Fix the NFL Playoff Seeding

The NFL Spring Meetings are kicking off today. One of the topics of discussion will be discussing rule change proposals for the upcoming season. Unfortunately, another year will go by without any discussion on a what I believe has needed to be addressed for a very long time. I’m referring to how playoff teams are seeded.

When the NFL realigned its divisions with the addition of the Houston Texans in 2002, the playoff seeding structure was slightly altered. While the number of teams and schedule remained unchanged with six teams from each conference and two being awarded byes, the extra division changed the dynamic of playoff seeding. Before 2002, the three division winners under the East, Central, and West format were awarded seeds 1-3, with three Wild Card teams getting 4-6. The fourth seed is critical as it is the lowest seed that guarantees a home game. This meant if a team had a really good year, but had another juggernaut in their division, they would still get to host at least one playoff game.

Under the modern system, there are four four-team divisions per conference, with each of those four guaranteed a home game. Basic logic tells us that winning a division of four teams is not as difficult as winning a division of five teams (or six if you were in the AFC Central). With larger divisions, teams had to had to secure a better record in order capture a division title. But with four-team divisions, it’s not the same feat.

From 2002 through the 2016 season, there have been 13 division winners with a 9-7 or worse record. The ones worse than 9-7 include the 2010 Seattle Seahawks (7-9), 2011 Denver Broncos (8-8), 2013 Green Bay Packers (8-7-1) and the 2014 Carolina Panthers (7-8-1). Did these or even the other nine 9-7 teams really deserve a home playoff game after having an average season, yet managed to “dominate” their bad divisions? I would say no.

On the flip side, there have been a lot of really good teams who have finished second to an elite team, thus slotted in the fifth seed which means a road game on Wild Card Weekend. From 2002 to 2016, there have been 25 Wild Card teams to finish 11-5 or better(seven were 12-4). Under the old playoff structure, these teams would most likely secure the fourth seed as the best wild card team while the aforementioned lowly division winners would slide down to the fifth or even sixth seed.

With 32 teams, the current structure of eight four-team divisions is ideal. So I am not calling for realignment to fix the issue. But the seeding structure can be fixed to award teams more fairly. We can keep it so each division winner is guaranteed a playoff spot. But the fourth best division winner should no longer be given the fourth seed automatically. Instead, the NFL should grant the top three division winners seeds 1-3, then the record of the fourth division winner should be compared against the two wild card teams to determine seeds 4-6. If this model was introduced, a 12-4 Wild Card team like the 2016 Oakland Raiders would have occupied the fourth seed and hosted a playoff game. At the same time, the 2016 Houston Texans, who won a bad AFC South at 9-7 would have slid to the sixth seed.

It’s the perfect solution in that it mirrors a playoff structure that worked so well before 2002 and it does not require the NFL to realign their divisions. While this issue gets occasional discussion, it has escaped the list of proposals for this week’s Spring Meetings. Well, there’s always next year.

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Players Who Sucked This Week


Curtis McElhinney played in just one game and contributed to his team’s 7-2 loss in Miami. Antti Niemi was worse, allowing five goals en route to a 7-1 loss in Edmonton. Jeremy Smith also gets a nod for losing his only start. And let’s not leave Chad Johnson out, he gave up four goals in a losing effort to the Bruins. Try again next week fellas.

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Matt Murray was consistent…ly bad when he gave up four goals in each game this past week. But one turned into a win. Better thank your teammates for that one.

Andrei Vasilevskiy started off winning in Ottawa, but allowed four goals in each of his next two games – in front of his home crowd.

Tuukka Rask was responsible for both of his team’s losses last week. He was pulled against the Oilers after giving up five goals just minutes into the second period, then suffered a loss last night in Toronto.

Keith Kincaid and Cory Schneider were both off this week, giving up a combined 10 goals with a 1-2 record.

Devan Dubnyk lost all four games in regulation, but he also faced 114 shots. Where was the defense? Too bad St. Patty’s already passed otherwise he’d have a reason to forget last week.



Danny Green was off his shooting game again, going 2-10 from long range with an overall .214 FG%.

Green needs to do a lot more of this to get back on track.

Green needs to do a lot more of this to get back on track.

Stanley Johnson might’ve been the worst shooter of the bunch – .111 FG% and .125 3P%. No wonder he’s a bench player.

Mario Hezonja missed all six three-point attempts, shot 33% from the foul line, and missed all four shots in last night’s OT win.

Dude no one is gonna want to see you if you keep shooting this bad.

Dude no one is gonna want to see you if you keep shooting this bad.

Gerald Henderson went 4-17 from the field and hurt his season FT% going 8-13 from the line.

