NFC South: Three Brilliant Ideas to Fix the NFL Wild Card Playoff Format

By Mike Cardillo

Did you hear? The NFC South in 2014, to put it mildly, stinks. Following Sunday’s results the Saints and Falcons are tied atop the division with 4-6 records. (That’s your cue to commence teeth gnashing.) Odds are we’ll probably see a sub .500 team win the division, a la the 2010 Seahawks, which won the NFC West at 7-9 and beat the Saints in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

If we’re lucky — please — we’ll see a 6-10 team take the division and host a playoff game. Yes, it’s inherently dumb that a potential sub-.500 NFL team would host a team with a better record for a playoff game, but those are the rules. Everyone agrees upon this format ahead of time and it’s not until a situation like the current NFC South quagmire develops that we see columnists, talking heads and sports radio callers frothing at the mouth in anger about this arrangement in classic reactionary fashion.

From this rampant, speculative stupidity we might get a few decent ideas how to overhaul the NFL playoff system and make it fairer, maybe. (Hint: nothing drastic is going to change; the NFL wants its divisions to ensure the Cowboys-Eagles, Chiefs-Broncos, Packers-Bears, etc. play twice every season.) A much simpler, fairer question is this: should a division winner with a lesser record than a Wild Card team still host a playoff game?

[Related: It’s Time for the NFL to Get Rid of Automatic Home Games for Division Winners–from September 2010]

With that in mind, here are a three grrrrrreat ideas that I came up with Monday morning to determine homefield if a division winner has a worse record than a Wild Card team. I’ll first share them with you, loyal readers, before sending off a fax to NFL HQ. Feel free, too, to call your local sports talk station and present these as your own. Be thankful, I left out a race around the world in hot air balloons because that just wouldn’t be practical, would it?

Brilliant Idea No. 1: Scramble for the ball.

Remember the XFL? Remember how Vince McMahon’s pet football league thought a coin flip wasn’t manly enough to decide who got the ball first so two players raced for the ball to decide possession? Well, if you don’t remember here’s a clip:

Deciding homefield advantage for an NFL Wild Card game via a scramble between a player from each team on the Monday after the season ends? Why not? All that’s riding on it is thousands of dollars in ticket and in-stadium alcohol sales.

Also this idea would be a lot easier to stage than an even better option — making each team select one player to race against an opponent’s in the Eliminator course from American Gladiators.

Brilliant Idea No. 2: Play Madden for homefield.

Maybe there isn’t enough time, logistically, to schedule a scramble to determine homefield, so why not have each team involved select one of its players to play the other team’s “champion” in an online game of Madden using the two teams involved? Think of all the drama in the locker room it would create and players vie for the controller. You know ESPN would leap at the opportunity to air the game in primetime the Monday after the end of the regular season. Sure video game football doesn’t have anything to do with real-life football, but at least this gives the team with the better record a shot to host the playoff game.

Some heads might explode, however, if a video game version of Mark Sanchez cost his team a home game, so that’s a definite downside to this proposal.

Brilliant Idea No. 3: Pull names out of a hat

Let fate decide it. If a 6-10 team is destined to host a playoff game, so be it. We could also air the name pulling ceremony or whatever catchy name the NFL marketing department bestows upon it at halftime of ESPN’s Big Monday. Think of it as a shorter version of the NBA Draft lottery. If we want to spruce up this idea, we could also get one of those famous animals that picks games during the World Cup or similar events to make the decision.

Animals are always fun.

Those are my admittedly brilliant ideas to amend the playoff situation. If my takes aren’t warm enough for you, don’t worry — if a 6-10 team wins the NFC South the televised debate shows will be hotter than the surface of the sun with ideas and outrage.

RELATED: America Loves Playoffs, But Do They Always Crown the “Best” Champion?

[Photo via Getty]