It is very unfortunate for any team in the wildcard round of the playoffs to have to travel to play against a team that has a worse record than they do. The 12-4 Pittsburgh Steelers had to do such a thing when they went to Sports Authority Field at Mile High to face the 8-8 Denver Broncos.
The rules state that in the wildcard round of the playoffs, the division winner is to host the game. However, this shouldn’t be the case if the division winner has a record that isn’t better than their opponent. If the rules were made so that the team with the better record host the wildcard game, then the result of this Steelers-Broncos game would have been totally different.
Granted, Pittsburgh had injuries on the offensive side of the ball with running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and center Maukice Pouncey (ankle), but the x-factor in this game was the absence of safety Ryan Clark. Clark couldn’t play in Denver’s high altitude due to a sickle cell trait that he has. Had the Steelers played inPittsburgh, Clark could have been just what the Steelers’ secondary needed to contain Tim Tebow, who passed for a career-high 316 yards.
This isn’t the only time that this has played a factor in the wildcard round. In last year’s wildcard round in the NFC, the 11-5 New Orleans Saints had to travel to face the 7-9 NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks. This game resulted in the Saints, a better team, losing to the Seahawks, the first team in NFL history to win a division with a losing record.
It makes no sense for any team to be three games over .500, and have to go on the road to face a team that barely has an even record. The NFL finally got the Collective Bargaining Agreement solved for the next 10 years, now it’s time to start fixing some other things as well–and changing the rules for the wildcard round would be a good place to start.
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