Culture of Hoops

Sonny’s NFL Picks: Week 12

Image courtesy of  Parker Anderson/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Parker Anderson/Flickr.

Three years ago I devoted a few weeks of my life to coming up with, as I put it, “an argument against the BCS and the entire college football postseason in general. An argument that is so rock solid that it cannot be ignored.” Essentially, my suggestion was to almost completely scrap the college football postseason and create something new. It’s drastic and radical, and certainly won’t ever happen in my lifetime because far too many people like living by the status quo, but I’m still in love with the idea. It goes like this:

Under the Bowl Tournament System (BTS) 56 teams would be playing in 35 bowl games. The 15 bowl games with the highest payout to their participants will be featured in the BTS Tournament. 16 teams will play in this single elimination tournament over the course of four weeks. Those 16 teams will be chosen based on their collective rank in the AP and Coaches Polls. There are no automatic bids into the Tournament; it’s just the 16 best teams squaring off over the course of a month. Conference winners do however ensure themselves a bowl berth if they aren’t selected to the Bowl Tournament.

So at this point, we have 16 teams making up 15 bowl games, leaving 20 bowl games left. Contrary to popular belief, just because there is a playoff system in, that doesn’t mean that bowl games have to go away. There are 20 more bowl games, and 40 teams to fill those spots. Rather than sticking with the conference affiliations’ that are currently in place, I simply want to create the best matchups possible. For the bowl game deemed to be the best non-BTS bowl game, the best possible matchup would be assigned. It should also be noted that all conferences are guaranteed two teams to play in these non-BTS bowl games pending they have two teams bowl eligible. The non-BTS bowl games would also be spaced out in order to not interfere with the BTS games.

Now come on, you can’t possibly tell me that this doesn’t make the College Football postseason 10 times more interesting. So using this year as an example, the first round of the Bowl Tournament might look a little something like this:

1: Florida State v. 16: Auburn

8: Ole Miss v. 9: Michigan State

4: Mississippi State v. 13: Arizona State

5: TCU v. 12: Kansas State

3: Oregon v. 14: Wisconsin

6: Baylor v. 11: UCLA

7: Ohio State v. 10: Georgia

2: Alabama v. 15: Arizona

Instead, half of those teams probably won’t even play in a post-New Years Eve Bowl Game because of conference affiliations to certain bowl games. The college football postseason is wildly popular despite the fact that it’s arguably the most poorly structured of any of the major sports—and by “major sports” I’m talking about the NFL, NBA, college football and college basketball; sorry to MLB and NHL, you guys don’t make my cut.

I’ve discussed my gripes with the NBA’s postseason before here and there. I think that conference affiliations should be forgotten about once the playoffs roll around. Let’s just take the top 16 teams in the league, seed them 1-16, and then go about the playoffs normally from that point on. Someday soon I’ll go more in depth on this idea, but I’m almost 600 words into my Week 12 NFL column and I haven’t even discussed pro football yet.

College Basketball has the postseason mastered as long as the tournament doesn’t expand past 68 teams. Cinderella teams are relevant at 68—well, really 64— and for the tournament not to feel too diluted it can’t expand any further. Of course, it will eventually expand because money talks and it’s mostly idiotic people in charge of this stuff. I’m convinced of it.

The NFL Playoffs are interesting because there hasn’t been any major tinkering since 1990 when the league expanded its playoff system from a 10-team to a 12-team tournament. It’s hard to point out any major flaws with the NFL’s postseason, unless a team with a losing record makes the Playoffs. It’s happened three times in league history, most recently in 2011 when the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks won the NFC West, and actually ended up upsetting the road favorite New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round.

It could very well happen this year too, with the Atlanta Falcons currently sitting at 4-6 and atop the NFC South. If you crunch the numbers and break down the schedule, it feels like the Saints, also 4-6, end up winning the division with an 8-8 record, but that’s if they win the games they’re supposed to and that hasn’t proven to be a sure thing so far this season.

By just about any measure the Falcons, Saints, Carolina Panthers, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are below average football teams, and one of them will be rewarded a home playoff game in the first week of January. I can’t say that this sits well with me. On the flip side, there isn’t an obvious fix to this problem.

Unlike with the NBA, I wouldn’t want to disregard conferences because neither the NFC or AFC represents an overwhelming power house like the Western Conference does. I don’t necessarily know that expanding the amount of teams that make the playoffs is the option to go with, although it wouldn’t dilute the postseason to an alarming degree. Really, if eight teams from each conference make the playoffs that equals half of the league in the postseason, which seems like a lot until you consider 16 of 30 teams make the NBA Playoffs and well over half of the Division I football teams go to a bowl game.

An option could be to keep the format the same but neglect to give home field advantage to division winners. Again though, this doesn’t solve the problem of having a maybe the ninth best team in the NFC making the playoffs. Hypothetically, what if like the current College Football postseason, there were a committee which was responsible for placing teams in the postseason? If that were the case, Atlanta, New Orleans, Carolina or Tampa Bay—yes, I have to include Tampa Bay because statistically they are still very much in the hunt for the NFC South—wouldn’t get a spot unless division affiliations mattered.

If conference affiliations didn’t matter, Arizona, Philadelphia, Dallas, Detroit, and Green Bay would look like locks as of right now, with Seattle and San Francisco fighting for that last spot. In the AFC, New England, Denver, Kansas City, and Indianapolis are probably safely in. As of right now, I’d take Miami and whichever team comes out of the AFC North as my last two teams in. A lot could change over the next month though. The AFC North is still completely up in the air. Seattle and San Francisco will be jockeying for position. A team like St. Louis might get hot, not have one of the top six records in the NFC, but be worthy of a spot in the Playoffs … can you tell this is an awful idea?

In college football, a selection committee works, and it would work even better if the field expanded. There are so many teams, obvious differences in talent among conferences and huge discrepancies in strength of schedule among “contenders.” In the NFL the regular season is just different.

All in all, there isn’t a strong enough case for any alternate postseason setup. A selection committee is nice in theory, but it just doesn’t work for the NFL. Expansion doesn’t solve any major problems. Sure, there are twelve teams that could potentially make the playoffs in the AFC, but that doesn’t mean all twelve are worthy. In mid-November that doesn’t always seem clear. In late-December it usually works itself out.

I suppose the worst case scenario is Atlanta stumbles into the playoffs and hosts a clearly better team in the Wild Card Round. Atlanta will lose 38-13 and we can all chalk it up as an easy win in our picks. Hey, speaking of picks, it’s time for my Week 12 NFL Picks.

Home Team in CAPS

Kansas City Chiefs over OAKLAND RAIDERS

CHICAGO BEARS over Tampa Bay Buccaneers

ATLANTA FALCONS over Cleveland Browns

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES over Tennessee Titans

HOUSTON TEXANS over Cincinnati Bengals

BUFFALO BILLS over New York Jets


GREEN BAY PACKERS over Minnesota Vikings

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS over Jacksonville Jaguars

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS over Arizona Cardinals

DENVER BRONCOS over Miami Dolphins

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS over St. Louis Rams

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS over Washington Redskins

Dallas Cowboys over NEW YORK GIANTS

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS over Baltimore Ravens

Last Week: 6-8
Overall: 100-60-1

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