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The Nfc South's Surprising Futility


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The NFC South's surprising futility

Mailbag: Few saw it coming, but division is on track to be worst in history

By John Clayton | ESPN.com

There is no way to escape the reality that the NFC South is going to be the worst division in NFL history.

Bad clock management by coach Mike Smith allowed the Cleveland Browns to come from behind and beat the Atlanta Falcons in the final seconds Sunday, dropping the Falcons to 4-7. The inability to stop the run against Baltimore on Monday night dropped the New Orleans Saints to 4-7. The Saints, who developed a recent history of losing on the road, have now lost three straight home games.

Normally, there is a predictability to bad divisions, but the NFC South -- which had two playoff teams in 2013 -- has become an exception.

Even the worst divisions win at least 25 percent of their games outside of the division. The 2008 NFC West went 10-30 against the rest of the league. The 2004 NFC West, 2010 NFC West, 2002 NFC North and 1984 AFC Central each went 13-27 in nondivision games.

The NFC South is 6-23-1 against the rest of the league. That's an embarrassing 21.6 winning percentage. Eight of the NFC South's 10 remaining nondivision games are against teams with winning records. The Falcons are 0-14 against teams with .500 records or better over the past two seasons and are 0-7 outside the division this year.

The 2010 Seattle Seahawks were the first team in NFL history to win a division with a losing record. They went 7-9 and ended up upsetting New Orleans in the first round of the playoffs. A 7-9 NFC South winner is possible, and it's not out of the question for a team to win the division at 6-10.

The Falcons play Arizona, Green Bay and Pittsburgh the next three weeks and could be looking at a 4-10 record before they play New Orleans in Week 16.

Believe it or not, the Saints have the best chance to win the division. They travel to Pittsburgh on Sunday, which could drop them to 4-8. But they might be able to get a leg up with three remaining divisional games -- Carolina and Atlanta at home and a season finale in Tampa Bay. Their last remaining nondivision game is in Chicago on Dec. 15. They might be able to get to 7-9.

Three remaining divisional games keep the Carolina Panthers' hopes alive. They are 3-7-1 but have winnable nondivision games against Minnesota and Cleveland. When the four NFC South franchises try to determine what went wrong, they will find that defense is the biggest problem. The Falcons are giving up 25.5 points a game, which is the best in the division. The Saints are allowing 26 points a game, while the Bucs and Panthers are allowing 27.3.

Things don't add up. In a quarterback-driven league, the NFC South has three good quarterbacks -- Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton -- but they can't produce the consistent wins. What also doesn't make sense is the division features three defensive head coaches and the defenses are horrible. Few figured this division was going to be this bad.

http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/11937221/clayton-mailbag-nfc-south-surprising-futility

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I don't think the league should do anything about the play-off format just because of the NFC South, which we now know is really more of a septic tank than an actual group of pro football teams, but I digress. The NFL is founded on the sacred principle of parity, so that all the fans of all the teams can have a reasonable expectation their team will be competing to play in the SB every year.

Yes, we all know that a handful of teams have figured out how to maintain a much higher level of performance, but for the other 25 or so NFL teams, on any given Sunday it's true you don't have any idea who might win the game. However, those teams on the underside of the parity line usually have no illusion of having a good chance to win on any given Sunday. Even worse for the fans of said bottom-feeder teams, they can't even dream of seeing their team in the play-offs.

But wait, the NFC South is proving to fans of every down-trodden bottom-feeder football town that you can blow chunks, piss away games at the last second to fellow bottom-feeder teams, feature a HC who has no clue how to manage routine in-game time-outs, finish the season a dismal 6-10 and possibly STILL make it to the play-offs!

Unless those fools in the NFL home office screw things up, from this season forward into perpetuity even if your team starts the season off 0-10, who the hale knows, if your team is in a division like the 2014 NFC South, you're still in the hunt for the Lombardi, bro!! All the bottom-feeder teams' ho-zombs can go to bed every night and dream of an almost-certain play-off game, and even the most die-hard cynics will have to admit that the play-offs aren't out of the question, even if the game itself will most likely be a mass human-sacrifice.

Goodell and the owners better think long and hard before they accidentally dismantle the ultimate parity-plus enhancement: the possibility that you're perennial clownshoe team can bring its unique brand of fail to the national stage in a play-off game, even though it's a dumpster fire of bottom-feeder ineptitude.

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I don't think the league should do anything about the play-off format just because of the NFC South, which we now know is really more of a septic tank than an actual group of pro football teams, but I digress. The NFL is founded on the sacred principle of parity, so that all the fans of all the teams can have a reasonable expectation their team will be competing to play in the SB every year.

Yes, we all know that a handful of teams have figured out how to maintain a much higher level of performance, but for the other 25 or so NFL teams, on any given Sunday it's true you don't have any idea who might win the game. However, those teams on the underside of the parity line usually have no illusion of having a good chance to win on any given Sunday. Even worse for the fans of said bottom-feeder teams, they can't even dream of seeing their team in the play-offs.

