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Wild-card round routinely has teams with better record on the road

Marshawn-Lynch-Hold-My-Dick.0 Getty Images

Although neither the Texans nor Washington finished the 2015 season at or below .500, both will host teams in the wild-card round having better records. In Houston, the 11-5 Chiefs visit the 9-7 Texans. In Washington, the home team is 9-7 . . . and the Packers are 10-6.

It’s not an uncommon phenomenon. In all, it has happened eight times from 2010 through 2014.

Last year, the 7-8-1 Panthers hosted the 11-5 Cardinals. The team with the lesser record won.

In 2013, the 12-4 49ers had to travel to Green Bay, to face the 8-7-1 Packers. The 49ers won, narrowly.

For each of the three years before that, each conference had a road team with a better record in the wild-card round. Baltimore, which eventually won the Super Bowl, started the trek as a 10-6 home team against the 11-5 Colts. Washington, also 10-6 that year, lost to the 11-5 Seahawks in the RGIII blown-out-knee game.

In 2011, the 9-7 Giants dismantled the 10-6 Falcons, 24-2 — and the 8-8 Broncos unleashed Tebowmania on the 12-4 Steelers, winning 29-23 in overtime.

In 2010, the 10-6 Chiefs lost soundly at home to the 12-4 Ravens. That same year, however, the 7-9 Seahawks upended the 11-5 Saints, thanks to the original Beastquake run.

Is it fair for a team to host an opponent with a better record? Fair or not, it’s been happening for years, thanks to the preferred position on the playoff tree that goes to a team that wins a division, regardless of record.

And it’s unlikely to change, in part because the NFL places heavy emphasis on winning a division. And in part because the teams realize that sometimes they benefit from this quirk in the rules — and sometimes they don’t.

For most fans, it’s only an issue when the home team finishes at or below .500. This year, it seemed inevitable for weeks that the champions of both the AFC South and NFC East would land into that category.

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40 Responses to “Wild-card round routinely has teams with better record on the road”
  1. bryonneufeld says: Jan 8, 2016 7:12 PM

    I don’t think there is an objective answer to this debate. Putting a premium on winning your division adds excitement to the regular season and creates rivalries. The compromise would be to give division winners a playoff berth, but not automatic home game. But again, that’s not necessarily better, it’s just different.

  2. ajgreenhof says: Jan 8, 2016 7:16 PM

    It says a lot about the crummy divisions. Looking at you AFC South.

  3. ajgreenhof says: Jan 8, 2016 7:17 PM

    and the NFC East.

  4. starrfavrerodgers says: Jan 8, 2016 7:24 PM

    Oh God, not this topic again.

  5. Stiller43 says: Jan 8, 2016 7:29 PM

    Dont like it? Win the division.

  6. gmangg65 says: Jan 8, 2016 7:34 PM

    Win your division or be happy you made the playoffs. Quit crying!

  7. bloomer006999999 says: Jan 8, 2016 7:36 PM

    If anyone is rooting for the Vikings to lose … it’s MF.

  8. pinkmist4 says: Jan 8, 2016 7:40 PM

    Win your division if you want a home game.

    Go Hawks!

  9. skawh says: Jan 8, 2016 8:01 PM

    A lot of good winning their division is going to do Minnesota. They drew Seattle!

  10. rjpats says: Jan 8, 2016 8:08 PM

    Because of the variations in schedules, just because a team has an extra win or two, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better. There isn’t a way to say if team A is better than team B so team A should play at home. If there was a way to definitively say who the better team is, you wouldn’t need to play the game. Just leave the process alone.

  11. mrmcl says: Jan 8, 2016 8:08 PM

    Why the Seattle picture with this article? Minnesota (11-5) has a better record than Seattle (10-5).

  12. bordner says: Jan 8, 2016 8:42 PM

    mrmcl says:
    Jan 8, 2016 8:08 PM

    Why the Seattle picture with this article? Minnesota (11-5) has a better record than Seattle (10-5).
    ————————–
    Umm, look at the last sentence in the 7th paragraph. The picture is of probably the most famous play from the most infamous game of all of the examples listed.

  13. kcarpenter1245 says: Jan 8, 2016 8:50 PM

    I’m a Packers fan, and I’m not pissing and moaning that we have to play a team with a lesser record on the road. I don’t get the point of anger toward this. Win the division, win the seed battle. Simple as that

  14. kcarpenter1245 says: Jan 8, 2016 8:52 PM

    I’m a Packers fan, and I’m not pissing and moaning that we have to play a team with a lesser record on the road. I don’t get the point of anger toward this. Win the division, win the seed battle. Simple as that.

  15. abninf says: Jan 8, 2016 8:55 PM

    The name of the team is the Redskins, and after the latest court hearing you were too ashamed to report on, there is no chance they lose their trademark.

