Should NFL Division winners automatically be in the Playoffs? 

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The NFL playoff picture that has been in place since 1970; however, changes were made in 1990 to align more with conferences.

Ryan Davis and Owen McFarland 

The NFL is split up into 8 Divisions: The NFC North, South, East, and West and the AFC North, South, East, and West. The top team in each division makes the playoffs regardless of their record. This system has been used since 1990. 

 

All together, there are 12 playoff spots, 8 of them taken by the division leaders, and the rest based on the records in the conferences. The two conferences are the NFC and the AFC. Each conference acquires 2 extra playoff spots, which are called the wild card. 

 

This whole playoff system has come under controversy, especially this year, since there are divisions with teams under .500 on the season as the leader. Some divisions have teams that have over nine wins and might not make a playoff spot, while a team with only seven wins will. 

 

Although this may seem unfair to some, OHS Junior Michael Wheeler assures, “It is pretty fair, if you win your division, you get in, and if not you still have a chance to get in.” 

 

This brings up the question: should the division winners get an automatic playoff bid? 

 

The answer is no, the playoffs should be based off conference, not division; the top 6 teams from each conference should make the playoffs. This way, we have the best teams possible in the playoffs, leading to better competition. 

 

Junior Josh Holmes exclaimed, “The wins would be much more important because you would have to be in the top 6 out of 16 instead of just winning the division.”

 

This season, the NFC East teams, made up of the Cowboys, Eagles, Giants, and the Redskins, are not having good seasons as they are all below .500, meaning they haven’t won even half of their games. However, the winner of the division will still make the playoffs, and most likely lose in the first round to a wild card team.   

 

When there are seasons like this, it is only fair for the top six teams in each conference to make the playoffs. This season, there is expected to be four or more teams who will miss the playoffs while having a better record than the winner of the NFC East.

 

Changing this system would be an easy fix to many problems, and it would only benefit the NFL by eliminating controversy. The top two teams of each conference get and bye, and the other four teams in each conference will compete to make a conference semifinal. Could this be a possible future for the NFL?