But wait, the NFC South is proving to fans of every down-trodden bottom-feeder football town that you can blow chunks, piss away games at the last second to fellow bottom-feeder teams, feature a HC who has no clue how to manage routine in-game time-outs, finish the season a dismal 6-10 and possibly STILL make it to the play-offs!

Unless those fools in the NFL home office screw things up, from this season forward into perpetuity even if your team starts the season off 0-10, who the hale knows, if your team is in a division like the 2014 NFC South, you're still in the hunt for the Lombardi, bro!! All the bottom-feeder teams' ho-zombs can go to bed every night and dream of an almost-certain play-off game, and even the most die-hard cynics will have to admit that the play-offs aren't out of the question, even if the game itself will most likely be a mass human-sacrifice.

Goodell and the owners better think long and hard before they accidentally dismantle the ultimate parity-plus enhancement: the possibility that you're perennial clownshoe team can bring its unique brand of fail to the national stage in a play-off game, even though it's a dumpster fire of bottom-feeder ineptitude.

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I don't think the league should do anything about the play-off format just because of the NFC South, which we now know is really more of a septic tank than an actual group of pro football teams, but I digress. The NFL is founded on the sacred principle of parity, so that all the fans of all the teams can have a reasonable expectation their team will be competing to play in the SB every year.

Yes, we all know that a handful of teams have figured out how to maintain a much higher level of performance, but for the other 25 or so NFL teams, on any given Sunday it's true you don't have any idea who might win the game. However, those teams on the underside of the parity line usually have no illusion of having a good chance to win on any given Sunday. Even worse for the fans of said bottom-feeder teams, they can't even dream of seeing their team in the play-offs.

But wait, the NFC South is proving to fans of every down-trodden bottom-feeder football town that you can blow chunks, piss away games at the last second to fellow bottom-feeder teams, feature a HC who has no clue how to manage routine in-game time-outs, finish the season a dismal 6-10 and possibly STILL make it to the play-offs!

Unless those fools in the NFL home office screw things up, from this season forward into perpetuity even if your team starts the season off 0-10, who the hale knows, if your team is in a division like the 2014 NFC South, you're still in the hunt for the Lombardi, bro!! All the bottom-feeder teams' ho-zombs can go to bed every night and dream of an almost-certain play-off game, and even the most die-hard cynics will have to admit that the play-offs aren't out of the question, even if the game itself will most likely be a mass human-sacrifice.

Goodell and the owners better think long and hard before they accidentally dismantle the ultimate parity-plus enhancement: the possibility that you're perennial clownshoe team can bring its unique brand of fail to the national stage in a play-off game, even though it's a dumpster fire of bottom-feeder ineptitude.

I agree that Parity is extremely important to the NFL. I would change one thing about the current playoff system though, in that I believe that Home-field advantage should go to the teams with the best Won-Lost records, and not necessarily to the Division Champs. I just don't believe that the NFL South winner this year should automatically get home-field advantage over teams with much better records.

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I agree that Parity is extremely important to the NFL. I would change one thing about the current playoff system though, in that I believe that Home-field advantage should go to the teams with the best Won-Lost records, and not necessarily to the Division Champs. I just don't believe that the NFL South winner this year should automatically get home-field advantage over teams with much better records.

It's extremely hard to argue with the teams with the best won-lost records getting the home-field. They've earned it after all. I just don't know if this anomalous situation in the NFC South this year will push the league into making the change.

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It's extremely hard to argue with the teams with the best won-lost records getting the home-field. They've earned it after all. I just don't know if this anomalous situation in the NFC South this year will push the league into making the change.

Not true. This is an extreme situation.

Schedules are not created equal. A team with a worse record could arguably be the better team if they played a "tougher" schedule, than a team with more wins that tplayed an "easier" schedule.

You could also argue the opposite, but that's why I used quotation marks, because it is subjective.

The current system makes sense because these division winners play pretty much the same schedule as the division they're competing with.

I know that you could make the argument that wildcards work this way, but there is no other choice there. Here I will opt for the division winners to get homefield, rather than switching it and not creating any fairer of a system.

If a team is so bad it should not deserve their playoff spot, then it should be a gift to play them even on the road, rather than a true playoff team at home. If you have to be at home to win against a lesser team, then maybe its you that shouldn't be in the playoffs either.

Edited by B3TD
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I agree that Parity is extremely important to the NFL. I would change one thing about the current playoff system though, in that I believe that Home-field advantage should go to the teams with the best Won-Lost records, and not necessarily to the Division Champs. I just don't believe that the NFL South winner this year should automatically get home-field advantage over teams with much better records.

Disagree completely. The schedules are not even so Win-loss shouldn't be factored into the seeding of all the teams. On a year like this, the 2 divisions lucky enough to play the NFC South have nearly 4 extra free wins, doesn't mean they are better than other teams that they will be seeded against, they just had the easier schedule and have inflated records. The way it is now is the best way.
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