NFL: Time to Get Rid of Automatic Home Playoff Games for Division Winners

By Jason Lisk

I originally proposed this almost three years ago as a way to improve the quality of games at season’s end, as it is ridiculous that teams that play in easy divisions and have the division clinched with nine wins get to rest starters at season’s end. I have  no problem with the #1 seed resting in the final week if they have earned it, but Arizona the last two years, or Tampa Bay in 2007, sorry.

Two offseasons ago, when a similar proposal was up for consideration from the competition committee and rejected by the owners, I saw a couple of basic objections to it from the owners.  The first was the thought that historically division winning teams got home playoff games.  It is a long and illustrious history going back to . . . when I was in high school.  That’s right.  1990 was the first year that all division winners got a home game in the playoffs.  Before then, all the worst division winner got was an automatic road game in the semifinals and usually a drubbing (4-16 on the road by average margin of 13 points).  Before then, the NFL did not even seed based on record, and division winners with very good records often had to go on the road in the playoffs to play lesser division winners.  I’m not sure where this grand history comes from.

The second reason offered was that fans liked to know that their teams would get a home game if they won a division.  Home games are a zero sum game.  It’s not like we are not giving a home game to another team’s fans who would like to know that their team can get a home game when they are three games better than your crappy division winner.

The third reason from some of the owners was that such a rule would actually penalize teams in tough divisions and reward wildcards from easy divisions.  This, of course, is completely and patently false.  I’ve run the numbers about wildcard teams and average schedule strength and point differential versus the worst division winners, and I could throw those at you.  Or, I could just ask you to use common sense.  If a division winner has 9 wins, they played in a crappy division since no one else in the division had a winning record.  Conversely, a wildcard with 12 wins by necessity had to play in a division with another team with at least 12 wins.   There are occasional exceptions, but by and large, wildcards with more wins than the worst division winner played a tougher schedule and were better. [Image via Getty]