After losing Tom Brady to a season-ending injury, New England Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick, had arguably his best coaching year, as he led his injury-riddled team to an 11-5 record.
Belichick achieved this success with quarterback Matt Cassel, who, prior to Week Two, hadn’t started a football game since high school.
Yet after continually overcoming adversity, the Patriots' only reward was an early start to their off-season.
Meanwhile, the 8-8 San Diego Chargers are not only going to the playoffs, but are hosting a game.
Since the NFL split its conferences into four divisions in 2002, 12 teams finished with nine or fewer victories and made the post season. Only four teams with 10 or more victories have missed the postseason.
The Patriots’ situation is the first of its kind, but it only needs to happen once in order to force a change in postseason rules.
As recent history has shown, once a team makes the playoffs, they are legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Fortunately, to rectify this situation, the NFL doesn’t need to do away with divisions or conferences, nor does it need some complicated BCS-like formula to ensure all worthy teams are postseason bound. All the NFL needs to do is adopt the 10-win rule.
The 10-Win Rule
If a team wins their division and they have 10 or more wins, they are automatically in the playoffs. However, if a team wins their division and they have nine or fewer victories, they could be replaced in the postseason if a team (from within their conference) has 10 or more wins.
The team that gets in on the 10-win rule is seeded just like any other wild card team.
There’s no tie-breaker—it’s an either/or proposition. If you win your division with 10 wins or more you’re automatically in the playoffs. But, if you win your division with nine or fewer wins, your postseason chances could be in jeopardy.
This simple rule maintains the integrity of the divisions and creates additional excitement at the end of the year.
Teams that would normally be out of the playoffs can strive for that ten win plateau and a chance to sneak into the postseason.
Meanwhile, the rule prevents teams that have wrapped up awful divisions from coasting through the final games on their schedule (like the Arizona Cardinals did this year).
Even if the subtle 10-win rule is only used once every six years, its mere presence will annually enhance late season playoff runs. When the rule is used, it will ensure that the six best teams are in the postseason.
What more could you ask for in a rule?
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