  16. exoneratedbyscience says: Jan 8, 2016 9:26 PM

    1. it’s Redskins

    2. the Vikings are gonna crush Seattle

    3. Packers suck

  17. theheyseed says: Jan 8, 2016 9:27 PM

    Home field for division winners.
    Hail to the Redskins.

    Joe Jacoby to the HOF, it is way overdue.
    Backs following him through the line called it running Route 66

  18. nachofacefakeindian says: Jan 8, 2016 9:38 PM

    Seriously, you’re still on this little anti Redskin name crusade? How many of you are left, like three? This is a sports site, not some liberal rag. Nobody cares and a vast (91%) of Native Americans, me among them, don’t care about the name Redskins. (Bureau of Indians Affairs poll, 2015).

  19. blackandbluedivision says: Jan 8, 2016 9:42 PM

    How about you just win the divison and not have to worry about a road game in the playoffs?

  20. thereallybiglebowski says: Jan 8, 2016 9:49 PM

    I find it interesting that record matters for the 2 top teams in the conference but doesn’t after that. Winning the division should only guarantee a playoff spot and record should decide seeding. But that’s just like…my opinion man.

  21. sgcrys says: Jan 8, 2016 11:11 PM

    The problem of record inequality comes up every year, but there is not a fair way to fix it. Give the better record team the home game? Then why not make the playoffs the top six teams regardless of winning a division?

    But, that’s not really fair either because, presumably, a good team in a bad division can have an inflated record. Also, overall strength of schedule might not be fair for some teams.

    Perhaps the only way to fix it would be to get rid of the divisions and have conferences play 15 in-conference games and 1 out of conference game. This would get closer to fairness in taking the top six teams from each, but even then there would be complaints if the sixth seed in the AFC had a worse record than the seventh best team in the NFC.

    There is no fair fix to the system.

  22. arzcardinals says: Jan 8, 2016 11:21 PM

    If you want a home game…
    WIN YOUR DIVISION!!!!

  23. sniffy4 says: Jan 8, 2016 11:22 PM

    I doubt the Seahawks would’ve won in 2010 without home field. They certainly didnt earn it with their play prior to that game.

  24. rabidbillsfan says: Jan 8, 2016 11:30 PM

    Why not just retain seeding and swap games? In most arguments, they talk about completely re-seeding. They don’t need too. The team with the better record gets the home game. It expands on the emphasis of playing hard. You wouldn’t know who you would play until the absolute last week of the season. Better record and division winner? Great, home field and a playoff berth no less than 4 seed, which means you still have a chance to play the “worst” playoff team in the AFC/NFC title game. Higher record just gets you a homefield for the first round. While many fans would complain, I think it solves the issue. Maybe a greater revenue share for the home team? An even greater incentive to make it to the playoffs, maybe they make it allocatoble to bonus’ for players. First off, I’d wouldn’t mind seeing the Bills in the playoffs even if they get blown off the map 500 miles from home, atleast they made it, but I’d give up a home game if they won the division with a lesser record if there was extra incentive to win, and I think other fans would begin to feel the same way. I mean, if this happens, your probably just lucky you made it in. I wouldn’t know how this impact the CBA, but it could honestly be a viable solution. And if it does result in division winners being in the top-4 records of their confrence, then nothing changes.

  25. shaggytoodle says: Jan 8, 2016 11:36 PM

    If you win the division you deserve a home game. It makes te rivalries mean something, whether its the Packers vs. Bears the season Rodgers was hurt to go 8-7-1. The NFC East this season or the relatively young AFC South.

    Look at what the Seahawks have done since “winning the division with a bad record” they have been to back to back SBs and won one. The Panthers that got into the post season with a 7-8-1 record from last year were undefeated to until a few weeks ago.

    Division winners SHOULD ALWAYS be able to host a home game, if you don’t care for that maybe you should watch a different sport maybe one where they play 60 plus more games, start the season around Hallowween and make everything unitl New Years day feel like Preseason… and then let half of the teams in the post-season,

    When a ten win team doesn’t make the playoffs, its because they didn’t beat the team in front them to win the division or in some cases two teams. The other is they did not do enough to get the tiebreaker against the other wildcard team.

  26. nicofthenorthstar says: Jan 8, 2016 11:37 PM

    kcarpenter1245
    Jan 8, 2016, 7:52 PM CST
    I’m a Packers fan, and I’m not pissing and moaning that we have to play a team with a lesser record on the road. I don’t get the point of anger toward this. Win the division, win the seed battle. Simple as that.

    You’re not complaining because GB gets the only team less deserving of a playoff berth than them.
    The Washington football team versus the new look Pack, what a matchup!
    Said no one.

