Yes, it’s unfair that a team like the 12-4 49ers must venture to Green Bay for Ice Bowl II when the Packers cobbled together a measly 8-7-1 record en route to the NFC North crown.
It’s as unfair as it is for the 11-5 Saints to have to travel to play the 10-6 Eagles on Saturday night. And it’s as unfair as it was when the 2010 Saints, also 11-5, had to travel to Seattle to play the 7-9 Seahawks. And it’s as unfair as when the 2011 Steelers, at 12-4, had to leave safety Ryan Clark home (due to a medical inability to play at altitude) for a playoffs game at Denver against the 8-8 Broncos.
The league previously has shown no inclination to strip the automatic home game that goes with winning a division, no matter how bad the four teams in that division may be. But the league apparently has at least considered it.
In a statement provided to the website the NFL owns, the league acknowledged that the issue has been discussed. Along with every other issue that may or may not ever be addressed.
“Every scenario has been discussed, ranging from reseeding to one extra game, expanding from 12 to 14 teams,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “Think of a scenario, it’s been discussed and remains in play.”
That’s hardly evidence of a groundswell toward change, like the one that currently exists to centralize the replay review function. It’s merely a “scenario” that the league considers from time to time, along with anything and everything else that comes up when the powers-that-be are talking about possible improvements to the game.
A greater sense of urgency is warranted. Not that it would help the 49ers or the Saints. In fact, by the time change is made, it could be the 49ers and the Saints who lose home games after winning divisions with records worse than the wild-card teams.