The Best Benchwarmers


Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/TNS

New Orleans Saints defensive back Marcus Ball (36) is upended as he brings down Chicago Bears wide receiver Marc Mariani (80) during the second quarter on Monday, Dec. 15, 2014, at Soldier Field in Chicago.

As the 2014 NFL season comes to a close, the playoff aspirations of many teams will be made and broken while some teams who clearly deserve a spot may not get one at the expense others that don’t deserve it.

Each NFC division has two teams who are competing for the division title. In the NFC North, the Packers and Lions both have a record of 10-4. In the NFC East, it’s the Cowboys and the Eagles. In the NFC West, it’s the Cardinals and defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks.

But the NFC South is in an interesting spot. There are three teams competing for first: the Saints, Panthers and Falcons. A tight division, but here’s the catch. They all have losing records.

That’s right. The Saints sit at the top of the division at 6-8. Theoretically, they could lose the last two games and make the playoffs at 6-10. This creates a tough situation for the other highly competitive divisions in the NFC. There are only six berths, and the NFC South champion will automatically receive a birth. So that leaves five births left for six teams that are much better.

A team that finishes 10-6 in the NFC East might not make it when a team that is 6-10 in the NFC South can win the division.

The NFL will probably need to take a serious look at the playoff system.

Some suggest a complete rehash of the way teams enter the playoffs. Some suggest that the NFL ranks teams by their overall performance within the entire league, not just their division. Instead of the four division champions and two wild cards, they suggest the top six teams in each conference make it to the playoffs.

In the event that it changes, it creates the possibility of a “super-division” where four teams from one division could technically make the playoffs, but that is extremely unlikely. The system has worked in the NBA for years, without much fuss from fans or ownership. However, the NHL recently realigned its divisions and have redesigned their playoff system to where the top 3 teams from each division, then the next two best teams in the conference. We’ll see how it plays out in the coming seasons.

Whether or not the playoff system changes, it won’t make for less entertaining football.While the Bears won’t be on the field, it’ll still leave plenty of fun for fans of the game.