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A more equitable way to qualify NFL playoff teams (long and unrealistic)
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chester Offline
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Post: #1
A more equitable way to qualify NFL playoff teams (long and unrealistic)
So, yeah, this isn't something the NFL would ever do. I just find it interesting to think about is all. Feel free to critique and to offer your own thoughts on how the NFL might better qualify its playoff teams.

So what's the problem with what the NFL does now? Well, to me it's the same problem that most college conferences have, which is that it uses divisions. To state the obvious, divisions cannot be carbon copy equals of each other and so finishing first or second in one does not necessarily mean that a team is more deserving of a playoff spot than some team that didn't qualify. Similarly, having more wins does not necessarily mean that a team is more deserving of its particular seed than some other team. The schedules of intra-divisional teams may be pretty well balanced but those of cross-divisional teams are wildly imbalanced. Apples to oranges... Divisions may lend an air of legitimacy to the championship process but I ain't buyin' it.

Honestly, if it were up to me, I'd discontinue conferences and divisions altogether, add a 17th game per team and use a point system to remove the advantages and disadvantages inherent to imbalanced schedules. That way the most deserving teams can be identified and promoted. (I'd also change the overtime method to one that ensures games can't end in ties. Something akin to the college method, I guess.)

OK, suppose that every 2 teams that do not play each other have an equal and even number of common opponents and suppose that they play half of those teams at home and half on the road. If that were the case then a point system could be used to place all teams on equal footing, or at least far closer to equal footing than they are now:

Each team gets one point per win in the standings. Further, in regard to every two teams that do not play each other, a point goes to the one that had more wins against their common opponents (tiebreaker where needed.) I think of these direct and indirect wins, collectively, as "position points." Twelve teams with the most position points are your playoff teams and in that order.

This effectively balances the schedules of all teams in the league, as each team has the opportunity to beat every other team, either directly or indirectly, and each team risks losing to every other team. Excepting the fact that most individual games are not played at neutral sites, we would say today that teams that do play each other have an equal opportunity to win, right? Well, here teams would have an equal opportunity to beat all of the teams that they do play and they would have an equal opportunity to indirectly beat all of the teams that they do not play. How 'bout them apples??

That's the gist of it. The rest of this deals with scheduling, tiebreakers and a way to nullify the odd game issue.

Scheduling
  • Sort the league into 8 groups of 4, same as now. Call 'em A,B,C...H
  • Each team has 3 permanent opponents – those within its group. Same as now, except teams will play their perms only once per season.
  • Subdivide each group into sets of 2. I think of the 2 teams within each of these subgroups as "mates." Let's say that teams 1 & 2 in each lettered group are mates and teams 3 & 4 form the other subgroups.
  • Require that each team play one (and only one) subgroup from each of the other lettered groups and that they play one of the teams in each of those subgroups at home and the other one on the road.
  • Require that each team play the same schedule that its mate plays, but that it switch which teams are played at home and which are played on the road relative to its mate. So, if teams A1 & A2 are mates and teams D3 & D4 are mates and team A1 plays D3 at home and D4 away, then A2 must play D3 away and D4 at home. Same deal with the other subgroups that A1 & A2 play, including the one made up of their fellow perms, A3 & A4.
Adhere to those scheduling rules and every pair of unmatched teams should have an equal and even number of common opponents and they will each play half of those teams at home and half on the road.

There is one final scheduling step that needs to be taken and there's a couple of options available to it. I'm just going to deal with the one that I think is best, which is one that both maximizes the number of common opponents that unmatched teams can have and that makes the system as easy as possible to follow. I think of it as the "outer" or "anti-divisional" method.

Picture two groups of 16, each consisting of one subgroup from each of the 8 lettered groups. Each team plays all 16 of the teams in the opposite group (anti-division) and then it concludes the season by playing its mate, which is a part of its own anti-division. This gives all unmatched teams (indirect opponents) 16 common opponents – eight played at home, eight on the road – and since the schedules of indirect opponents are 100% balanced from games 1-16, it's pretty easy to follow along. If a fan wants to know how his or her team is faring against an indirect opponent, all he or she need do during that 16-game stretch is compare their current win/loss record. Once one has mathematically eliminated the other, a position point is added to that team's total in the standings and one is subtracted from the max potential points for the other.

Rearrange the anti-divisions (ADs) every year so that all teams may play each other in time, careful always to keep subgroups from the same lettered group in opposite ADs. Here is an eight year rotation in which all teams play their twenty-eight impermanents four times, though not necessarily once ever two years, twice every four or thrice every six. (That's a price that must be payed to use the AD method.) Columns below are the ADs:

[Image: pzh6YXa.jpg]

17 is an odd number

Some people may have a problem with teams playing an odd number of games, seeing as half the field would have an advantage each year. I personally do not have much of a problem with that since that advantage continually switches from one half of the league to the other. To me it's the same as with most all individual games, where one team or the other must have the home field advantage. People live with that because they know the home advantage will switch the next time those teams play each other, and that's the best that can be done with a limited schedule.

Still, there is a simple fix to the odd game problem and I'm going to go ahead and apply it to this fantasy system, mainly because it helps guard against a separate, potential problem:

Just split the worth of games between permanent opponents over the course of two seasons: ½ pt to the victor for the current season and ½ pt to start the next season. That removes the odd game problem because each season all teams are accountable to an even 14 games that are worth one point each – 7 played at home, 7 on the road – and they are all accountable to an even 6 games that are worth ½ pt each – 3 home, 3 away; 3 from the prior season, 3 from the current season.

