The NFC West Debate
So the big question in what is turning out to be one of the most exciting NFL seasons in recent years is should a team under .500 be able to go to the playoffs if they win their division? First off, it's a pointless and kind of stupid conversation; many "SUPPOSED" experts I've heard discuss this act like it's a possibility that something will be announced in the coming weeks that will screw the NFC West champion if they finish 7-9 or worse. For the record, it won't. Nothing will be changed this year; could something be changed in the future? Possible, but it shouldn't be. And here are a few reasons why:
1. This isn't a common occurrence. No team has ever won a division under .500. Only two teams have ever even won a division at 8-8. Last year's San Diego Chargers were only the 2nd team to ever do this. This was actually a possibility discussed by many when the conferences went to four divisions at the early part of this past decade, but it hasn't happened yet, and it may still not which leads me to...
2. The season isn't over. The St. Louis Rams who now sit atop the division with a 6-6 record (last time I checked that was .500) are an exciting and fun young team to watch; Sam Bradford could be a freshman fluke, but he is looking to be one of the elite QB's of the next generation. Their remaining four games aren't easy, but they get KC at home and San Francisco and Seattle are both huge possibilities for wins. The game at New Orleans looks like the only definate loss, but who knows. St. Louis have only lost big twice (Detroit and Atlanta) and their other four losses were by a combined ten points (Raiders, Bucs, Cardinals, and 49ers). Granted, they haven't beat anybody really worth a damn, but the schedule is not their fault (nor is their division for that matter), and this isn't college football. There are no Bowling Green's on the schedule (although the Carolina Panthers might not be too far off). My point is the Rams could very easily be 9-7 or at the worst 8-8 when all is said and done.
3. Where would it stop? So let's say the Rams or Seahawks win the division at 7-9 and the NFL decides that Collin Cowherd is right and they are pussies for letting this madness go on. After this season no one under .500 can go to the playoffs even if they win a division. What about 8-8; is there a huge difference between 7-9 and 8-8? For that matters is there a huge difference between 7-9 and 9-7? It's arguable that the two games that seperate those two records are very close and/or lucky wins by said team. And do you know how many 9-7 teams have made the playoffs? 50 since 1978. These are 50 teams that have probably been one or two bad plays away from going home or gotten one or two extremely lucky plays to eke their way into the post season. No one is complaining about them, but 7-9? Holy shit! Stop the presses!
4. What about the teams that will be screwed? The teams that would be ahead of the St. Louis Rams at this point if we had one mega division would be (not counting present division leaders) New York Giants (8-4), Green Bay Packers (8-4), New Orleans Saints (9-3), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5). (Eagles, Bears, and Falcons all lead their divisions). My second argument of the season not being over plays into effect here as well. All of these teams (minus the Bucs for the most part) could turn it around and win their division; barely a game seperates any of them from the top. The opposite could also happen where a couple of these teams end up with the same final record as the Rams or worse. So with four games left it's kind of a moot point to argue.
5. The NFL is a continuous circle of joy and pain. The fact is that in one or two years, the NFC West could easily be the toughest division in this conference. Look at the emerging talent of the 49ers and Rams and look at the possiblities of the Arizona Cardinals if they can just go get a QB not named Derek Anderson (They should seriously think about going after Kevin Kolb if the Eagles are willing to deal). The Seahawks have some young possibilities as well, but are a little farther behind in the discussion. And hell yes, I think there is some bias afoot. I'm sorry, but if this was the NFC East the discussion would lean more toward the positive saying you can't have a postseason without the Giants, Redskins, Cowboys, or Eagles representing. That would just be stupid; well, so is this debate for the most part.
It's the way it is. Like it or love it if you win your division you have earned your spot. I do think if anything should be looked at in the future it's that the team with the best record (wild card or not) should get home field advantage. At least that makes a little more sense. But in the end shouldn't you just win your division? Shouldn't that be the goal? You know that is your easiest road to the playoffs and at least getting one home game, so go do that and quit worrying about the Rams and Seahawks battling it out in a mediocre division.
It's been such a great season of highs and lows and I think the fate of the NFC West is such a pointless thing to talk about which I only added fire to; you gotta love irony or possibly my lack of knowing what irony is.