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Sunday, June 16
The Indiana Daily Student


Bye-bye, bye

This season's unprecedented level playing field, coupled with its new division alignment, is proof that the National Football League needs to adjust its playoff structure.\nA quick glance at the current standings shows that, in the AFC, three teams are tied for the top seed, while five are within one game. Since only six teams make the playoffs, this means that two teams within one game of the best record in the entire conference won't even get in.\nWith the league's talent spread so vastly, it has become unfair to give any team any huge advantage in the post-season. That, however, is exactly what a first round bye does.\nThe current format lets six teams advance to the playoffs from each conference. The top two seeds get first round byes, instead of making them defeat the next two best teams that would have gotten into the post-season. Essentially, the league is saying that there is no way the best teams could lose to the seventh or eighth best teams, so there is no point in even playing the game.\nBut that philosophy no longer applies. Again, look at the AFC. If the playoffs were to begin today, the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers would be honored with the priceless week off. Two of the teams snubbed from action would be Denver, Tennessee or New England. Does anyone actually believe that the Colts and Chargers would just walk over any of these teams? Surely not -- Indianapolis has already lost -- at home -- to Tennessee, and Denver beat San Diego back in October.\nIt is time for the NFL to realize that the first round byes must become a thing of the past, and that two additional teams per conference should make the playoffs.\nIn a league that can no longer say there are teams that proved in the regular season they are far better than any other, the best way to decide a true champion is to make them win several games when everything is on the line. \nIn the NCAA basketball tournaments, in the end, the champion must win six games in a row, no matter how good of a regular season the team had. This helps to make up for the fact that some teams may have had easier schedules than others -- it is an equalizer.\nIn a league where any team can fall victim to another at any time, being a champion has to mean that that team won when it absolutely had to. Giving two teams first round byes in today's NFL means that they only have to win three games, while others have to win four. But even the teams with the best records must prove themselves because they are not much better than those that they would have to beat. The current structure seemed fair when making them play a first round game would have meant five wild card teams, along with three division winners, to make a total of eight. But, now that there will be four division champions, there would only have to be four wild cards. With the obvious equality the league has, picking four non-division winning teams from each conference is certainly acceptable, as any team could go on to be the Super Bowl Champion.\nColts president Bill Polian said that when the NFL decided to realign its divisions, the competition committee voted nearly unanimously to adjust the playoff structure, but the league wanted to wait and see how things played out. As we approach the post-season with our new divisions, it is obvious that the playoff format needed to go out with the old divisions. Hopefully the competition committee will get this point across to the league office, and hopefully it will agree that an eight team playoff is the only fair way to go.

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