The “Seventh Teams” In The NFL Playoffs

Last week, I was writing about the new NFL CBA and how it would add another wildcard team from each Conference to the playoff menu.  I made this comment at that time:

“… the addition of that seventh team will almost always put a mediocre team in a playoff game and that is not appealing to me at all.”

A reader sent me an email suggesting that I go back and figure out who those “seventh teams” would have been in recent years to see what sort of teams we might expect in the future.  That sounded like a good idea; so, I started doing some digging.  Let me say that this research was not nearly as simple as I thought it was going to be – – and that is why it has been a week since I got that suggestion.

I think I have this right, but my uncertainty is based on the fact that many of the teams I think would have been the “seventh team” achieved that status after considering NFL tiebreakers.  I am pretty confident in my understanding of the tie-breaking hierarchy – – but some of the cases required digging deeply into the season’s game results.

I went back 10 seasons meaning there would have been an additional 20 teams in the playoffs – one per conference – had the new structure been in place over that period and I found the following:

  • Five of the “seventh teams” had a record of 8-8
  • One of the “seventh teams” had a record of 8-7-1
  • Eight of the “seventh teams” had a record of 9-7
  • One of the “seventh teams” had a record of 9-6-1
  • Five of the “seventh teams” had a record of 10-6

Note that none would have had a losing record and five of those “seventh teams” would have gone 10-6 which is sufficiently respectable.  I would conclude from these data that we will not be seeing a flood of teams with .500 records – or worse – making it into the NFL playoffs.

The data show three other things that I find interesting.

  1. The population of the 20 “seventh teams” over the last 10 years is spread out over 15 different franchises.
  2. Only 3 teams would have been the “seventh team” more than once (Titans twice, Bears twice and Steelers 3 times).
  3. Two of the NFL’s three longest playoff droughts would have been relieved by having “seventh teams” as part of the playoff mix over the past 10 seasons.  The Bucs and the Jets would each have made the playoffs once in the past 10 seasons.  The Browns would still be on the outside looking in.

Moving on …  Bob Molinaro had this comment in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot recently:

Hoop du jour: With everything else going on, much of the criticism over Iona’s hiring of Rick Pitino fell through the cracks. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that Pitino, kicked to the curb by Louisville in 2017, is back in the game. That he’s starting over at a relatively small program dampens my objections.”

I want to take a different tack on this issue.  Rick Pitino was fired at Louisville in the early days of breaking news about the FBI’s probe into college basketball recruiting activities.  As I recall the tone and tenor of the news back then, much of it came from very specific and very dire statements from the investigators and the prosecutors about how much evidence they had.  Much of the media commentary suggested that the probe would expose the seamy underbelly of college recruiting and change the entire way it was going to happen in the future.

Pitino maintained his innocence back then – and continues to do so – but his proximity to one of the more nefarious aspects of the investigation made him sufficiently toxic that Louisville decided to fire him.  Two and a half years or so ago, that seemed perfectly logical.

Now, with the perspective of time, I look back on the prosecutions of the shoe company folks and the assistant basketball coaches and wonder where all the blockbuster events are.  I thought these revelations were going to be monumental in scope because that is what I was told repeatedly. In actuality, the passage of time has produced something slightly more than “small potatoes” but nothing that is much more than “Ho-hum”.

Rick Pitino has not been charged with any of the crimes alleged by the prosecutors let alone convicted on those charges.  [Aside:  Please recall that I was, and I remain, skeptical about the criminality of the recruiting machinations.]  By this time, I would have expected those vigorous and cock-sure prosecutors to have grabbed another opportunity to go on camera and levy against Pitino the sorts of charges they have levied against others.  But they have not – – and that makes me wonder if they have nearly as much evidence as they have claimed to have from the outset here.

I think we can stipulate that Rick Pitino is an accomplished and competent basketball coach.  [Aside:  Readers with a good memory may recall that I suggested Pitino as someone who might be a sensible hire by the NY Knicks to get them out of their miasma.]  Given the totality of the events of his life, he may not be a top-shelf character witness that one might seek out for oneself, but he can coach basketball.  Unless there is something in his contract with Iona that has not been publicized, they are hiring him to coach basketball and not hiring him to teach courses on ethics, morality and philosophy at the school; they have professors to do that.  And by the way, those professors are not being asked to coach the basketball team either.  It seems to me that Iona has asked the people on its staff there to do what they are good at doing – – and that makes more sense to me than the whole FBI investigation into basketball recruiting.

Finally, I want to address the air of surprise that came from some folks when they heard that Tom Brady had signed on with the Tampa Bay Bucs.  I don’t think it was shocking at all.  Here you have a man who has spent the last 25 winters of his life in either Michigan or New England; he now has more money that he will ever be able to spend.  Therefore, given those circumstances:

  • Can you really be shocked that he decided to move to Florida?

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports……




2 thoughts on “The “Seventh Teams” In The NFL Playoffs”

    1. TenaciousP:

      Data are data; cannot argue with data – – only the interpretation(s) of data. I am not so sure, however, that coming to my new realization was worth all the digging it took to get the last 10 years worth of data. Whatever, it is over now.

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