As we welcome in Week 12 in the NFL regular season, a lingering issue with the current playoff format looks to be materializing once again. With a 4-6 record, the Atlanta Falcons now sit in first place in their division, the NFC South. With only six weeks remaining in the regular season, there is fairly reasonable shot that a team will win the NFC South with an 8-8 or even a 7-9 record. If this happens, this will no doubt fuel a controversy this offseason as there will be a handful of 9 and 10-win teams that will not make the postseason.
Arguments in favor of the current system
Proponents of the current playoff format argue that every division should be represented in the playoffs. The typical reasoning behind this is that teams will naturally beat up on one another and drag down their win-loss record.
Another argument in favor of the current system is the fact that, because teams only play 16 games in a season, they don’t play each other enough to rely simply on the win-loss record. They argue that the strength of schedule varies so much and that granting a playoff spot to the division winners helps mitigate that unbalance.
Fans who favor the current system often point to the 2010 Seattle Seahawks who won their division with a 7-9 record and went on to beat the New Orleans Saints, 11-5 at the time, during their Wild Card playoff matchup.
Arguments against the current system
Unlike the NBA where half of the teams make the playoffs, the NFL has just 12 playoff spots for 32 teams. The strongest argument made by opponents of the current playoff format is that only the best teams in the conference should get into the playoffs. In a format where so few teams make the postseason, allowing a team with a losing record to advance certainly irritates many fans of the game. There is a very simple argument to be made that allowing mediocre teams into the postseason makes the playoffs less competitive.
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Opponents of the divisional system also question the notion that better divisional competition drags the records down. The 2010 NFC West and the 2014 NFC South does not meet any reasonable standard as being highly competitive. Opponents point to the 2013 AFC West in which three out of the four teams made the playoffs as evidence that good division play does not hurt a team’s chances of making the playoffs.
The realities of the system and possible change on the way
In the end, the current format has as much to do with making money as it does with respecting the divisional matchups. If a division were not guaranteed a playoff spot, it would make every late season game in a bad division meaningless. Certainly, if it wasn’t for the playoff spot, most casual fans would have no interest in any of the remaining NFC South games this season.
Change may be on the way. While removing the automatic bid to the division winner doesn’t seem to be on the table, the league is looking at an expanded playoff format that would add an extra Wild Card spot in each conference. While a team could still win the division with a losing record, this format would help ensure that one more deserving team would make the playoffs.
This new format has a pretty good chance at passing this offseason and being put in place as early as the 2015 season. Not only is it a decent compromise to get better teams into the playoffs, but also it’s a potential gold mine for the league. Under this proposed format, only the #1 seed would get a first week bye and each conference would then have an extra Wild Card playoff game. Anything that results in additional playoff games is sure to be welcomed by league management as they look to capitalize on the NFL’s market dominance in North America.
In American football, the playoff picture is starting to materialize as the NFL heads into Week 11 of the season. With only seven weeks of regular season games remaining, the contenders are beginning to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
The NBA basketball season has begun with some surprises including a slow start from Lebron James and the Cavs. We’ll preview a couple of marque NBA matches this week and also pay tribute to the amazing play of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.
Sunday, Houston Texans (4-5) @ Cleveland Browns (6-3): The Cleveland Browns proved to everyone last week that they are for real by going on the road and dismantling the then 1st place Bengals 24-3. Cleveland now is sitting on top of the AFC North, this year’s best division in football. With every team in their division having a winning record, every week almost needs to be looked at as a must win. Their opponent, Houston, needs a win badly to stay in the AFC playoff picture. Led by J.J. Watt, the Texans defense will need to play at their best in order to contain the Browns who will also be getting back last year’s top wide receiver as Josh Gordon is finally coming back to the Browns after serving a 10-game suspension.