  27. gigem20 says: Jan 8, 2016 11:49 PM

    The problem with the “win your division” argument is that a team doesn’t have to win the division, to win the division. Unlike college football, in the NFL the team with the best overall season record wins the division and a team’s record in division games is only relevant as a tiebreaker. In 2014, Atlanta was in 5-1 in the NFC South but had an overall record of 6-10 and Carolina “won” the division because their overall record was better (7-8-1) than Atlanta’s. Carolina had the second-best division record at 4-2.

  28. fireeyes111 says: Jan 9, 2016 2:18 AM

    If only all of you “just win your division” people could possibly understand what it’s like to be a fan of a team in the AFC East not named the Patriots

  29. marvin1958 says: Jan 9, 2016 6:58 AM

    The number of Wild Card teams winning the Super Bowl is surprisingly high.

    Seattle is certainly on the type of end-of-the-season tear that other Wild Card teams winning it all were on going into the playoffs. Coming to mind immediately are the ’07 Giants and the ’10 Packers … it really and truly comes down to the BIG MO BABY!! Anyone who has ever actually “competed” will tell you that momentum is everything.

    My guys have none (Go Pack!!) — the Vikes do — Seattle does. It’d be great to see the Vikes take down Seattle and yes it can happen. The Vikings play their game, they have a puncher’s chance. They get into catch-up mode and it’ll be considerably more difficult.

  30. luckyjim1980 says: Jan 9, 2016 7:35 AM

    Before Seattle fans declare their team the automatic victor, they would be wise to remember the Patriots and Jets from 2010.

    Just because you won the last meeting decisively doesn’t guarantee a repeat in the playoffs.

  31. mototax says: Jan 9, 2016 8:09 AM

    Wanna play at home? Win your division! Rivalries and familiarity make division games tough, even when the division as a whole isn’t that strong.

  32. rogerdw66 says: Jan 9, 2016 9:07 AM

    Don’t forget the best wild card team to go the distance. Super Bowl 32. The wild card Broncos beat three teams on the road, that had beaten them during the year, then are heavy underdogs against Farve’s Packers. After losing 4 Bowls, it was a special year to be a Bronco fan in the Rockies.

  33. dualprime says: Jan 9, 2016 9:51 AM

    rogerdw66 says:
    Jan 9, 2016 9:07 AM
    Don’t forget the best wild card team to go the distance. Super Bowl 32. The wild card Broncos beat three teams on the road, that had beaten them during the year, then are heavy underdogs against Farve’s Packers. After losing 4 Bowls, it was a special year to be a Bronco fan in the Rockies.
    ================
    Amen!

  34. atthemurph says: Jan 9, 2016 10:12 AM

    nachofacefakeindian says:
    Jan 8, 2016 9:38 PM
    Seriously, you’re still on this little anti Redskin name crusade? How many of you are left, like three? This is a sports site, not some liberal rag. Nobody cares and a vast (91%) of Native Americans, me among them, don’t care about the name Redskins. (Bureau of Indians Affairs poll, 2015).
    —————————————

    of course it’s a liberal rag, 97% of all media is liberal, Florio included. It is owned by NBC after all. They use every outlet they have to propagandize leftist dogma.

  35. saints12013 says: Jan 9, 2016 10:59 AM

    They forgot to mention the 11-5 Saints had to travel to Philly who were 10-6 in 2013.

    How bout if you allow a division winner a guaranteed playoff berth, but the only way they get a home game is if they have a better record than the Wild Card team they are slated to play ?

    I kinda like the idea of having 7 playoff teams with only one team getting a bye week. There would be 6 games the 1st round of the playoffs.

    Money hungry Goodell would love that.

  36. belligerentbuc says: Jan 9, 2016 11:00 AM

    It will never change because of the $$$.

    This yr the NFC East sucked it up and they are 4 majoremetro markets that kept selling $eats & merchandi$e as there was a glimmer of hope.

    If we determined the playoffs just by the record all 4 of thses teams and their fans would stop going.

    When $ is involved, what’s fair takes a back seat

  37. waynesborokennyg says: Jan 9, 2016 11:07 AM

    I’m not a Redskins fan, and it was difficult to even read this article because of the blatant avoidance of their team name. This is a sports news site, not msnbc. Liberalism is destroying everything, and if your liberalism is more important to you than sports reporting, perhaps you should do something else for a living than report on sports news.

  38. gacoltfan says: Jan 9, 2016 11:11 AM

    If your good enough to win a Super Bowl, you should be good enough to win a road game against a 9-7 team. If you can’t win that game you weren’t going very far anyway.

  39. FoozieGrooler says: Jan 9, 2016 11:28 AM

    Look for the road teams to run the table today…

  40. lingsun54 says: Jan 9, 2016 12:52 PM

    I’d like to see seeding by record across the whole league. We wouldn’t have to see the Bengals and the Steelers for the third time this year. We might see games like New England and Seattle. Interconference playoff games would make it a lot more interesting.

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