NFL Playoff Rules for Dummies and a Pedicure

It’s almost NFL Playoff Time – so for the sake of casual conversation, I asked My Guy a SIMPLE question. I think it was about what was the difference between a “Conference” and a “Division” or something like that. What was I thinking?  Granted, stupid sports questions and comments frequently just fly out of my mouth, but I DID think that I might just get a SIMPLE answer.

But…NOOOOOOO. It quickly turned into my Annual Refresher Course on what are the Rules that determine which Teams will make it to the Playoffs.

My Sports Guy became all intensely serious – and gave me The Professorial Look. I had flashbacks of previous such LESSONS which, of course, I had zero recollection of, but did remember that they tended to be lengthy.

“Get me a piece of paper. I’m only going to go through this once,” he warned sternly. Silently grateful for that (the only-one-time promise), I looked at the clock. I had an appointment at The Elegant Nails Salon in an hour. I better pay attention – there could be a quiz at the end. I need him to think that I am absorbing this or the class could go on forever.

He began scrawling THE DIAGRAM with NFL at the very top of the pyramid. I knew this Flow Chart was intended to be my Quick Reference Guide to the weekend games, so I was glad that he was scribbling it on the back of my friend Mary’s Christmas Letter…it would remind me to call her.

 THE DIAGRAM became an elaborate mess of arrows and circles and criss-cross lines - it made you dizzy to look at it.  Einstein’s physics equations on relativity were more legible. I dare not comment – he might redo it, and the Nail Clock is ticking.

  The lecture has begun and I am being schooled in a tone intended for a third grader. “So, do you understand this?” he interjects after every informative sentence. “Four Divisions…Two Conferences…Eight Divisions…blah blah blah”. He is rambling in Footballese.

I am nodding my “uh huh’s” like a bobble head, as he proceeds to go through the hierarchy of what he is so methodically trying to convey…”How does an NFL Team get into the Playoffs”.

As I am straining to “get it”, I am informed that there are different circumstances and although the Division Winners are the Winners, also some of the Division Losers can be Winners via the Last Chance and Brilliant WILD CARD possibility, which has been created so that there are more teams to play each other…. I think?

Just like the Onion Layers of Fantasy Football (see my earlier post on this)…the Playoff WILD CARD Selection Procedure is also an onion.

As my tutor very slowly explains, 1) the Bears need to WIN against the Lions and, 2) the Green Bay Packers need to WIN against the Minnesota Vikings….and 3), 4), 5), 6), are detailed…since “we lost to them, and their record is better, and we tied with them and on and on and on.

The first part of class dealt with the ACTUAL 2012 happening right now situation. However, the second half dealt with sample hypothetical equations, such as…”If we had the same record as________, and then if we were tied with ________in this and then there would be this tiebreaker – and then this would determine this blah blah blah, and then that team would get home field advantage because of blah blah blah, and so on.

And, true to my third grader mentality, I keep asking…”What if they TIE on that?” And again, “And what if they STILL TIE on that? What if, what if, what if?”

As he peels away these onion layers, I’m expecting him to answer something like, “And if they were STILL TIED, then the TEAM MASCOTS would ARM WRESTLE for the coveted WILD CARD finale.

My mind wanders, and I am envisioning that at some time in the past, a dozen or so of Head Honcho NFL Rule Makers decided to hold – oh, I don’t know, maybe a week long “conference” in Hawaii or some similar tropical business conducive location, in order to determine the Official Rules for which Teams make the Playoffs – Gateway to the Super Bowl.

They gather around a massive conference table in their posh, all expenses paid hotel, and they unanimously determine one Tie-Breaker scenario after another. And then, finally they run out of statistical options. After a roomful of blank stares, someone yells out, “And then, we’ll Flip a Coin!” Of course, they all agree…the Coin Toss, the universal decision maker. (This is true; it can actually come down to that…my esteemed Professor has informed me.)

And then, the Conference is adjourned to the Tiki Bar where celebratory Mai Tais are being served.

So, now my lesson seems to be (hopefully) concluding, and he seems pleased with his time spent and educational efforts. There is one more emphasis on the Sunday plight at hand…”So do you understand…WILD CARD = Bears must win AND Packers must win?” Although, after our previous trip to Green Bay and that whole game fiasco, this seems like a tough pill to swallow.

“Yep – Got it – Thanks! Go Packer Bears!” I grab the Complex Flow Chart, throw it into my purse and rush out the door – I can’t wait to explain the illustrated details to the girls at the Nail Salon. KIDDING! LOL

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