Thursday, January 3, 2008

What if?

What if the NFL followed MLS' asinine playoff system and let more than half of its team into the playoffs?

Of course, the NFL playoffs are no joke. Teams that make the playoffs are there because they deserve to be there, not because they weren't as bad as the really bad teams.

But what if it was like MLS, where teams can mess around for three-fourths of the season and still have a legitimate shot of playing for the league title?

Let's see...

New England went 16-0 this year and had the best regular season in NFL history. Their reward: a bye week and no travel during the AFC portion of the playoffs. But under the MLS system, they'd play away against the Denver Broncos, who finished 7-9 and had a forgettable regular season.

The Indianapolis Colts, who won their division for the fifth consecutive season, would begin their title defense at Buffalo, who like Denver went a lousy 7-9.

The NFL, though, does it right. The NFL playoffs are a reward, not a consequence. Cleveland went 10-6 and still did not make the postseason. An MLS team will never finish their season with a .625 winning percentage and fail to make the playoffs.

I loathe the MLS playoff system. I think it's outdated, pathetic and rewards mediocrity. It hinders the league a great deal. Whatever team is top-of-table in June and July, it won't really matter because it will be canceled out by a team that's barely treading water come playoff time.

There will be 14 teams in the league this year. What makes most sense is to let six teams into the postseason, give the conference winners byes and let the second and third seeds duke it out in a one-off match at the second seed. Winner goes to number one for a conference final and winners meet in MLS Cup. Or, better yet, do away with the conferences, give the top two teams byes and have 3-6 and 4-5 meet in the playoffs.

But that makes too much sense. You'd only see that kind of sense in a league like the NFL.


Anonymous said...

"But what if it was like MLS, where teams can mess around for three-fourths of the season and still have a legitimate shot of playing for the league title?"
Obviously you didn't follow the New York Giants this year.


I'd say that there's a bit of a difference between the NFL and MLS, considering one has more than double the amount of teams (would you be opposed to an 8 team playoff when there are 16 teams?), and that the NFL is pretty much unique in American sports with giving byes to top teams (would you say that the NBA and NHL don't make sense, when 16 out of 30 teams in each league make the playoffs?). Further, it isn't like mediocre teams can't make the playoffs in the NFL. Teams with 8-8 records have done so in recent seasons, and teams with losing records can still have shots at the playoffs going into the last two or so weeks of the season.

I'd agree, though, that the MLS system does reward some pretty bad teams. Hopefully it will improve with a larger league, but I'd also like a restructuring of the playoff format.

L.B. said...

True. However, in the NFL a team has to earn their keep in the playoffs. The Redskins, for instance, don't get the advantage of playing at home. And neither do the Giants for that matter.

And having a great regular season (Patriots, Colts, Cowboys, Packers) still means something because you get a bye week AND a home playoff game. Having great regular seasons meant nothing to Chivas USA and a little to DC United (Champions Cup participation).

What irks me the most about the MLS playoff system is that a team will finish with a lousy regular-season record yet have a huge advantage to start the playoffs when they shouldn't even be in the playoffs to begin with.

Coach said...

It's all about the $$$ & needed exposure for MLS. Fans also love the excitement of playoff games.

More teams in & the 2 game home & home total goals, while I don't really agree with it, increases gate revenues. 2 game total goals also eliminates the "good team has 1 bad game & is gone" scenario.

Your suggestion is fine but it would decrease needed revenue & exposure. The only change I would make to your format is do a crossover between conferences in the semi-finals or re-seed them after the quarters & do away with the conferences at that point so that the “best” 2 teams have a better shot at being in the Final.

12 teams in with top 2 in each conference getting a bye to the second round would also work. This would generate lots of revenue, but makes the regular season almost redundant. For me, that would be fine. I read somewhere that Arena has suggested all 14 make it, personally I would eliminate the bottom 2.

I would likely stick with the current 8 in, make it top 4 in each conference, have no byes but top seeded teams get the game. One 90 minute game, 20 minute OT, then shootout.

Re-seed top 4 remaining based on regular season records & have 4 at 1, 3 at 2 for the semi’s.

The negative is the reduced revenues & exposure compared to 2 game total goals.

The Hammer said...

Didn't St. Louis get into the playoffs with a .500 record not too long ago?

