I ran across an interesting article titled The Case for Rethinking the NFL’s Playoff Format. While I’m not saying the NFL playoff format should change, the author sure does have a point. The Patriot dynasty has been fueled by the good fortune of playing in what has been perennially the worst division in football. As I noted from my blog The Curious Luck of Tom Brady, since Brady became the Pats QB, his division rival starting QBs include the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy, Kellen Clemens, Chad Pennington, Quincy Carter, Vinny Testaverde, Jay Fiedler, Damon Huard, Ray Lucas, Brian Griese, AJ Feeley, Sage Rosenfels, Gus Frerotte, Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper, Cleo Lemon, Trent Green, John Beck, Chad Henne, Tyler Thigpen, Matt Moore, Ryan Tannehill, Tyrod Taylor, EJ Manuel, Matt Cassel, Kyle Orton, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel, Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm, J.P. Losman, and Kelly Holcomb. Only one decent year from 40 year old Brett Farve provided a brief reprieve from an otherwise revolving door freak show of milk carton quarterbacks.
There are two things the article got wrong:
1) Claims that Tom Brady is the best QB ever (he might be, but odds are he isn’t and that article ironically does a good job explaining why). Tom Brady is without a doubt the most accomplished QB ever, but that’s different than being the best ever. We can really never know, but it would be hard pressed to say Aaron Rogers, John Elway, or Roger Staubach would not have had similar or better success given Belichick as coach and the free pass the Pats got every year with the abysmal competition in the AFC East division that always assured the Pats home games in the playoffs. Its worth noting the Pats have not won a road playoff game in 10 years.
2) Because of the seeding the Pats likely will face the 4th and 1st best playoff teams, instead of facing the top two teams which would be normal fare in a typical seeding such as March Madness. The Pats are likely to finish 11-5 with the 2nd seed. The top seed will go to either KC or the Chargers given both have cake games to close the season (both would have to lose for the Pats to get the top seed). As things stand now, in the wildcard round the Texans will play the lowest seed (either the Titans or Colts), and the Chargers will play at Baltimore. The Texans are likely to win their game, and would then face the Pats in New England. This is an advantage for the Pats because Houston is overrated and will be less a threat to New England had they had to face who truly is the 2nd best team in the AFC, the Chargers, or even the 4th best team, the Ravens. But instead, the remaining best teams outside the Pats, the Chargers or Baltimore, will play at Kansas City in the 1st round. The Chiefs could easily blow this game given their defense and recent history of losing playoff games. If that happens, then the Pats will play the AFC Championship at home, yet again.
Ironically, this is one year I think it would have been better had the Pats earned the top seed. I just don’t think Houston is as good as their seeding. Once the wildcard round wraps up, Houston probably survives because the Titans or Colts are barely above average teams. That would mean the Pats would likely play the Chargers at home, then the Chiefs at home. As far as I’m concerned that’s a tougher road to hoe than playing Houston at home and the Chiefs on the road.
All that being said, I predict that the AFC Championship will still go through Kansas City and the Chiefs finally return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the Lenny Dawson Chiefs in 1970. If San Diego beats the Chiefs, I believe they top the Pats because they are simply a better team and the Pats won’t have enough Belichick/Brady in them to overcome that.