The San Francisco 49ers will travel to Lambeau Field on Saturday to take on the Green Bay Packers in the wild card round, and it well could be the coldest game ever played in NFL history.
Temperatures at game time are expected to be somewhere around zero or lower. In fact, it could get downright frigid.
What makes it worse is the fact that San Francisco should in fact be the team hosting a playoff game, not Green Bay.
But because of the rules in the NFL governing playoff seedings, Green Bay gets the home field start and advantage. Considering what the conditions are expected to be, it’s certainly to their benefit.
According to the NFL, here is how the current playoff seedings are decided:
The six postseason participants from each conference are seeded as follows:
1. The division champion with the best record.
2. The division champion with the second-best record.
3. The division champion with the third-best record.
4. The division champion with the fourth-best record.
5. The Wild Card club with the best record.
6. The Wild Card club with the second-best record.
That means that this year, the Packers, who clinched the NFC North title with a last-second win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday, are the fourth seed. The 49ers finished the season at 12-4, but because they finished a game behind the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC West, they have to settle for the No. 5 seed.
The 49ers finished a full 3.5 games better than the Packers in the total standings, but they’re the ones needing to travel in the first round.
Just how fair is that?
It is long past time for the NFL to start seeding teams based on overall record. Giving playoff preference to teams who win their divisions simply doesn’t cut it.
Three years ago, a similar scenario was in place when the 11-5 New Orleans Saints traveled to Seattle to take on the 7-9 Seahawks. Forget the fact that the Seahawks shouldn’t have been in the playoffs with a below-.500 record to begin with. They just happened to be lucky enough to win in an NFC West that was by far the worst division in the NFL.
Seattle would go on to pull off an upset, defeating the Saints 41-36. The result provided even more fodder for a playoff seeding policy that’s ridiculous in nature.
Now, virtually the same scenario is about to unfold in Green Bay, with conditions that will be decidedly favorable for the team that was inconsistent throughout the season. Meanwhile, the 49ers are given the chance to get back to the Super Bowl in back-to-back seasons, but will be doing so at a huge disadvantage.
Consider this blurb offered up by Mike Florio of NBC’s Pro Football Talk:
“This year, a seeding of the teams without regard to division championships would have turned wild-card weekend on its head in the NFC. The top two seeds (Seattle and Carolina) would have remained the same, since the 12-4 Panthers beat the 12-4 49er. But San Francisco’s 12-4 record would have given it the No. 3 seed. At No. 4 would have been the 11-5 Saints. The 10-6 Eagles would have been No. 5 and the Packers would have secured the sixth seed at 8-7-1.
“More importantly, the Saints would be hosting the Eagles instead of traveling to Philly, and the Niners would be playing one more game at Candlestick Park, instead of traveling to the tundra, which by definition is frozen.”
Now doesn’t that sound like a scenario that should be in play?
The NFL Rules Committee needs to overhaul its current seedings, and immediately. Giving and advantage to teams that can barely play at a .500 level is so wrong on so many levels, yet the NFL seems to think that winning a meaningless division title should count for something.
As Florio said, the Packers are in the playoff simply because they were “the best of four bad teams” in the NFC North. Rewarding them for that insignificant achievement is a complete joke.