NFL Needs One More Rule to Make the Playoffs Fair

Darnell Dockett MaskThe NFL has a playoff system that is one of the best in sports. College football could take a lesson though that no playoff system is perfect. the NFL is no exception.

The Arizona Cardinals could very well beat the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday and finish 11-5. They could also still miss the playoffs. Meanwhile the winner of the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers will make the playoffs with seven losses. Also the Dallas Cowboys could also make the playoffs with seven losses if they beat the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the AFC, the second Wild Card team could possibly be the Pittsburgh Steelers at 8-8. At best, that team will be a seven loss team. So here is the new rule the NFL should adopt:

If a team has 11 wins and does not qualify for the playoffs and if a team with at least seven losses does qualify, then the 11 win team can “bump” a seven loss team and take their spot. This could be known as the “bump rule”. Common sense tells every NFL fan that an 11-5 team should not be sitting home while a team at 8-7-1 or 8-8 is still playing. All of us would rather see the Cardinals in the playoffs rather than the Packers or Steelers.

11 wins doesn’t even have to be the cutoff. We could make it 10 wins. Who would not rather see a 10-6 team playing over an 8-8 team? All of this could be fixed with the “bump rule”.

With eight four-team divisions, the NFL is always going to have the problem of “strong division-weak division”. You cannot expect that the powerful teams will be evenly balanced throughout the divisions like it was in the AFC this time. All the division leaders going into the final week in the AFC have at least 10 wins. There is one non-division leader, the Kansas City Chiefs with 10 wins. They are in the playoffs win or lose this week.

But in the NFC we have two weak divisions, the East and the North (unless the Eagles win on Sunday in which case they would go 10-6) and two tough divisions, the South and the West. Those two divisions have have five teams with at least 10 wins and only four available spots. So if the Cards do get in, it will be at the expense of a 10 win New Orleans Saints team that will have to sit at home and watch at least two seven loss teams play on.

And if you think that those seven loss teams will only be around for a week anyway so it doesn’t really matter, let me remind you that last season, the Baltimore Ravens were one of those low seeds who played in a weak division. They wound up winning it all.

So unless they expand the playoffs to include more teams, which just waters down the playoffs further, the NFL should put in the “Bump Rule” to make sure we do not have double digit winners sitting home.

Jim Folsom is a regular contributor to