NFL Could Have Major Fallout Over NFC South Playoff Team

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South Division Could Prove Very Divisive For NFC

By John Ventola

National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell has experienced a bumpy 2014 season while the league’s reputation has been tarnished due to current and former players being charged in well-publicized rape, domestic and child abuse cases. Those troubling off-the-field incidents forced Goodell to submit and get NFL owners approval on a new personal conduct policy. As serious as those cases were because of the human element involved and their severity, the league is only weeks away from a major on-field public relations nightmare. A current playoff rule will come under scrutiny and be discussed ad nauseam at the end of the regular season and, no doubt, be changed by league officials before next year.

The National Conference of the NFL has four Divisions, the East, the South, the North, and the West. Each division has four teams and the winner of each division is

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NFC South Winner Could Finish With Six Wins

guaranteed a playoff spot. This year the NFC South Division will finish the regular season with no team owning an over .500 winning percentage. It is still possible the division winner could finish the season with only six wins in sixteen games if teams keep playing at their current level.

The fact that a team would make the playoffs with such a paltry record would be embarrassing, but the unusual season reaches further than that in turning the conference upside down. There are currently nine teams in the NFC with better records than South Division co-leaders Atlanta and New Orleans (5-8). Six of those nine teams (Philadelphia 9-4, Dallas 9-4, Green Bay 10-3, Detroit 9-4, Arizona 11-3, and Seattle 9-4) are clearly ahead of the other three squads plus the South division teams. Only six teams go to the playoffs from the National Conference and with the South Division winner guaranteed a spot, it means one of those six outstanding teams would not make the playoffs.

And Goodell thinks the Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson cases presented him headaches! We could see a six-win team knock a ten-win team out of the playoffs. Wonder if there is any legal remedy available for owners to claim “franchise abuse”?

Sadly, the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons find themselves fighting for football relevancy so late in the season. Both teams have suffered disappointing losses

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Saints Play Bears In Key NFC Matchup

and not played up to pre-season forecasts. With Atlanta hosting Pittsburgh Sunday, and the Saints traveling to Chicago to face the Bears on Monday Night Football, the Saints could have the upper hand in a year where hands have not been that well played.

New Orleans has lost its past four home games and won its last two games on the road. The Saints will play the Falcons the following Sunday in New Orleans. Divisional opponent Tampa Bay (2-11) will play at Carolina (4-8-1) in a key game for the Panthers to keep up with New Orleans and Atlanta. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was injured in a motor vehicle accident this week and may be unavailable to play in the contest.

The Saints could be going into the Windy City at just the right time as the Bears have been wrecked by revelations this week that offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, a former Saints staffer under Sean Payton, openly criticized the team quarterback after last week’s loss. Jay Cutler makes $20.5 million a year and is the highest paid quarterback in the league, but ranks in the middle of the pack as far as passing efficiency and other relevant statistics. Kromer did the unthinkable with his statements and then apologized to Cutler and other team personnel. The Bears are currently 5-8 and find themselves in last place of the NFC’s four-team North Division.

Saints coach Sean Payton himself did not single players out after an embarrassing 41-10 home loss to Carolina last week, but he did make moves meant to improve team chemistry and intensity early in the week. He released receiver Joe Morgan, demoted safety Kenny Vaccaro, had three place kickers in for tryouts, and encouraged soul-searching by each and every player. It will be interesting to see if more effort is on display Monday by the Saints.

Rain, wind, and cold could put a damper on Monday’s game, take the passing game out of the equation (a major disappointment as the Saints could probably count on a few Cutler mistakes). It could boil down to a battle in the trenches, with the Bears depending on former Tulane star running back and Slidell native Matt Forte, and the Saints relying on Mark Ingram and Drew Brees’ short passing game.

The next three weeks, including the Saints last game visit to Tampa Bay, should prove interesting as the NFC South Division decides its winner and subsequent first round playoff host. For a change it will not be a case of odd man out. It will be odd team in—the playoffs!

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