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Cowboys being used as an example for changing the NFL playoff system

If the Cowboys win the NFC East, some other team is going to be upset.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It’s no secret that the NFC East is a little bit of a joke this year. The once-storied division that can claim so many playoff and Super Bowl appearances has fallen on hard times. No team in the division has a winning record, the Cowboys 6-6 mark tops the pile. The four teams in the division have a combined record of 16-32. The two teams that are battling for the division title, Dallas and Philadelphia, are currently riding two- and three-game losing streaks respectively.

It’s a shambolic mess.

Yet, whoever ends up winning the division gets a home game in the playoffs. The NFL playoff system awards each of the winners of their division a home playoff game. Now, the Cowboys could go on a run and win their division with a respectable 10-6 record, but based on what we’ve seen so far that seems highly unlikely. A more likely record might be something like 8-8 with a win over Philadelphia in Week 16 clinching it.

If that happens, you will have a wild card team that will feel very cheated. Nine years ago, the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks won their division that was even more of a shambolic mess than the current NFC East. The Seahawks got a home game versus the 11-5 Saints and promptly pulled off the upset. Saints fans, players, and coaches were none too pleased.

While you can debate the fact that the Saints blew their chance and should have been able to win on the road if they were truly a superior team, the fact is at 11-5 they should have had the game at home. They were punished and forced to fly across country to one of the toughest places for a visiting team to win by a playoff system that doesn’t truly reward merit.

Now, the Cowboys/Eagles race to the NFC East crown could bring the idea of re-seeding the playoffs to the fore again.

Either Seattle or San Francisco likely will finish 13-3 or 12-4, and whoever doesn’t win the NFC West will have to travel [to] either Dallas or Philadelphia, one of which will win the division, possibly with a record of 8-8 or worse.

With the Cowboys currently leading the NFC East by one game, a win over the Eagles in Week 16 could clinch the division for Dallas, allowing the Cowboys to rest their starters in Week 17, which the 49ers and Seahawks engage in a bare-knuckled, winner-take-all fight for the NFC West crown, with the loser limping to Dallas — and possibly losing there, too.

It shouldn’t be that way. The four best teams from each conference should host playoff games. While winning a division should guarantee a spot in the playoffs, it shouldn’t guarantee a home game.

It’s a battle of tradition versus fairness. If the Cowboys do win the division, holding a playoff game at AT&T Stadium would certainly help the Cowboys to some extent, although the idea that that would be enough to push them to victory seems pretty far-fetched. But it probably also seemed far-fetched to the Seahawks almost a decade ago.

If an 8-8 or worse Cowboys or Eagles team gets to host a playoff game against a team that has won 12 or 13 games, the debate about revising the seeding in the playoffs will become loud once again.

Where do you stand on the question, BTB?


Should the NFL revise the current playoff seeding process?

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