The Haphazard Blog

Tag: nfl playoffs

Keeping NFL Teams Playing Hard at the End of the Season

by on Jan.17, 2010, under Football, Sports

Roger Goodell recently said the following according to ProFootballTalk:

Honestly, we don’t have a solution for it. We’ve had a lot of suggestions. A lot of people have talked about things from making scheduling changes to re-seeding the playoffs. A couple people have suggested the idea of potentially modifying the draft in certain ways. But none of these have been studied in depth.

This is in response to the reaction to the Indianapolis Colts to rest their players at a time when their team was 14-0 and had a real shot at going 16-0. The fans at the game were very upset. The Colts have a long history of resting their players late in the season once they have clinched home field advantage for the playoffs. The outcry was much larger this season because they were undefeated and then compounded by their actions afterward. Ranging from bogus excuses for why they played hard the week before (debunked by ProFootballTalk) to then risking injury to their players to establish arbitrary individual statistical milestones.

The NFL tossed out some ideas that Goodell mentioned. Giving out draft picks to teams that continue to play hard was the first one I heard. This one didn’t make much sense to me since they’d be rewarding teams that are heading to the playoffs. If the idea is parity, and they give the teams that did poorly better draft positions, it would be counteractive to reward good teams with additional draft picks, regardless of where they are in the order.

Another idea, adjusting the schedule so the last 3 games are division games won’t help much either. The weight the division has is already diminished when only 6 out of 16 games are division games. Using this year as an example, the Colts were uncatchable with 3 games left. It didn’t matter what those 3 games were.

I think the solution lies in re-seeding. The basis of teams resting is that they have established either the top seed in the playoffs or that whatever they do, their seed in the playoffs is set. They have to make a change that strikes at the reason for resting.

My suggestion is to continue to determine the playoff teams as they are now (division winners plus two wild card teams). Then add an emphasis to a team’s late season performance. I’m throwing out doubling the weight of the last 4 games of the season. In this scenario, this is what would’ve happened this season:

2009 NFL Playoffs Reseeded

The Colts and San Diego Chargers end up flipping seeds and the Cincinnati Bengals drop from the fourth to sixth seed in AFC. For the NFC, the top 3 seeds remain the same and the Arizona Cardinals drop from the fourth to sixth seed. At first glance, it doesn’t seem to solve many problems. Looking at the NFC, 5 teams ended up with the same weighted record. The New Orleans Saints rested their starters in the final weekend and lost. The Philadelphia Eagles would’ve had a shot at the #1 seed with a win. The Colts would’ve locked up the #1 seed with one more win and possibly been sitting at 15-0. Do they go for 16-0 then or lay down? I’d like to know how many teams would throw away a chance at going undefeated. As far as I know, this is the first time in NFL history that a team willingly lost the first game of their season.

So by weighting the last 4 games of the season, it rewards teams for playing well into the playoffs. The reseeding also eliminates a bad team in a bad division from getting a home playoff game. Their reward is a ticket to the playoffs. Performance on field gets you home field. I ran the “numbers” for the 2005 through 2008 seasons as well and you can see the end result in the gallery at the end of the post. Some quick (mostly New England Patriots-centric) observations (these all exclude the effect of how teams would’ve played had they known records would be weighted, so it assumes each team tried their best to win the game):

  • In 2008, the Colts would’ve jumped from a wild card to the first seed. They started out slow but finished up on a long streak. Nice reward.
  • In 2007, the Patriots still lock-up the #1 seed early, but the NFC field is shaken up. Do the New York Giants still make it to the Super Bowl? What would’ve been…
  • In 2006, the AFC Championship game could’ve been the Colts at the Patriots instead of the other way around.
  • In 2005, the seeding in the AFC is changed so the wild card teams host the division winners, but the games stay the same. If the results also stay the same, then the Patriots avoids the Denver Broncos (the team/coach (Shanahan) have had Bill Belichick’s number) and play the Colts instead. The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Broncos that year and if the Patriots beat the Colts, they play at the Steelers in the AFC championship. I like their chances. And yes Steelers fans, this is why the Patriots are the team of the decade. Three Super Bowls to 2 and the Patriots were 2-0 against the Steelers in the playoffs. Both games were the AFC Championship in Pittsburgh. The Steelers never had to beat the Patriots to win a Championship.
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Patriots Season is Over

by on Jan.10, 2010, under Football, Patriots, Sports

Another season ends poorly. It was almost fitting that the Patriots had their worst game of the year when it mattered the most. They came into the season as Super Bowl favorites (according to Las Vegas odds) and didn’t come anywhere close to the expectations laid out by the media. This season has been an effort in setting new lows.

As far as I can remember, Brady was pulled from a game for the first time in his career because they were losing so badly (vs. the Saints). Brady and Belichick have now lost their first home playoff game. Everything was simply uncharacteristic Patriots this season. For me the most telling was the Patriots lost 5 games that they led at half time (4 of them were by 10 or more points). In Bill Belichick’s first 9 seasons as Patriots head coach (2000-2008) they had lost only 5 games they led at half time, total.

In retrospect, some are saying this is a “rebuilding” year. It’s hard to believe that when the offense had almost all of the players they had in 2007, or 2008 when they had Matt Cassel at QB and won more games. Was Jabar Gaffney the entire difference? Maybe the offensive line is getting older. The defense was supposed to get younger and faster along with a much improved secondary. Did trading Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour hurt them badly? Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi retiring?

I think they need a player that can be disruptive to the passing game, especially getting after the QB.  But, I believe more of the blame this year falls on the shoulders of the offense. They produced in the first half, but then were anemic in the second half in too many games. Wishful thinking is Tom Brady was still getting back into the game and both he and Randy Moss suffered from other undisclosed injuries. If that is age related, then it’s not likely to be a one time occurrence. Wes Welker will likely miss half of the 2010 season, maybe all of it. He certainly won’t be his old self in 2010.

The Patriots had a pretty good draft last year. They got a lot of young players who contributed and it filled out their roster pretty well. I’m hopeful they will focus on trying to get a few impact players (trading up) instead of collecting contributors (trading down). My list right now looks like outside line backer/pass rusher, outside wide receiver, running back, cornerback, tight end and offensive lineman. They could fill some of these in free agency as well. It will be interesting to see how it ends up going.

If it’s an uncapped year, the Patriots avoided any restrictions on signing players with the wild card round loss. They are a high revenue team, so I wonder if they will spend at the top. Traditionally they have spent near the cap limit. It’s an interesting dynamic for the owners. They want to win and could get players that normally would’ve been very difficult under a salary cap. On the other hand, if they’re spending a lot, it’s hard to convince the players that the current split is inequitable. They can also cut players with no concern for the dead money. This part could be bigger than many anticipate given Tom Brady’s comments about commitment, discipline, working hard, etc. in comparison to the past. I think some surprising cuts are coming.

It should be an interesting off-season.

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