Ever since the NFL split into 8 four-team divisions in 2002, it became evident that the NFC West was unarguably the weakest division. After years of flirting with a dubious record (actually a collection of them), it now seems obvious, with just two games remaining, that someone with a sub .500 record is going to win the lowly division and be guaranteed a playoff spot, when it can be argued they don’t deserve to go at all.
However, this isn’t one of those columns.
Actually, I think its kind of exciting that the perfect storm has hit four woefully inept teams in the same season, in the same division where someone has to win it. The fact this drama has the ability to drag on into the 16th week of the season makes it all the sweeter.
In fact, in a case of “how low can you go”, I actually hope that the divisions two leaders, the Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams, beat up on each other or at least alternate wins or losses so that at the very least, the division cannot be won with anything more than a 7-9 record. In fact, what I really want to see in the NFL justify a 6-10 division winner.
Can you imagine that? Not only would we have a home playoff game where a 10 loss team would be a host site, but the NFL would actually have to go there and explain on national tv the rarity of it all is classic
“Well, here we are folks. Live at the Edward Jones dome in St. Louis Missouri where the youthful St. Louis Rams will be hosting the New York Giants. Forget the fact that the Giants actually have the better record, they are the Wild Card team. Forget the fact the Rams lost double digit games in the post season. We’re here because under NFL rules we have to be, simple as that. I guess we can thank you for actually choosing to join us today to watch history being made, but really what choice did you have? Tim, have you got anything to add?”
The pre-game would be hilarious, watching the crews come up with positive things to say about the team. Note, this isn’t a shot at the Rams, as it very well could be the Seahawks which, if that be the case, simply substitute the names. The point is, it would be funny watching the crews struggle for interesting things to talk about all game long.
The color commentator would add: “Should be a good one. Let’s see, the Seahawks finished 29th in the league in passing mixed with their 21st ranked rushing and um, good? Consistent? Defense? I’m sorry folks, this is just really hard for us. What are we supposed to say? They were the best at not losing the most? C’mon fellas, I need some help here. Why are we here? Why aren’t we in New York?”
This isn’t an article either about, while the team has a right to be in the playoffs, the game really should be in the city of the team that had the better record. The NFL is going to have a two-fold problem. Not only will this sub .500 team be in the playoffs, which is a conversation in itself, but also the fact they won a division which gave them an automatic home game. It would be funny to watch the announcers struggle saying
“They didn’t just sneak into the playoffs as a fluke Wild Card team, they won a division. Never mind this history being made with a weak wild card, but I never thought I’d live to see the day a division was won outright simply by not losing as much as the other teams.
But, its also important that that team have double digit loses for posterity’s sake. The record books must show a ten loss team not only made the, but won a division. Even if that team gets rocked and bounced as would be expected in the first round, the fun carries over into the off season and next season when Sports Illustrated team summaries and season previews hits stands and, under the team’s season recap, they have to mention this ineptness and have the record to boot.
What is that reporter supposed to say? “The Seahawks/Rams hope they can continue to build off of last years, um, defend last year’s divisional title?” I mean, technically, they’d be right, but it would still be funny that it even had to be written.
The chaos also extends beyond this season, as the coaches involved have to evaluate the players on their team and the team itself and how are they supposed to do that correctly when they have no idea how far away their team is from actually competing when “competing” is a 4-12 or 5-11 record? They won’t know who to cut or any idea how close they actually are!
But, lets also give credit to the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers who played a valuable role. Not only were they not eliminated with 4-10 (Arizona) and 5-9 San Francisco records as of week 15, but they won just enough and seemingly at the right times, where this was possible. What else was really neat was last weekend where all four teams lost thereby really increasing the likelihood of a sub .500 team winning a division.
I mean, we’re likely to never witness this again, perhaps in any sport. The National League West came very close a few years ago with the 82-80 San Diego Padres and some think the AL West could be had this upcoming season with a similar record, but I think the A’s have done just enough to stop that talk.
Either the Rams or the Seahawks would have to win out just to finish .500 at 8-8. I think that alone is funny, but given the nature of this season and the teams involved, I doubt we are going to have to worry about that and I hope we don’t for the reasons stated above.
No, we should just sit back and watch this history being made and enjoy it along with waiting for the head scratching and justifying that follows. All the coaches’ jobs should be safe. I mean, how can you fire a guy that only lost the division by 2 games?
Even if that two games results in a 4-12 record.