@JPosnanski Gotta say I'm not bothered that 7-9 team made playoffs. I'm bothered that a spectacularly crappy 7-9 team is in the playoffs.
There were three 7-9 teams in the NFL this year. I would say the Seattle Seahawks were the worst of the three. Now, that is simply my opinion, and it is contradicted by the simple fact that Sunday night the Seahawks beat one of those 7-9 teams -- the St. Louis Rams -- in order to get into the playoffs. But the game was at home, and the Rams had beaten the Seahawks convincingly when the game was in St. Louis. I don't think the Rams are a good team. But I think they're probably better than Seattle. I feel sure the 7-9 Dolphins are better.
The Seahawks were outscored by almost 100 points this year. They were absolutely demolished by the Giants and Chiefs at home. They were crushed on the road by San Francisco, Oakland and Tampa Bay. They played only four playoff teams all year, and they went 1-3 and were beaten by an average of two touchdowns. They were the second-worst rushing team in the NFL, one of the league's worst defenses both in yardage allowed and points allowed -- and this against an absurdly easy schedule. The only great team they played all year, I think, was the Atlanta Falcons. And they got pummeled.
Now, my point is not that I think the rules should have been changed to prevent Seattle from making it. I don't have any problem at all with the Seahawks making the playoffs. Everyone understood the rules before we began. And, I kind of like the division system. I kind of like that the atmosphere changes every year, and that sometimes you are in a murderous division and sometimes you're in a horrible division but the singular goal of winning the division (using tiebreakers) remains the same. It keeps things interesting.
Still, it does seem obvious that this Seattle team is not even a good 7-9 team. Let's take a look at the 7-9 teams from the last five years and their point differential:
2007 Bengals: -5
2009 Bears: -6
2006 Bills: -11
2007 Bears: -14
2009 Dolphins: -30
2006 Falcons: -36
2010 Rams: -39
2008 49ers: -42
2009 Bears: -48
2010 Dolphins: -60
2007 Broncos: -89
2009 Jagauars: -90
2010 Seahawks: -97
2007 Lions: -98
2007 Bills: -102
2006 49ers: -114
So the Seahawks do not have the worst point differential*, but they're close. And the 2007 Bills hardly count since 77 of those 102 points came in two games against the 16-0 New England Patriots.
*The last 7-9 team to outscore their opponents? The 2004 Kansas City Chiefs, which figures. Dick Vermeil did some remarkable and odd things in his tenure as coach of the Chiefs because their offense was SO good and their defense SO bad (and Vermeil often didn't seem to mind -- as long as they were scoring points, he seemed reasonably happy).That year the Chiefs scored 483 points and had a losing record -- that was BY FAR the most points ever scored by a team with a losing record. Those Chiefs outscored opponents by seven touchdowns, but still finished 7-9.
Now the Seahawks get into the playoffs and even get a home playoff game. I don't think they will beat New Orleans, and I don't think they will even stay particularly close. But at home ... it's not impossible. And, absolutely, it's ridiculous. It's also a nice reminder that playoffs are not the perfect culmination of a season like so many seem to think. Hey, I like playoffs ... especially in football, basketball and hockey. I think they lift up the games and give us thrills.
But playoffs are not perfect -- I think we forget this all the time, especially when ranting about college football's ludicrous BCS system. I don't think there's any question the BCS system is impossibly flawed, and it is in place to protect special interests, and that a playoff would be more popular with the vast majority of college football fans. Most of the negative things people shout about the BCS are, in my mind, exactly right. I think it is absurd that this year TCU went undefeated and beat a very good Wisconsin team in the bowl game and has no access to winning what people widely consider the "national championship."
But, granting all of that, the BCS system IS giving us a fascinating game between Oregon and Auburn, two undefeated teams that had remarkable seasons. A playoff might not give us that game. The best playoff system I have seen is the Death To The BCS 16-game playoff featuring champions from every conference. That system would give us college football fans a thrilling month of football that would tower over the bizarre bowl setup we have now. But it would also, every single year, give us inferior Seattle Seahawks playoff teams while clearly superior teams who had much better seasons were left at home.
The point is that when it comes to crowning a champion, you have to pick your poison. You can make the season more or less important. You can make the postseason tournament more or less important. You can come up with all sorts of tiebreakers, and division setups and wildcard entries. You can put the tension wherever you want. Every ending has its positives and every ending has its problems. The best ending in sports history, in my opinion, was a World Series that matched up the two best teams from each league as determined over 154 or 162 games. And they messed that up with playoffs.