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Rule change proposal: pick your playoff opponent

Posted by Doug on November 10, 2006

As you can see, I'm opening up a new category today: Rule Change Proposals. Maybe I'll make Fridays rule change proposal days. Some of them will relate to the mechanics of what goes on on the field. Some will have to do with league structure and playoff format. Some will be serious, others will be crazy. Others will be both crazy and serious.

This one is completely serious and I can think of absolutely no reason at all why it shouldn't be implemented immediately. I know exactly why it won't be implemented, but there's no reason why it shouldn't be.

The current structure of the NFL playoffs calls for the three seed to play the six seed, and the four to play the five. In the following round, the one seed plays the lowest remaining seed. My proposal is this: the three seed gets to choose whether it wants to play the five seed or the six seed. In the second round, the one seed gets to choose which of the first-round winners it wants to play.

Bill Belichick is clearly above questioning of any kind so I won't pretend that his decision to intentionally lose last year's week 17 game against Miami to gain a favorable playoff matchup wasn't the smart thing to do. But Bill is also a virtuous man, so I'm sure he wishes he wasn't forced to do it. Under my rule, he could have won the game and still gotten to play the Jaguar team he wanted to play.

Yes, tanking for playoff matchups is probably fairly rare. But it's not nonexistent, and this would put an end to it. Further, the fact that tanking is even a possibility in some cases indicates that the seeding system isn't achieving its desired purpose. The point of the seeding system is to reward the higher seed. So why not truly reward them with the easier matchup instead of giving the nominal reward of playing the team that probably is the easier matchup?

I'm pretty sure coaches would hate this rule, as it forces them to give their soon-to-be opponent the ultimate bulletin board material. But, as I see it, that's part of the fun. Speculating on who the Chargers are going to choose to play in the first round --- and then critiquing their decision --- would be a lot more interesting than most of what goes on in week 17 under the current system. And I guess if the three seed doesn't see sufficient advantage in naming their opponent, they should be allowed to pass that right/obligation to the four seed.

Give me one good reason not to implement this rule.