Sunday, January 4, 2009

Why Do 8-8 Teams Host Playoff Games?

Like Joe, I would have picked the Colts and the Falcons yesterday. Objectively, analytically, theoretically they seemed like the better teams. Manning's Colts had won 9 straight, and Matty Ice's Falcons had taken 5 out of their last 6. They both had better records than the 8-8 division winners, and were Vegas favorites. Now we are left to grapple with annoying football analyst talking points like home field advantage.

In a single game, how much does it really matter? Ironically, in baseball, where you have the tangible advantage of batting in the bottom half of the inning, home field advantage creates a 54/46 advantage, slightly less significant than in football (56/44). Vegas says 3 points, Bill Simmons says "nawt that impawtahnt any mahwah", so who really knows? One would imagine crowd noise certainly can have a greater motivational impact on players in more physical-effort-oriented sports. The adrenaline spike provided by the crowd's cheers isn't going to help Mariano Rivera locate his cutter, but it might help Brandon Jacobs punch it into the endzone. Regardless, can we just give HFA to the better team?

It's bad enough that winning a division automatically grants a team a playoff berth when teams with better records get locked out. That's probably not going to change. But those teams get to host the game too? Why? Both the Cardinals and the Chargers were 3-7 outside their division. Can we please at least give home field advantage to the team with the better record?

As a fan of a team with a first round bye, I am thrilled by the outcomes of yesterday's games (sorry Joe). Let these teams win at home in their domes, because next weekend those teams are going on the road to the blustery Meadowlands or to chilly (in January) Charlotte, where the Panthers went 8-0 this season. But taking my personal rooting interests (for this season alone) out of the equation, the system is kinda retarded.

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