removal of division winner seeding priority for this season worked, as Washington beat the Cowboys in the NFC title game

Only the 1977 and 1980 Raiders, 1982 Cowboys (as mentioned above a special case), and 1999 Titans got to face their top-seeded division rival in the conference championship game.

I feel the top two teams in a conference should only be allowed to meet in the conference title game, even if they are from the same division. The fact that there have only been four conference title games between division rivals that finished with the two best records in their conference means that seeding priority for division winners doesn't always work.

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7 hours ago, pf9 said:

Since the NFL began its current form of playoff seeding in 1975, division winners have, except in 1982, received seeding priority. This has caused problems, as division winners with single-digit wins have at times been seeded higher than wild-card teams with double-digit wins. In some cases, the second-best team in the conference was actually the team that finished second behind the conference's #1 seed in their division, but was not allowed to have the #2 seed because of being a second-place team.

So you are saying you went back ~45 years and could only find 18 case studies out of roughly 400 playoff teams over the same time span and you still want change? You don't see anything wrong with this logic man? 

Then win your division to earn a higher seed.  It's that simple.  Division schedules account for 38% of a teams total schedule in the current alignment and that percentage was much higher during the 8-10 team playoff format before the 2001 realignment (years included in this study btw) and if a team is not good enough to win their division then they most likely don't deserve to be a 2nd seed in most cases either. And your post reflects this too because if it didn't then you see more than 18 case studies over 45 years. 

Sure,  the system isn't perfect (it never will be--to satisfy all fans) and there are going to be a small amounts of anomalies that may not seem fair at times (this year in the NFCE or the NFCW in 2011(12?) but the bottom line is,  if a team is a not good enough to beat the majority of their games then they most likely don't deserve to be handed a (undeserving) #2 seed for it over another team in the conference who may have deserved it over them. 

The current playoff system is also balanced too (well, it was until 2020).  Think about that as well.  Because how many 12-15 win teams have we've seen make the playoffs that have looked like frauds. 

The current playoff system exposes these frauds on both ends of the spectrum and that's what it was designed to do.  At least for the majority part anyhow it does.  ( Note: separate from the anomaly 2 decade dominance of Hoodie/Brady in AFC which seems to be asterisk in your post by I won't dwell on it and I really wanted too lol B|). 

Now,  how all of this new playoff format change in 2020 will effect things from this point on....I don't know.....that's anyone's guess.  But one thing that I am 100% certain of is that,  in most cases,  if a team is good enough to win their division and the majority of their games then they will be in the playoffs and be given the opportunity to prove whether they deserve to be there or not. 

 

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11 hours ago, JAF-N72EX said:

So you are saying you went back ~45 years and could only find 18 case studies out of roughly 400 playoff teams over the same time span and you still want change? You don't see anything wrong with this logic man? 

Then win your division to earn a higher seed.  It's that simple.  Division schedules account for 38% of a teams total schedule in the current alignment and that percentage was much higher during the 8-10 team playoff format before the 2001 realignment (years included in this study btw) and if a team is not good enough to win their division then they most likely don't deserve to be a 2nd seed in most cases either. And your post reflects this too because if it didn't then you see more than 18 case studies over 45 years. 

Sure,  the system isn't perfect (it never will be--to satisfy all fans) and there are going to be a small amounts of anomalies that may not seem fair at times (this year in the NFCE or the NFCW in 2011(12?) but the bottom line is,  if a team is a not good enough to beat the majority of their games then they most likely don't deserve to be handed a (undeserving) #2 seed for it over another team in the conference who may have deserved it over them. 

The current playoff system is also balanced too (well, it was until 2020).  Think about that as well.  Because how many 12-15 win teams have we've seen make the playoffs that have looked like frauds. 

The current playoff system exposes these frauds on both ends of the spectrum and that's what it was designed to do.  At least for the majority part anyhow it does.  ( Note: separate from the anomaly 2 decade dominance of Hoodie/Brady in AFC which seems to be asterisk in your post by I won't dwell on it and I really wanted too lol B|). 