Evan Turner made his return to the court, but it was anything but spectacular. A .235 FG% and whiffing on every three-pointer shows how rusty his game is. Remember when this guy was supposed to be the next superstar?

Raymond Felton had a trend in four games – make a shot or two, then miss all attempts. In those games, he shot .176 from the field and missed all five three-point attempts. Terry Rozier had a similar on/off week, but shot .233 from the field overall. It’s okay, you can say he sucked less than Felton.

Hold on defense! I got this! You know I'll miss!

Hold on defense! I got this! You know I’ll miss!

Darren Collison played alright against the Thunder Saturday, but was atrocious shooting the ball in the following game.

Devin Booker shot .213 in both games last week, but missed both long range shots on St. Patty’s Day. Blame the green beer.


Dishonorable Mentions

Steve Mason started with a shutout against the Penguins, but then allowed seven goals between his next two games. He ended with a 2-1 record and .897 SV%.

Calvin Pickard defeated the Red Wings 3-1 at home last Wednesday, then lost the rematch Saturday in Detroit 1-5.

Kari Lehtonen was on/off this week – he followed up a terrible loss with a win, lost again, then ended the week with a shutout. What’s with all these on/off athletes?

Jonathan Quick and Ben Bishop both followed up a decent game with a poor one – in the same game. They each gave up two goals on Sunday which led to a 5-2 loss in Calgary. Bishop continues to lose since being traded to the Kings. Can’t say that us Lightning fans miss him.


Got anyone to add? Write ’em in the comments.

Stats week of 3/14-20

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Players Who Sucked This Week


Jeremy Smith lost in all three appearances this past week, allowing 8 goals on 62 shots (.871 SV%). His support squad was equally bad, scoring only one goal in those three games.

Juuse Saros lost in his lone start this week, letting four different Blackhawks score against him.

Peter Budaj was anything but impressive in his first start for the Lightning. Giving up four goals is not how you impress your new teammates and fan base. Ben Bishop was also bad for his new team, losing both games and giving up six goals. Curtis McElhinney had very similar stats as Budaj in one start, but has been on the Maples Leafs all season. They already know he’s not that good.

bishop trade

Darcy Kuemper ain’t bring his A-game against the Jets last week, giving up five goals on 24 shots then getting pulled halfway through the third period.

Thomas Greiss was too inconsistent to not make this list. He beat the Stars despite four goals allowed, lost to the Blackhawks in a shootout, then lost again after allowing four goals in the first period to the Flames. He was of course pulled from that last game after that atrocious start.



Rodney Stuckey should’ve passed the ball more after making only one shot on 11 attempts. He also missed both free throws. Time to put in some practice hours. Trey Lyles also made just one shot, but on 13 attempts, and whiffed on all four three-point attempts. But he did make one of two free throws. These guys rightfully head this week’s list of the worst shooters.







Giving them competition for worst shooter duo are Troy Daniels and Solomon Hill. Daniels went without a FG in three of his last four games, ending with a .188 FG%. His 3P% was even worse at .083. Hill finished the week with a .181 FG% and almost fouled out last Friday.

Patrick Patterson couldn’t shoot coming off the bench, posting a .222 FG% and .272 3P%.

Danny Green was way off his game this past week with a .250 FG% and .167 3P%, which he’s known for. Luckily for him being on the Spurs, they won all four games.

Mirza Teletovic didn’t help his team get three wins this week, shooting .222 from the field and .272 from long range. Stick to rebounding.

Lou Williams looks like he could be a blues singer and may want to consider picking up a new job after this past week. Actually leaving a good paying job like professional sports would be bad, but he’s gonna need to practice his shot after going 6-29 from the field.

Stanley Johnson shot exactly .200 from the field and long range. That is some consistently bad shooting.


Players Who Sucked Again

Mike Smith is back again! His SV% improved as the week went on (.714, .897, .943), but he ended with the same result each time – an L. That puts him at 16-20-6 for the season, which sadly mirrors how his Coyotes are playing.

That face you make when you're disappointed in yourself.

That face you make when you’re disappointed in yourself.

Dishonorable Mentions

Robin Lehner gave up 9 goals in three games, but ended the week with a .905 SV% since he faced 96 shots. Where were his defensemen?

Antti Niemi was solid in his first start defeating the Penguins at home, but then blew it when the Islanders came to town two days later. Eddie Lack did the complete opposite – he lost in overtime in Tampa Bay, then went to Glendale and beat the Coyotes.

Calvin Pickard played very well despite a 2-1 loss to the Senators, but then was pulled after giving up five goals in 29 minutes on Saturday.


Got anyone to add? Write ’em in the comments.