Sunday, New England Patriots (7-2) @ Indianapolis Colts (6-3): If you are a fan of high-scoring games, this will be the one you want to watch this weekend. Two of the three top offenses will meet up this week in a game that is sure to light up the scoreboard. One factor that might limit the score is the fact that both teams were on their byes this past week so they will have 14 days to prepare for each other. Regardless on whether or not it is a shootout, it should be a terrific game nonetheless.
Thursday, Sacramento Kings (5-2) @ Memphis Grizzlies (6-1): The Kings are perhaps the NBA biggest early season surprise. While most expected them to improve, Sacramento is sitting at 5-2 in a very tough Western conference. Led by Rudy Gay and Demarcus Cousins, the Kings take their show down South to Memphis to test their mettle at the 6-1 Grizzlies.
Saturday, Brooklyn Nets (4-2) @ Portland Trail Blazers (4-3): In an inter-conference battle, Brooklyn flies cross-country to visit the Portland Trail Blazers. This matchup, beyond the game itself, is always noted as a meeting between the Lopez brothers. Brook Lopez plays center for Brooklyn while his brother Robin plays the same position in Portland. It’s always fun watching those two brothers compete as if they were still in grade school.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are on an absolute tear right now after winning their last seven games. They have real shot at creating some distance in the coming weeks with plenty of divisional games on the schedule. This week, they face the following and look to improve upon that winning streak.
Tuesday, @ New York Rangers
Friday, vs. Maple Leaves
Saturday, @ New York Rangers
It slipped for Liverpool last season against Chelsea. On Saturday, the replay was on and again Mourinho prevailed. Emre Can gave Liverpool a hope early on after his strike was deflected into the net. Liverpool has been terrible at defending set pieces this season and conceded again against Chelsea as Cahill notched home a rebound. The Beast Diego Costa smashed in 2-1 and although Liverpool created some late chances and had a valiant appeal for a penalty, Chelsea won.
Andy Carroll returned for West Ham, but couldn’t find the net. Make sure you find the net with a Guts bonus sports now! The Hammers drew against Aston Villa who still can’t find the net. A clean sheet was nice for a change though. Manchester United struggled with Palace, but Juan Mata’s strike secured three points for the Red Devils.
At Turf Moor, Burnley secured their first win of the season after a signature Trippier cross and a thundering Barnes header. QPR almost had City. Almost. However, Sergio Aguero scored twice though and singlehandedly secured a point for a weak City. Southampton continued their good spell with another win-to-nil through two late goals from Shane Long. We expect Saints to beat Aston Villa in two weeks’ time, but can they upset the likes of City, Arsenal and Man Utd?
Sebastian Larsson curled in a free kick against Everton, but Leighton Baines converted a penalty to make it 1-1 at the Stadium of Light. Newcastle is in excellent form and beat West Brom 2-0 after a goal from Ayoze even Zlatan would be proud of. And poor Spurs lost at home to Stoke. Bojan with the play of the day at White Hart Lane with his 1-0 goal.
And lastly, Swansea’s subs came from behind to beat the mighty Gunners. Modou Barrow, note that name. The former Östersund player could prove to be an interesting addition for the Swans and his pace created the free kick that Gylfi Sigurdsson slotted into the top corner. Minutes after, Gomis headed home the winner. Next weekend, International break. We’ll e back!
October is drawing to a close and it’s been an arduous month indeed. Rooney’s suspension, Costas injury and Aguero’s inconsistency made business difficult for a lot of managers in our Guts Gaming Fantasy League. However, our top 3 for October scraped together plenty of points!
1. Control Alt Da Laet - Tiago Neto - 213 p
2. AR - Kamil Rukiewicz - 208 p
3. S Club 11 - James Currie - 198 p
3. Prince Rupert - Jonathan Green - 198 p
Well done, lads! Remember to pick up your Guts bonus sports codes as well! Now, we have some news regarding the prices. Due to UK legislation, Guts.com can no longer offer Sports Book to UK customers. So giving out Free Bets as prizes is futile. However, we will instead give out Casino Bonuses that only needs to be wagered 1x. The size of the prizes stay the same. This is only for our UK winners, so If you reside in another country, everything stays the same.