Now,  how all of this new playoff format change in 2020 will effect things from this point on....I don't know.....that's anyone's guess.  But one thing that I am 100% certain of is that,  in most cases,  if a team is good enough to win their division and the majority of their games then they will be in the playoffs and be given the opportunity to prove whether they deserve to be there or not. 

 

These aren't 18 total cases of the playoff system not working, these are 18 cases of the playoff system failing catastrophically, to the point where the second best team in the conference is seeded 5th, and we have to watch inferior matchups later on in the postseason because of it.

If you want to look up cases where the system merely 'failed' then you can just look up every year where a team missed the playoffs despite having a better record than a team that did make it, which roughly happens every other year or so.

The problem that has been obvious since 2007 or so is that there are too many division with not enough teams in each of them. The fate of your season is tied to how good you are in relation only to three other teams. You could be the fourth best team in the league and miss out on the playoffs because of it. Likewise you could be the fourth worst team in the league and still make it. It's the system that has essentially allowed the New England Patriots to make the Super Bowl every year for the past decade because their path was just always more clearer than everyone else's.

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Yeah, it's not great, but generally I think the NFL playoff model gives us a LOT of good matchups.

 

One way around the above would be to just rank. Take the top 8 teams by record (and tie breaker) in the conference and that's the playoff teams. If a division doesn't get an entrant....so what?

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14 minutes ago, Hunter2_1 said:

Yeah, it's not great, but generally I think the NFL playoff model gives us a LOT of good matchups.

 

One way around the above would be to just rank. Take the top 8 teams by record (and tie breaker) in the conference and that's the playoff teams. If a division doesn't get an entrant....so what?

Because of the scheduling its not really a problem you can solve by changing playoff seeding rules. You'd have to rework the system completely. My proposal was to go to 4 divisions of 8 teams each instead of 8 divisions of 4 teams, which could add that 17th game the NFL wants so much.

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17 hours ago, JAF-N72EX said:

So you are saying you went back ~45 years and could only find 18 case studies out of roughly 400 playoff teams over the same time span and you still want change? You don't see anything wrong with this logic man? 

Then win your division to earn a higher seed.  It's that simple.  Division schedules account for 38% of a teams total schedule in the current alignment and that percentage was much higher during the 8-10 team playoff format before the 2001 realignment (years included in this study btw) and if a team is not good enough to win their division then they most likely don't deserve to be a 2nd seed in most cases either. And your post reflects this too because if it didn't then you see more than 18 case studies over 45 years. 

Sure,  the system isn't perfect (it never will be--to satisfy all fans) and there are going to be a small amounts of anomalies that may not seem fair at times (this year in the NFCE or the NFCW in 2011(12?) but the bottom line is,  if a team is a not good enough to beat the majority of their games then they most likely don't deserve to be handed a (undeserving) #2 seed for it over another team in the conference who may have deserved it over them. 

The current playoff system is also balanced too (well, it was until 2020).  Think about that as well.  Because how many 12-15 win teams have we've seen make the playoffs that have looked like frauds. 

The current playoff system exposes these frauds on both ends of the spectrum and that's what it was designed to do.  At least for the majority part anyhow it does.  ( Note: separate from the anomaly 2 decade dominance of Hoodie/Brady in AFC which seems to be asterisk in your post by I won't dwell on it and I really wanted too lol B|). 

Now,  how all of this new playoff format change in 2020 will effect things from this point on....I don't know.....that's anyone's guess.  But one thing that I am 100% certain of is that,  in most cases,  if a team is good enough to win their division and the majority of their games then they will be in the playoffs and be given the opportunity to prove whether they deserve to be there or not. 