Stats week of 2/28-3/6


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Should Teams be Fighting this Hard for a Draft Pick? NBA History Says Yes

Until the NBA makes changes, tanking still remains the best option for getting out of the dreaded purgatory of being an average team. You know there is a problem with a sport when a team is in a better position to become a contender as a 20-win team, as compared to a 40-win team.

Earvin "Magic" Johnson, second from left, beams as he holds a Los Angeles Lakers uniform at New York's Plaza Hotel, Monday, June 26, 1979 where he was selected by the Lakers in the first round of the National Basketball Association draft. "Magic" is joined by NBA Commissioner Larry O'Brien, second from right, and by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Earvin Johnson, left and right, respectively. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler) ORG XMIT: APHS186045 [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

Unfortunately, being a mediocre-to-average team is a position in the NBA that is very difficult to escape. Each season, there are arguably 3-4 teams that have a legitimate shot at winning the NBA Championship. The sport is unique in that way. The NFL, MLB, and NHL have had its share of low seeds and wild card teams make deep playoff runs. Case in point, only twice in NBA history has a champion emerged as the #4 seed or later (4th seed 1969 Boston Celtics and 6th seed 1995 Houston Rockets). The first and second seeds have dominated the list of NBA Champions, with the last #3 seed to win being the 2011 Dallas Mavericks.

The takeaway is that flukes and parity are virtually nonexistent in the NBA. So what’s the big discovery, that the best teams from the regular season traditionally hold up the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June? Obviously. That is a given. But if you examine most of the NBA Champions in recent memory, they have a consistent similarity: They are led by or receive a major contribution from a player selected at the top of the NBA Draft.

Let’s take a look at the NBA Champions going back to 1980 along with the draft position of their best player

Year NBA Champion Player Draft Selection
1980 Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson 1st
1981 Boston Celtics Larry Bird 6th
1982 Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson 1st
1983 Philadelphia 76ers Julius Erving 12th
1984 Boston Celtics Larry Bird 6th
1985 Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson 1st
1986 Boston Celtics Larry Bird 6th
1987 Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson 1st
1988 Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson 1st
1989 Detroit Pistons Isiah Thomas 2nd
1990 Detroit Pistons Isaiah Thomas 2nd
1991 Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan 3rd
1992 Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan 3rd
1993 Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan 3rd
1994 Houston Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon 1st
1995 Houston Rockets Hakeem Olajuwon 1st
1996 Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan 3rd
1997 Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan 3rd
1998 Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan 3rd
1999 San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan 1st
2000 Los Angeles Lakers Shaquille O’Neal 1st
2001 Los Angeles Lakers Shaquille O’Neal 1st
2002 Los Angeles Lakers Shaquille O’Neal 1st
2003 San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan 1st
2004 Detroit Pistons Chauncey Billups 3rd
2005 San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan 1st
2006 Miami Heat Shaquille O’Neal 1st
2007 San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan 1st
2008 Boston Celtics Kevin Garnett 5th
2009 Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant 13th
2010 Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant 13th
2011 Dallas Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki 9th
2012 Miami Heat Lebron James 1st
2013 Miami Heat Lebron James 1st
2014 San Antonio Spurs Tim Duncan 1st
2015 Golden State Warriors Steph Curry 7th
2016 Cleveland Cavaliers Lebron James 1st

There are a few outliers. In 1983, the Philadelphia 76ers were led by Julius Erving who was drafted 12th overall and began his career in the ABA. Secondly, the Lakers of 2009 and 2010 were led by Kobe Bryant, a 13th overall draft pick. On the surface, it looks like an absolute steal. For what it’s worth, it sure was. However, when Bryant was drafted in 1996, a time when it was normal for high school players to be selected highly in the draft.

NEW YORK - JUNE 26: Kobe Bryant poses for a portrait after being selected by the Charlotte Hornets in the first round of the 1996 NBA Draft on June 26, 1996 at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1996 NBAE (Photo by Andy Hayt/NBAE via Getty Images) [Via MerlinFTP Drop]

Bryant was certainly not the first high school player to be drafted, but he picked at a time when teams were still very nervous about drafting someone right out of high school. A lot changed over the next few years; as in 2001, we saw the first four draft picks forgo college basketball for the NBA. It was not until 2006 when eligible players had to be at least one year removed from high school to enter the NBA. The bottom line is that if a prospect with the potential of Kobe Bryant came out a few years later, he most certainly would have been drafted much higher than 13th overall.

While one could argue that the best player on the 2006 Miami Heat was Dwayne Wade(drafted 5th overall in 2003), that team would have won without Shaquille O’Neal (1st overall in 1992). But the purpose of this exercise is to look at the importance of having a highly drafted player on the roster. But, fifth overall isn’t exactly low.

