x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Make mediocre division champions hit the road

A debate began in the dead of summer that the NFC West winner would stain the play-offs with a record at .500 or worse and be awarded a first-round home game.

A debate began in the dead of summer that the NFC West winner would stain the play-offs with a record at .500 or worse and be awarded a first-round home game.

It has not quieted much, even though St Louis and Seattle, at 6-6, are defending the division's limited honour.

Should the home field in each match-up go to the team with the superior record, even if it results in a wild-card playing host to division champions? Should the six teams with the best records in each conference, regardless of their place in the division, comprise the post-season field?

Let's start with the second question. Answer: No way. If you choose to align teams by division, the winners must qualify - or there is no purpose in the format. As for seeding based on record, the answer is: maybe. A case could be made that, say, a 10-6 Green Bay should get the home-field edge over an 8-8 St Louis.

However, home field is overrated, unless weather is a factor. The change may be fair, but its impact would be insignificant. One solution would be to restructure each conference into two eight-team divisions, thus reducing the odds of an unqualified play-off entry.

Do not hold your breath on this one. Team owners like to pipe We Are The Champions over the stadium sound system, and the current system allows for eight such scenarios in the regular season.

Make the division champions travel, if you must, but do not send them home with no play-off game at all.