Yes, it's very possible to see something similar in the NFL. Same situation in baseball, about a year ago the Padres, Giants, and Dodgers were all a travesty, and were fighting for the top spot in the "NL Worst"

They can avoid these talks about who should and shouldn't be in the playoffs because of the culture around the divisions and conferences. In football, it's inevitable simply because football culture teaches us to look at the single overall standings.

Having said that, I still think that in a playoff competition, a team that finishes in first and gets knocked out early wasn't that great to begin with. The other teams are aware of what the playoff rules are, so the push for first isn't as intense as it is in leagues where first = champion. So the top team is usually a team that got a good jump on the others at some point in the season, and rarely anything more.

Adam said...

"coach", you cant be serious! I got a head ache just reading that reseeding business. What would eliminate all that is the dreaded SINGLE TABLE format. Seed the teams 1-8 in the playoffs, top two get a bye week, and we're good to go! No more reseeding. Top teams play lower teasm, regular season has meaning, and most are happy.
I say most because I am a fan of the home and home series. I love the home and home aggrigate (sp?) goals. Its more exciting and forces teams to play attacking soccer. I just cant figure out how one can make the home and home series favorable for the teams that have the bye. Unless we have home and home for the first round only. Then winner take all after that...

Coach said...

Take a tylenol ;)

Coach said...

"Adam", I didn't have time yesterday to read your comment in detail & respond accordingly. Too busy watching the U.S. vs. Canada semi-final!

Best of luck to the U.S. in the Bronze medal game, which is on right now.

With 8 in & 2 getting a bye, you would be left with 5 teams after the 1st round? Kindly explain how that would work? Yeah, I've been around a while.

2 games total goal is 1 really long game with a very long half time (lol) so I don't think it "forces teams to play attacking soccer".

There is no right or wrong way to have a playoff format. There are many choices. Some lucky people get paid big bucks to come up with the one that works for them!


Coach said...

Guess I'm not going to find out how 8 teams in with 2 getting a bye works?

Could always go with the College Football Bowl system for determining a National Champion? :(

Even with the number of teams involved, there has got to be a better way! Note the NCAA soccer playoff format.

RobertTheBruce said...

Hey Luis,

Just wondein', if the MLS playoff system is asinine, would you also agree that the FMF playoff system is pretty asinine? I know you're a pretty big fan of FMF but with 8 teams as well as home-and-home in the quarters, FMF isn't much different than la eMm eLe eSs. Sure, there's fewer teams in MLS, but it's always been 8 teams making it thru and I'd assume (hope?) it doesn't increase. Fair's fair, eh.

Adam said...

Sorry "Coach" I have been rather busy getting stuff ready for my trip. I didnt mean to keep you in suspense. I do appreciate how anxious you were though.

The sad truth of thet matter is, I meant to have 6 teams qualify with the top two getting a bye. I was posting from work between duties (as I am now). I hope that didnt burst your bubble.
Any way, I do agree with you that people will always complain. Take the BCS, for example... okay, bad example, no one likes that system. I think the NFL has it right though. The bye week allows a team to get healthy and some much needed rest.

Coach said...

Apology accepted "Adam". I realize you needed some time to figure it all out but I was looking forward to possibly learning something new? The suspense & anxiety were indeed killing me but I do believe my "bubble" remains intact. Oh, the sarcastic humour of it all. :)

The NFL system you have indicated you now like IS what I described with some variations to allow for 2 conferences instead of 4, thus requiring no wildcards. It previously gave you said headache?

When I read your criticism of my opinion, it gave me a good chuckle, thus my response "take a tylenol ;)". So, lighten up, take the load off your shoulders, put a smile on your face, enjoy your trip, enjoy life.

Most of all, enjoy those playoffs whatever the format may be!


Brian said...

"Hinders the league a great deal"

Really? It upsets some hard core fans. It takes out teams who did well in the regular season when they coast into the playoffs. But how exactly does it hinder the league a great deal?

Are there really legions of fans who are solely not following the league because of the number of playoff teams? Is the league missing out on tremendous sponsorship opportunities because of the playoff structure? Would there be three teams in New York, four in LA and two in Chicago, but those deep-pocketed investors refuse to come to the table with eight teams in the playoffs?

Luis, you're better than this. That line is for Big Soccer meatheads who can't do long division, much less realistic analysis of soccer.

The playoff structure has many flaws, no doubt. But to hyperbolize that it hinders the league when it is really not much more than an annoyance to those who most likely will find something else to complain about is beneath you.