Why the NFL playoff system is superior to NBA and MLB
edited: Tuesday, November 09, 2004
By Radford C Castro
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Friday, November 05, 2004
Become a Fan
If you're a football head, you'll love this article. I love the NBA and MLB...but not as much as the NFL...especially come playoff time. If you love MLB/NBA over football, you may hate me. Let me explain.
I just came back from the Sacramento Kings game. It was only my second live basketball game in my whole life and the whole dramatic feel for the game was cool. Best experience of a Kings game so far. After it ended, I got to see the Nuggets walk out of the courts and chill with the rest of the Kings bench. It was weird. It was a pretty dramatic closeout and that was after Brad Miller got ejected talking crap to the ref (I think). Denver lost 117-106. The teams alternated in leads and it was pretty close. I have the pictures and they never lie. I guess losing against Sacramento wasn't that big of a deal with Denver. Go ahead Nugget fans. Shoot me.
This is why I love the NFL (especially on playoffs). Let me explain:
I watched all the NFL playoff games except one - 2003's Eagles vs. Packers. I didn't get a chance to see it but I got to hear it the rest of the way on my drive to the Sacramento Kings game. Even from just hearing the game on the radio, I get hyped up a bit. Sometimes I get the same level of hype watching/hearing playoff games from other leagues (i.e. NBA, MLB, etc.) but the sense of urgency to winning a game isn't the same.
I was watching HBO one day and Cris Collinsworth had an interesting discussion with Bob Costas on the differences between the NFL and MLB/NBAplayoffs. As you know, Bob is notorious for being against the wild-card playoff system in baseball and basketball. He has been criticized for being a traditionalist who believes in the antiquated notion that both sports does not need the wild card.
I believe he has valid points. There is nothing wrong with a wild-card format, but the path to a championship has been made too easy in for wild-card teams. When contrasted with the NFL system, I think you will agree.
The wild-card playoff system in football puts more significance on winning the division. If you win a division in football, you have at least one home game in the playoffs and the possibility of a bye.
It forces team to keep playing well through the end of the season because it's not only important to win the division, but to be one of the top two teams in the conference.
A wild-card football team has a tough road to the Super Bowl. There is a definite hierarchy with the playoff teams. New England put themselves in position to win their AFC East, but continued to play well for a shot at the No. 1 seed. What does that mean? The Patriots keeped playing hard all the way through Week 17 because the top seed in the NFL playoffs is the ultimate prize. Both Philly and New England were top seeds for NFC and AFC respectively. They have also protected their coveted #1 spot. Out of all the wild card teams that have made this far, only Carolina has trudged along by barely skinning St. Louis on Saturday in second overtime. Great game.
Can you say the same thing about baseball? For the most part, a wild-card team in baseball is on equal footing with the division winner. The division winner will receive one more home game, but is it really significant? The Florida Marlins won the World Series this year as a wild-card team. The Anaheim Angels were a wild-card team in 2002 and they beat another wild card team, the San Francisco Giants, for the World Series title.
Baseball has had two wild-card champions in the past two seasons. In the NFL, only three teams -- the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens -- have ever won a Super Bowl.
I question if there is the same sort of incentive for a baseball team to keep playing hard once they have earned a playoff position. This year, it was said the Atlanta Braves put John Smoltz on the disabled list to keep him fresh for the playoffs. In the NBA, the Spurs did the same thing with Tim Duncan as the regular season was close to finishing up. In contrast, Philadelphia Eagles would not even consider putting McNabb on the bench to keep him fresh, even if that meant fighting a crappy team on the last week of the season.
The new playoff system with four division winners has made it an even better system because the difference between division winner and a wild card is so stark. Al Michaels made a great point on Monday regarding the playoff battle between Tennessee and Indianapolis, two of the best teams in the NFL. One team will win the division with the possibility of getting a home game and a bye. The other team will have to win three road games just to reach the Super Bowl. Sure enough, out of those three road games, Tennessee's difficult but admirable run ended on on a road game at Foxboro against the Patriots.
In baseball, the New York Yankees won the AL East and ended up playing the Boston Red Sox, the wild card from the same division, for the American League championship. The Yankees' reward for winning the divisional title was one extra home game. That is not much of an incentive. I realize fewer teams make the playoffs in baseball, but rarely does the drama of the final week in baseball compete with football's wild finishes. Last year, it seemed that every NFL city was kept in suspense until the final whistle on the final weekend. This year was much more suspenseful and significant. All Minnesota (a 9-6 team)) had to do was defeat Arizona during the last game of the regular season (a 4-11) team. When they couldn't, Green Bay all of a sudden found themselves in the playoffs.
What if the wild card in baseball only got one home playoff game in a best-of-five series and only two in a best of seven. Suppose the top seed in the National League and American League then got to play the wild card with that advantage. Now we are playing for something.
With the current NFL playoff format, the regular season is almost as important as the playoffs. The teams with first-round byes and home playoff games have such an advantage, rarely are teams in a position to just play out the season comfortably as we often see in other leagues.
The significance of the last month of the regular season in football is unmatched by the other sports in terms of importance. Of course I am a little biased, but the NFL playoff system is far superior to the other sports. I truly believe that the regular-season suspense and playoff system are major reasons why football has captured the heart of America and made the NFL our most popular sport. OK, maybe I'm a lot biased.
Web Site: radcastro.com
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|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|Redford, I am a football head myself; I LOVE football! Wonderful write; enjoyed~
(((HUGS))) and love, your fellow football fanatic friend, Karen Lynn in Texas (Dallas sucks this year; we need a major overhaul....). :D
|Reviewed by Cynthia Borris
You know both games. It's great to get a football article on the board and I sense you're a California, too. Great points and well written.
|Reviewed by Michael Charles Messineo
|Radford, This was an excellent article and you made great points. I would love to see you do the same thing with the BCS college system. PS. I am a Nuggets fan, and I still liked this.