Splitting the worth of games between perms over the course of two seasons as opposed to doubling it (1 pt this season, 1 pt the next) prevents teams with weaker permanent opponents from having an advantage over those with tougher ones.

I mentioned another potential problem... Suppose that team A3 has wrapped up a desirable playoff seed with one, two or three games left on its schedule. That team may be tempted to rest key players down the stretch, which, of course, would make it more likely to lose. Obviously that would be totally unfair if one or more of A3's last opponents was still vying for a playoff spot or for a better seed. Worse, in addition to having an advantage in wresting a position point from A3, A3's final opponent(s) might also have an unfair advantage in nabbing a position point from one or more of its indirect opponents, who themselves may be fighting for playoff spots or for better seeds.

But if all teams play their 3 perms last, beginning with the two in the opposite AD, and the worth of each of those games is spread across two seasons, then there is incentive to for all teams to give their best effort during the final weeks of the season, even those out of contention. A3 might still give a lackluster effort, but doing so could damage its prospects in the following season.

Tiebreaker for indirect opponents

What happens if two unmatched teams finish with the same record against their common opponents? I don't think it will do to award them ½ pt apiece; certain types of positional ties cannot be fairly broken if indirect ties are not broken. I think that for this point system to work properly no match-up, direct or indirect, can result in a tie.

It doesn't really matter to me what specific tiebreakers are used for indirect ties or in what order, just so long as it's equitable. Here are some candidates:
  • Best cumulative (or average, doesn't matter) score differential against common opponents. (This would almost certainly break any tie.)
  • Best record against common away opponents
  • Best record against common home opponents
  • Best cumulative (or avg) yardage differential against common opponents
  • ...against common away opponents, etc
  • ...cumulative turnover differential, whatever

Positional tiebreakers

TWO TEAMS

(NOTE: If two permanent opponents finish alone in a positional tie, only their game from the current season should be considered.)
  • Winner of the direct or indirect match-up between the two teams
THREE OR MORE TEAMS

NOTE: I don't think its appropriate to consider common direct opponents here, so I've left that out. Direct and indirect wins are equally weighted in this system, just as if the league had staged an actual round robin.

NOTE: If a tie between 3 or more teams involves 2 or more permanent opponents, only the games that were played in the current season should be considered in the tiebreaker and, for purposes of the tiebreaker only, those games between perms should be worth 1 pt each to the victor, not ½.
  • Most position points scored against the other tied teams. (The equivalent of cumulative head-to-head in a division tiebreaker.)
  • Best cumulative (or avg) score differential against the the other tied teams*
  • Best cumulative (or avg) score differential against the whole league**
  • Best cumulative (or avg) yardage differential against the other tied teams*
  • Best cumulative (or avg) yardage differential against the whole league**
  • etc.
*If a positional tie involves two or more teams that did not play each other, then the score differential of all involved indirect match-ups must be determined to use this particular tiebreak. To do that with teams X & Y, you take the cumulative score differential between team X and the 16 opponents it has in common with team Y and then divide that number by 16. You do the same for team Y and then subtract those 2 figures from each other to get each team's score differential vs the other. The same thing can be done to find the yardage differential between two indirect opponents.

NOTE: The team that won the position point in an indirect match-up is not necessarily the team with the better score or yardage differential between them. That's odd, I know, but I think it is fair to use that as a part of a tiebreak system because both of those teams would have had an equal opportunity to win more games against their common opponents than the other one did and they would have also had an equal opportunity to have a better score and/or yardage differential against those common opponents.

**To find a team's cumulative or avg score differential against the whole league you must first find its score differential against each of its indirect opponents, as described above.* Those numbers can then be included with the numbers involving all 17 of that team's direct opponents to work out the final figure. Same deal with yardage.

Aaaand that's about it.

To close, I'll just point out that the principal behind this system – transitivity – is already employed by the NFL. As it's an elimination tournament, the playoff itself is transitivity in action. You know, the SB winner is only transitively better than the playoff teams it didn't face and it is only transitively better than the non-playoff teams it didn't face.

Transitivity is used in the regular season too. To give a clear example, suppose that all 4 teams in a division finished 3-3 against each other. Suppose also that they finished with an equal record against their 2 uncommon cross-division opponents, 0-2, 1-1 or 2-0. That division race is then strictly determined by which team is transitively better than the others against their 8 common cross-division opponents, and they are fairly judged against one another in that regard.

Well, with this point system you're simply translating the number of teams that each team is transitively better than into virtual wins on the board so that all teams may be fairly judged against all others, which, again, allows you to identify the most deserving teams in the league.
05-17-2019 02:24 AM
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goofus Offline
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Post: #2
RE: A more equitable way to qualify NFL playoff teams (long and unrealistic)
The 17th game should always be a neutral site game outside the country. Let's see you would need 16 games total for 32 teams.

4 games in London
4 games in Mexico
1 in Ireland
1 in Scotland
1 in Spain
1 in Germany
1 in Japan
1 in China
1 in Austraila
1 in Brazil
05-17-2019 04:56 PM
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chester Offline
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Post: #3
RE: A more equitable way to qualify NFL playoff teams (long and unrealistic)
(05-17-2019 04:56 PM)goofus Wrote:  The 17th game should always be a neutral site game outside the country. Let's see you would need 16 games total for 32 teams.

4 games in London
4 games in Mexico
1 in Ireland
1 in Scotland
1 in Spain
1 in Germany
1 in Japan
1 in China
1 in Austraila
1 in Brazil

I like that. 04-bow It would be cool to see more international games.
05-18-2019 12:49 PM
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