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Cowboys visiting under-.500 Tampa Bay is outrageous flaw in NFL playoff construction

If it is not already outrageous sufficient that the Cowboys should board aa airplane and fly greater than 900 miles and keep in a lodge and gown in a overseas locker room and enter a stadium that isn’t theirs to play an NFL playoff sport in opposition to an opponent that had a decidedly inferior season, now we study they need to put on blue jerseys in opposition to the Buccaneers.

That is likely to be the perfect illustration, ever, of what a ridiculous assemble the NFL seeding system might be.

The Cowboys completed the common season with a 12-5 report as a member of the NFC East, which produced the highest seed Eagles and the incoming wild-card Giants. The Bucs gained the NFC South however with an 8-9 report, making them solely the fourth crew with a shedding report to enter the playoffs on this century.

The NFL playoff construction, although, ensures every division champion a top-four seed on the playoff bracket and a house sport within the first spherical, whether or not that crew is the 2007 Patriots (who completed 16-0) or the 2020 Commanders (who limped into the sphere at 7-9).

So the Cowboys performed in a a lot more durable division and produced a report that was 4 video games higher and nonetheless are handled because the inferior crew. The NFL would not do loads fallacious with its product, but it surely’s been mucking this up endlessly. And it issues.

It issues when the division champion enjoying at house is 10-7 and the visiting wild card crew 12-5, but it surely issues most when there may be an event akin to this: an achieved crew such a the Cowboys compelled to go on the street to play a Bucs crew that bungled into the playoffs solely as a result of each dangerous crew within the NFC South was even worse.

And for instance simply how a lot it issues: That is the sixth time because the 2000 season {that a} crew with a .500 or worse report has gotten to play host to a playoff sport via that quirk, and 4 of the earlier 5 superior with victories.

.500 or worse division fields since 2000
yr Group Opp. End result
2022 Bucks (8-9) Cowboys TBD
2020 Commanders (7-9) Bucs L, 31-23
2014 Panthers (7-8-1) Cardinals W, 27-16
2011 Broncos (8-8) Steelers W, 29-23 (OT)
2010 Seahawks (7-9) Saints W, 41-36
2008 Chargers (8-8) Colts W, 23-17 (OT)

The NFL has demonstrated how necessary it believes home-field benefit to be, and the way important it’s that that edge be earned pretty, via the gymnastics carried out due to the abandonment of the Payments-Bengals sport following Damar Hamlin’s medical disaster. Whether or not one believes the league obtained that one proper — and there might need been no right reply in that circumstance — the NFL actually did not act as if enjoying at house is inconsequential. However granting that chance to a crew merely as a result of it gained a horrible division is strictly that. Merely making certain such a crew a playoff place is greater than a enough reward.

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Trai Essex performed for one of many groups that wound up on the fallacious facet of this misjudgment. A veteran of eight seasons with the Steelers, enjoying as a sort out and guard, he gained two Tremendous Bowl rings and appeared in a 3rd. However within the 2011 season he was a part of a 12-4 squad coached by Mike Tomlin that completed second within the AFC North division to the Ravens due to a Baltimore sweep. The Broncos have been the AFC West champs at 8-8, so that they obtained to have the house playoff sport in opposition to the Steelers regardless of the large disparity within the groups’ information.

“We at all times prioritize successful the division. Coach Tomlin did a great job of letting us know that with the intention to host a house sport at Heinz Subject we have got to win the division,” Essex advised The Sporting Information. “And in case you do not, you will be on the street.

“Now, we did not know we would be on the street going through an 8-8 Denver crew, however that is what it was. It was a bit irritating, as a result of we thought we deserved extra due to the yr that we had. We additionally knew that was a threat if we could not win the division.

“That was the notorious ‘Tim Tebow Sport.’ So it did not end up almost like we thought it will.”

Having to play at Denver instantly put the Steelers at a drawback. Professional Bowl security Ryan Clark had performed a sport there 4 years earlier and, as a result of he carried what known as the sickle cell trait, acting at altitude made him dangerously sick. In the end, he had his spleen and gall bladder eliminated and missed the rest of the 2007 season. The Steelers by no means allowed him to play in Denver once more.

A protection compromised by different accidents absolutely missed him. The Steelers fell behind, 20-6, at halftime. They needed to rally for a landing within the closing 5 minutes to drive extra time, then misplaced the coin toss and the sport when Tebow threw an 80-yard landing to wideout Demaryius Thomas on the primary scrimmage play.

“We did not carry out how we had carried out to that time,” Essex stated. “I feel Tebow had, by far, his greatest sport ever as a cross. And I feel you’ll be able to positively attribute that to not having RC again there.”

Within the NBA, groups in every convention are seeded 1-9 strictly on report. That is not a super system, both, as a result of there should be some worth positioned in successful a division if the standings and schedule are going to work. It is nonetheless extra logical, although, than granting a much less profitable crew a big benefit.

The NHL system is decidedly superior. Within the two conferences, the highest three groups in two divisions mechanically qualify for the playoffs, together with two wild playing cards per convention with the perfect information no matter which division they name residence. The division champions every are granted the chance to open in opposition to wild-card groups; the one with the higher report will get the lesser opponent.

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The NFL simply may create probably the most logical system of all, however to this point has refused.

“I would love it if they only ranked the perfect groups within the convention, type of just like the NBA does,” Essex advised TSN. “Take the division winners, however at that time rank them 1-7 primarily based on report and tiebreakers and you then go to the playoffs. I feel that may be the best method of doing it.”

A lot of the NFL is predicated on the integrity of the competitors, from the wage cap to the draft system to the amended extra time guidelines that rely much less on the vagaries of the coin flip. This is among the few obvious exceptions to aggressive logic.

Essex has a concept about why the NFL sticks to this. “I feel the house owners like the truth that there is a clear, distinct solution to host a playoff sport. I feel it is money-motivated, for probably the most half. That is simply the best way it’s.”

This issues to the Cowboys greater than you’ll be able to think about. It is not simply the specter of having to face seven-time Tremendous Bowl champion Tom Brady, who owns a 7-0 report in opposition to them. However you seem within the playoffs, you anticipate the opposite crew to have good gamers (even when these gamers solely have been able to compiling an 8-9 report).

What’s most daunting for the Cowboys is that they haven’t gained a street playoff sport since January 1993. That was 30 years in the past.

They gained the Tremendous Bowl that yr, and one other two within the subsequent three seasons, however they’ve performed eight playoff video games on the street within the three many years since and misplaced each time, most lately within the 2018 season. A minimum of that yr, that they had gained three fewer video games than the Rams. They deserved to be enjoying in LA.

This time, they need to be at residence, within the gleaming AT&T Stadium, sporting their basic white jerseys and people well-known silver pants. However Tampa has been sporting white in latest residence playoff video games and can have a “white-out” promotion at Raymond James Stadium to create an impact much like what we have seen in school soccer at Penn State.

The Cowboys solely have performed seven of the 64 playoff video games of their historical past sporting blue jerseys. They’re 1-6 in these video games.

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