How To Make NFL Regular Season More Exciting and Competitive

Abdumalik KertayevContributor IJune 26, 2009

PITTSBURGH - JANUARY 18:  Quarterback Joe Flacco #5 of the Baltimore Ravens is stopped by the Pittsburgh Steelers defense during the AFC championship game on January 18, 2009 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

First of all, I want to apologize if I use inappropriate, unusual, or wrong words and phrases in my first ever post in any site, because English is the fourth language I have learned in my life.

In 2005, Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers finished with the same record: 11-5 and they split the season series with an away team winning each time. And why did the Bengals won the AFC North? Because they had a better division record.

For me, it is a very unconvincing argument for determining a better team, as it only means that the Bengals managed to sweep the NFC North rivals Ravens and the Browns, while the Steelers lost once at Baltimore. I am saying this not because I am a Steelers fan. If you bear with me for a moment you will get my point.

My point is that the fate of playoff berths and playoff seeding orders should never come down to the second and further tiebreakers in the first place, as I think this is not exactly a fair way to determine a better team out of several teams with the same record.

How can the NFL officials decrease the possibility of needing second, third and next tiebreakers in such cases? My suggestion is to introduce a points system like in the NHL regular season, with a small modification. Three points for a regulation win, two points for an OT win and one point for a tie or OT loss.

In the first sight one might ask: What is the difference? Here lies the trick – OT games make it happen.

For example, if we introduce this system – in the hindsight, of course – for the 2005 NFL season, then the Steelers would have gotten 35 points on the strength of their two OT losses (at the hands of the Jags and the Ravens), while Cincinnati would have had only 33 points because of zero OT games for them in that season.

Yet I am not saying that the AFC North division title would have gone to the Steelers, because under this system there is no way the Bengals would have tanked both of their last two games as it was the case in that season.

As you can see pretty clearly, the scenarios like this would not only decrease importance of such unconvincing tiebreakers like division record, conference record, record against the same opponents etc.; they would make those games that are meaningless under the current system very meaningful. That means extra excitement for fans of all teams, and an extra chance for some desperate teams. Not to mention such cases when under some scenarios, especially closer to January, with the score tied, the QB of one team desperately tries to throw 90-some yard TD pass from inside of their own 10-yard line with the last seconds of the 4th quarter ticking away, because they need three points, not two. I, personally, would love such games.


To give more back-up to my point, let us look at the NFC of the same year. The picture is even more interesting in this side of the playoff bracket. As many fans can remember, the NFC South also had two teams with the same 11-5 record. Under the current system, the Bucs got the Division title and the Panthers got the number five seed and a visit to the Meadowlands, where they demolished and blanked the Giants.

Under my system, the Panthers would have gotten the division title (33 pts), and the Bucs (32 pts due to one OT win) would have gotten the five seed instead. The Giants (another team with the 11-5 record) would benefit most among the NFC teams under this system because of their two OT losses, in addition to their 11 regulation wins—total 35 pts, good enough for the number two seed and a first round bye.

Again here, I am not saying that this would have happened, because in this case the NFC North champion Bears (yet another team with the 11-5 record) would not have tanked their season finale against the Vikings.

To support my point, I have studied the NFL schedule for the last four seasons and below I am going to point out other cases where the points system would have affected the playoff berths and the seeding orders.

In 2006, in the NFC, the 10-6 Eagles (31 pts due to their lone OT loss to the Giants in Week 2) would have gotten the number two seed ahead of the Saints (30 pts and no OT losses). But again, in this case, the Saints would have not pulled their starters and would have tried very hard to beat (or at least take the game to OT) the playoff-desperate Panthers in their regular season finale. What a dogfight it would have been!!! Oops… I did not mean to make fun of a certain former NFC South QB.

In the NFC again, the number six would have gone to another 8-8 team (the Panthers with 25 pts, of course if they beat the now motivated Saints, do you remember?) instead of the Giants (23 pts because of the same OT win against the Eagles).

In 2008, the biggest eye-catching swap would have happened in the AFC East where the Patriots (34 pts) would have gotten the number three seed as division champs, instead of the deserving Dolphins (33 pts) who would have missed out of the playoffs.  To give some justice to the Dolphins I must say that under my system they should have become the AFC East champs instead of the Jets in 2002, on the strength of their OT loss to the Pats in Week 17. Also in the NFC, the 12-4 Giants (34 pts, two OT wins) and the 12-4 Panthers (37 pts, one OT loss) would have traded their seeds in the playoffs if the Giants had not played their third stringers against the would-be NFC North champ Vikes. Another meaningful and exciting game to the NFL’s credit!

Here anyone could give a very strong argument against the points system by saying that, for example, an 8-8 team with several OT losses would have more points than 9-7 team(s) with a couple of OT wins. In order to avoid such cases I suggest retaining the W-L system with making the total points the first tiebreaker. In this case, the NFL regular season, I am sure, would be fairer, more fun to watch and even more exciting, which are the main goals of the NFL Competition Committee I guess.

To cap everything, I would suggest giving 4 points for a shutout win and accordingly minus one point for a shutout loss. That would give some credit for a team’s stout defense and penalize impotently lousy offenses. But this is a topic of another blog.