Column: Playoff systems should follow NHL
The NFL seed system is unfair, and the NBA playoff season is too long.
Apr. 20, 2009
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
The way the playoffs are set up in certain major sports is flawed, and the NBA and NFL need to change the most. Major League Baseball has a system that works only for baseball and no other sport. The NHL has the best model, but many fans don't know that because not a lot of people seem to care about hockey.
The problem with the NFL playoffs is the seeding system. If a team wins its division with a record of 9-7, it will be seeded higher than a wildcard team with a record of 11-5.
This happened to the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008-2009 playoffs. The Arizona Cardinals finished with a 9-7 record, which was good enough to win the NFC West. The Falcons had an impressive 11-5 record but didn't win the NFC South because the Carolina Panthers also had a great season.
The team with the better record should get home field advantage right? Not in the NFL. Atlanta had to travel to Arizona for the first round and ended up losing to the Cardinals, 30-24.
Although Arizona proved it was a good team by nearly winning the Super Bowl, you have to wonder what would have happened if that first round game was played in Atlanta.
The NHL has an interesting second round. The teams are re-seeded. For example, if the No. 1 seed beats the No. 8 seed, and the No. 7 seed upsets the No. 2 seed, then in the second round, the still No. 1 seed plays that No. 7 seed, the lowest remaining seed. In the more traditional playoff format, such as that used in the NBA, the No. 1 seed would have played a No. 4 or No. 5 seed in the second round instead of the team seeded lower. The advantage for the top-seeded team is now lost.
All playoff systems should be set up this way. It would be unfair if a team gets the top seed but has to play a better team in the second round than a lower seed. Other sports have yet to realize this, but the NHL is onto something with this setup.
The NBA and NHL playoffs are simply too long. They start in mid-April and run through mid-June. Fans start to get bored. It's hard to play at the highest level on consecutive nights, but teams have to fight through it come playoff time.
It is a bit ridiculous there is at least one day off between every playoff game in the NHL and NBA. They should play games on back-to-back days and then get a day off to travel to the next location. This would cut out a couple weeks of the playoffs and keep fan interest up.
The MLB might want to explore adding a couple more teams to the playoffs, but right now, they shouldn't change anything. They can't afford to have the season run further into November, or games will start getting snowed out. The MLB playoffs last about a month, which is a great amount of time. It keeps fans interested and doesn't drag on too long.
Overall, most major sports need to fix their playoff models. This will lead to higher TV ratings and more revenue for the sports, which in the end, is what it's all about.