On some levels, the Arizona Cardinals have no business being in the NFL playoffs with an 8-8 record and scoring only 19 points combined in their final two games of the season.
However, the reality is that the Chicago Bears are also 8-8, and by virtue of a flawed NFL tie-breaker system, they will be heading to New Orleans to play the Saints in the first round of the playoffs next weekend instead of the Cardinals.
Something tells me many people don’t even know how the Bears own the tie-breaker.
For wild-card ties between two or more clubs, the first tie-breaker is head-to-head competition. That doesn’t apply here because the Cardinals and Bears did not play each other this season.
The second tie-breaker is conference record and both teams are 6-6.
Here’s where it becomes strange. The next tie-breaker is record in common games with a minimum of four. Those four teams were the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, New York Giants and Los Angeles Rams. The Cardinals and Bears played five total games against them.
The Bears were 3-2 in those games and the Cardinals 1-4.
But, wait a minute. Something as important as a playoff spot can be decided by only four games on the schedule and in this case five? How does that make sense, especially when the next tie-breaker is evaluated?
That one is strength of victory, where the records of the teams each club has defeated is added up. For that one, the Cardinals win easily over the Bears.
The cumulative record for the eight teams the Cardinals beat is 56-71-1, a .441 percentage. For the Bears, it’s 43-85, a percentage of .336. Imagine that: the average wins for teams the Cardinals defeated is 7.1. For the Bears, it’s 5.4. The Cardinals beat two teams with a winning record, Seattle and Buffalo. Chicago defeated one, Tampa Bay.
It makes sense when common games are used to break ties within a division because there are 12 of those for every division team. In fact, the common games tie-breaker is ahead of conference record for ties within a division.
But, how is it possibly fair for any situation in the league where a tie is broken for a minimum of only four games when strength of victory would always be significantly more than that because most wild-card ties involve teams that have won at least eight games and usually more.
It’s clear this is something the league needs to revisit.