If we took all of the players leading their teams to championships from 1980 to 2016, the average draft selection was 3.27. If we remove the aforementioned outliers of Erving and Bryant, that average moves up to 2.44. So what does that tell us? That recent NBA history will tell you that if you want a legitimate shot at an NBA Championship, you need a superstar-caliber player that can most realistically be acquired within the first three picks of the NBA Draft.

The Golden State Warriors of the past few years could also be viewed as an anomaly, as Steph Curry was a 7th overall pick. It may be easy to forget how Curry was not viewed as an elite prospect coming out of Davidson in 2009. 

Same can be said for Draymond Green, who slipped into the abyss of the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft. 

GettyImages-50964347.0The 2004 Detroit Pistons, despite having Chauncey Billups who was drafted 3rd overall, may be the last NBA Champion without a true superstar. That was thirteen years ago.

Aside from the very few outliers and anomalies, the message is clear. In the NBA, if you do not have a superstar, you do not have a chance. It’s that simple. With the lack of NBA-ready talent entering the draft each year, teams without that star, franchise player have had to resort to tanking to put themselves in the position to draft that individual who will hopefully lead the franchise out of the dreaded NBA purgatory to the promised land.

Teams good enough to sneak the playoffs as the 7th or 8th seed define NBA purgatory. Those teams have virtually zero chance of winning it all, yet have equally long odds of drafting a player with the potential to become the superstar that can make the team a true contender.

As easy as it may be to criticize teams who have tanked, or have intentionally put together a roster that will yield very few wins, you can’t blame them for doing it. The flawed structure of the NBA essentially incentivizes teams to do it. Several teams have “blown it up” and tanked for their next franchise player. The Spurs did it for Tim Duncan. The Sonics/Thunder did it for Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.  

More recently the Sixers and Lakers have been following the same strategy with hopes that it will yield the same results. The Sixers are Lakers are not the first teams to tank, and as long as the NBA doesn’t make any changes to its structure, they won’t be the last. And I don’t blame them for doing so.

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Players Who Sucked This Week


Roberto Luongo goofed up in his only start this week, allowing four goals on 28 shots at home to the Flames. Mike Condon did nearly the same last night in Tampa (5 goals on 29 shots).

Michal Neuvirth has one good thing to point out about this week: he was consistent. In both starts (vs WSH, @ PIT), he lost and saved 25 of 29 shots. I don’t know if something like that has been done yet this year. Robin Lehner had one start, and also saved 25 of 29 shots. Terrible twins!6477c3428a51986fe415bf1537cb6d9c38dd6b8da7fb1fd194c104dfa2a1632e

Mike Smith was turrible in his only start, giving up six goals at home to the Blackhawks. Philipp Grubauer wasn’t much better, surrendering four to the PRedators.

Ryan Miller let four go by in his only start. He’s now lost four of his last five, and eight of the last ten. The Canucks must be praying for Markstrom to stay in good health.

Pekka Rinne shouldn’t get much credit for his two wins, but can take all the blame for last Tuesday’s loss to the Predators, giving up four goals in the first 25 minutes.

Devan Dubnyk lucked out last night, after giving up four goals for the second consecutive game.



Matthew Dellavedova and Ish Smith were the leading poop-shooters this week. Dellavedova shot .136 from the field and Smith was barely better at .171e32d2d3441a3110b81ec387ef20eb161c823b34a8982b561354939cce58cb89_16. Dellavedova missed all 11 three point attempts, Smith whiffed on both of his. Smith also almost fouled out Sunday night – that might’ve been a good thing considering the Pistons lost by six points.

Iman Shumpert looked like Slumpert again, shooting .227 from the field and .158 beyond the arc.

Yogi Ferrell had a FG% of .259, made three out of 13 three-point attempts, and committed six fouls.

Sergio Rodriguez was as bad as his Sixers – .222 FG% and .182 3P%. The point guard should stick to passing next week.


Players Who Sucked Again

Nick Young and Brandon Jennings make their first consecutive appearance on my list! Young only made two of 12 three point attempts, shot .235 from the floor, and is still known as Swaggy P. Jennings couldn’t shoot unless he was at the foul line, and nearly fouled out in one game. Will they pick it up and stay off the list next week? Now taking bets.


Dishonorable Mentions

Louis Domingue was bad in his first start this week in Dallas, then totally redeemed himself Sunday night. He was almost bad enough to make it on the list of those who sucked again. Lucky Louis.

Thomas Greiss and Jean-Francois Berube get the mention for combining to lose 7-0 in Columbus on Saturday.

Kari Lehtonen collected a nice win against the Coyotes, then blew it against the Bruins.


Got anyone to add? Write ‘em in that comment box.


Stats week of 2/21-27


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