Friday, February 11, 2011
Playoff reseeding takes a back seat
By Mike Sando
With labor unrest and a Super Bowl seating fiasco, the NFL has more important things to worry about than reseeding the playoffs to prevent another losing team from getting a home playoff game as a division winner.
Making significant changes to the existing structure would stand as an overreaction, anyway. The Seattle Seahawks were, after all, the first team in NFL history to win its division with a losing record. This was the exception, not the rule.
I could see it happening periodically in the future, however.
Realignment into four-team divisions for the 2002 season increased the likelihood. As the NFC West proved this past season, a division needs only four teams in transition to produce a champion with a losing record.
Between 1990 and 2001, divisions produced four losing teams four times. The difference then was that divisions had more than four teams.
A quick look back at the "offending" divisions -- those with at least four losing teams -- from 1990 through this past season ...
The 2001 AFC Central featured the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens and a Pittsburgh Steelers team that went 13-3 with Kordell Stewart at quarterback.
The 1997 San Francisco 49ers went 13-3, including 1-0 with Jim Druckenmiller as the starting quarterback. The rest of the NFC West that season? Not so good.
Eric Pegram and Bam Morris carried the rushing load for the 1995 AFC Central champion Steelers. The Cincinnati Bengals went 7-9 that season despite getting 28 touchdown passes from Jeff Blake.
The 1990 Chicago Bears won the NFC Central with quarterback Jim Harbaugh posting a 10-4 starting record. Harbaugh finished that season with 10 touchdown passes and four more scores on the ground.