As the only sub-.500 division winner in NFL history, the Seattle Seahawks entered the playoffs largely as a joke, at least to many.
The idea that they'd be rewarded for their 7-9 regular season record with a home playoff game rankled some. Critics pointed to Seattle as a primary example of why the NFL should consider re-seeding the playoffs based in wins, rather than division titles.
One might argue, as I, Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter (and many others) did on Twitter yesterday that the Seahawks' victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints would end the discussion. By convincingly winning a game in which many of the national experts predicted Seattle would be slaughtered, it would serve to reason that the NFL's policy of rewarding division winners with a home playoff game, is indeed, working.
Critics maintain, however, that Seattle's win over New Orleans, could, in fact, have the opposite effect. They argue that New Orleans, due to their significantly better record (11-5) while playing in the more competitive NFC South division deserved the right to host the game. That Seattle, essentially, got an unfair advantage and if Saturday's divisional playoff game would have ended quite differently had the game been played in New Orleans.
There are elements to their argument that I understand. The Saints' regular season was unquestionably more deserving of recognition than the Seahawks'. Critics who feel that the NFL should consider re-seeding can point to Seattle, the 10-6 Kansas City Chiefs (who host the 12-4 Baltimore Ravens today) and countless other teams in history as "proof" that the NFL's playoff system needs fixing.
However, if the Seahawks' win Saturday doesn't convince critics that the NFL is right to continue their playoff system, I don't know what would. I don't believe anything would.
Isn't it obvious that if Seattle had been throttled by the Saints Saturday (as so many expected) that playoff critics would have pointed to the lopsided score as evidence the Seahawks didn't deserve to be in the playoffs, much less host a game? Hell, even if Seattle had lost despite giving a "surprisingly" competitive effort, that those same critics would give a collective, "See, we told you so."
And now, because Seattle did win the game, they still don't deserve it?
Pick a side. You can't have it both ways.
There remains a lot that needs fixing in the NFL -- the rookie wage scale, the miniscule pension provided to retired players, and the ridiculously long review policy among them.
The NFL playoff seeding is one of the league's longest standing traditions. The system makes divisional games mean more than others, creating and maintaining natural rivalries that are good for the competitiveness of the game. To change the seeding based on the NFC West winner's 7-9 record is a bad idea.
To change it now, after Seattle (like many other division winners in the past) took advantage of the spoils of their title and beat a wildcard team, would be a slap in the face to the traditions and competitiveness that makes the NFL the world's greatest sporting league.