As I suffer through insomnia tonight, or this morning, I cannot help but notice the sympathy that’s going out over the national sports talk airwaves for the New England Patriots. The defending AFC Champions are causing a stir for their 11-5 record that didn’t get rewarded by a play-off appearance.
I have to admit, that’s an awful good record not to be playing in January, but last I checked, it’s not the NCAA Basketball Tournament. You don’t get an at-large bid. You play your way in. The rules are clear going into the season. If you win your division, you get one of the top four seeds. If you are among the best of the rest, you get either a five or six seed as a wild-card. That’t the end of the story.
I’m hearing folks from all over the country suggest, maybe, the NFL should change the way they conduct business. The fact that the Patriots, at 11-5, are going home, and a team like the San Diego Chargers could host a play-off game is almost criminal. “The Chargers went 8-8, they shouldn’t even be in the play-offs,” one caller suggested.
Sorry, I beg to differ. I think this is what makes sports so great. It always gives us something to talk about. Sports gives us something to debate. Somewhere along the road, the Patriots had an opportunity to go 12-4, instead of 11-5. 12-4 would have earned them a chance to go.
No, I’m not saying this because my team got in at 11-5. If the Ravens had been on the outside looking in, I would have brought up the two games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the game against the Tennessee Titans. Those were three games in which they should have won, but they didn’t. The Ravens were fortunate to still get in.
I don’t know what the League could do to “fix” this problem. The Chargers won their weak division. Do you not let them into the play-offs inspite of winning their division? Do you change each conference to just two divisions and allow the four best teams into the play-offs as wild-card teams? That would be the only solution. Your argument could be that having four divisions in each conference allows for too many “champions.” Do we really celebrate our AFC North titles, anyway?