 

18 times out of ~400 teams is misleading and the wrong way to look at it

18 times in 45 years means it happens roughly every 2.5 years or around 4 times per decade

That's actually WAY more often than I would have expected and its a meaningful difference between a bye week and a road playoff game

 

The good news is that going forward the Bye week aspect is out of the window, although the home/road situation still exists

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6 hours ago, Tk3 said:

 

18 times out of ~400 teams is misleading and the wrong way to look at it

18 times in 45 years means it happens roughly every 2.5 years or around 4 times per decade

As I alluded too, you can't ball them up all into one either though. You still have to look at the years included and the changes made throughout those years and separate them accordingly to get real view (8 playoff teams, 10 teams, 12 teams). For example, before this season, the 12 team playoff format started in 1990 (30 years ago) and the OP's post only shows 8 anomalies since then which would be more like once every 4 years.  Either way, it's still a very small amount, and that small amount doesn't justify changing what is (was) a balanced format IMO.  

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To me the real question is - is the #1 seed too OP?

Like, I get that they earned it, but its a big benefit to be the ONLY bye week AND have the homefield

IMO, I'd almost rather just open it up to 8 teams if we've already gone to 7, and all seed is for is homefield

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It is a tough thing to change, you can argue that the division they are in is lopsided where you have 2 teams that are drafting top 5 in a division where 2 can take advantage of getting 4 easy wins. You can also then debate that a division gets an easier schedule where they face a different division where it is a failing division (this year example can be the NFC East where a divisional winner can have a losing record). So the team may be 2nd in overall wins and 2nd in division doesn't necessarily mean it should be #2 seed. We can all find flaws to any system that is implemented whether it is this one or something else. It is interesting information and ideally one thing I would like to knock off is the division is an automatic top 4 seed. I think that is something that needs to be looked and maybe put in some type of rule if the team isn't over .500 then the top Wild Card spot gets the 4 seed and the division winner of a division with under .500 gets the wild card seed they deserve which is likely the 7th seed. You still get the respect of playoff since you won your division but you do not get to deserve to host a playoff game for poor performance in a weak division.

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I mean not only do I want seeding priority for division winners removed (which the NBA was wise to do, it twice now has recognized the problems of seeding priority for division winners), but the first round bye to be eventually eliminated completely with an expansion of the playoffs to 16 teams.

A good chunk of us was not alive when the NFL last had every playoff team play in the first round, which back in the day was the divisional round. And a big chunk of that chunk wasn't alive when the NFL last had division winners open the playoffs on the road, namely the #3 seeds in each conference.

I feel there is no way in hell the NFC East champion needs to open the playoffs at home this year.

And the idea of removing seeding priority for division winners ties into my belief that a weak division winner would be a more believable Cinderella story as a Super Bowl champion if they never had any home playoff games along the way.

As it is now, only the NBA and NHL guarantee a home playoff game for all its postseason participants, though if the 16-team MLB playoff with a best-of-three first round is made permanent, I would guess that the first round would put game 1 at the lower seed, and games 2 and (if necessary) 3 at the higher seed, which wasn't plausible this year due to the pandemic, which would make the NFL the only league that doesn't guarantee a home game for all playoff teams - as it is now, only 12 playoff participants can possibly have a home playoff game every year - and to have all 12 of these teams do so would require the road team to win every playoff game in the first two rounds, which would be very difficult to do.

Hence my proposal to remove seeding priority for division winners, which would give the top four seeds in each conference to the four best teams in that conference without regard to where they finished in their division. And this proposal would serve to discourage the phoning in of late season games by resting key starters, as a division winner would know they have to finish with one of their conference's four best records to start the playoffs at home.

For example, if the playoffs were 16 teams and there was no seeding priority for division winners this year, the 6 AFC teams that already have double-digit wins would already have clinched playoff spots. The top 3 seeds right now would be division leaders, but the 4th seed would currently be Cleveland who is 2nd in the North and holds tiebreakers over both Tennessee and Indianapolis, the top two teams in the AFC South. And a Dolphins win over the Raiders on Saturday night would clinch not only a playoff spot for the Dolphins, but one for the Ravens as well. From there on out the 8 AFC playoff teams would play for seeding.

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