Our winners must contact firstname.lastname@example.org within 2 weeks from today to claim their prizes. The subject line must say “Fantasy” and you must include your team name and your username. Congrats again to our Managers of the Month in October!
Last week did not disappoint. The World Series has been competitive with the Giants leading 3-2 in the best of seven series. The NFL saw a handful of upsets, culminating with a Washington win over the heavily favored Dallas Cowboys on Monday night. As for this week, it gets even better…
Major League Baseball
The San Francisco Giants are one win away from another World Series championship after winning the last two games at home. The series now moves back to Kansas City where the Royals hope to even the series on Tuesday night during Game 6. If Kansas City is able to win Tuesday, the final will be played on Wednesday evening.
Week 9 ushers in the second half of the NFL season. From this point forward, the playoff picture will start to come in focus and every week these games have more meaning. Let’s take a look at this week’s marque matchups:
Arizona Cardinals (6-1) @ Dallas Cowboys (6-2): The Arizona Cardinals have floated under the radar all season. They play in a smaller market and don’t get a ton of national attention. The Dallas Cowboys are the polar opposite – most fans would say they receive too much hype. Regardless, there is no denying that both teams are playing good football right now.
Denver Broncos (6-1) @ New England Patriots (6-2): It doesn’t get much better than this - Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady in late October. This game could very well be a preview of the AFC Championship Game. These are the two best teams in the AFC and they have been improving each week. It’s hard to see this game being anything other than fantastic.
Baltimore Ravens (5-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (5-3): The NFL’s biggest rivalry will pick up Sunday night in Pittsburgh. In years past, we could always expect a grinding, low-scoring game. However, that was then and this is now. Both teams have tried to become more explosive on the offense and it shows. Baltimore may be the better team but Pittsburgh is riding high after a big win and will be playing this game at home – it should be interesting.
The wait is finally over! The NBA tips off Tuesday night and the first week should be great. Back from injury, Kobe Bryant and his Lakers host the Houston Rockets on opening night. Most other teams will play on Wednesday night with 12 games on the schedule including Bulls @ Knicks and Thunder @ Blazers.
Of course, almost every NBA fan is looking forward to Thursday night when the Cleveland Cavaliers and the trio of LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving play their first regular season game together when the New York Knicks come to town. In the preseason, Cleveland looked like they are going to do some damage in the Eastern Conference. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait long to see if this team is for real. After the Thursday game versus New York, Cleveland plays at Chicago on Friday and then at Portland November 4th. That’s some pretty good competition to start out the season. Can’t wait!
Deep into stoppage time in yesterday’s big game Ivanovic got himself sent off and gave United one last chance to get something from the game. Robin van Persie smashed in the rebound from Fellaini’s header and the celebration was on.
It reminded us of a trademark Fergie-time finish and hopefully Man Utd can build on this 1 point. United had more attempts, more possession, more shots on goals, but Chelsea’s chances were bigger and one had the feeling that Chelsea was in control throughout the game. United’s shots came from difficult angles. A point apiece might arguably be the correct result to Sunday’s cracker.
At Boleyn Ground, West Ham continued their excellent start of the season beating reigning champions Manchester City 2-1. Hammers look like a top team and new signings Valencia and Sakho have been outstanding so far. City and especially Aguero were poor.
Saints upset Stoke 1-0 and are surprisingly just 4 points behind Chelsea. Sanchez scored twice as the Gunners defeated Sunderland to nil and Swansea produced two excellent attacks against Leicester, superbly finished off by Wilfred Bony. Crystal Palace looked to upset WBA, but a late penalty was converted by Berahino and gave the teams 1 point each.
Oh, were to begin with Liverpool. Home against Hull should be an easy 3 points, but Liverpool continues to struggle. Well, they looked decent defensively, but their offense seemed very tame. That all changed when Coutinho and Lambert came on after an hour, but despite big chances, Liverpool couldn’t find the net.
Things doesn’t look good at White Hart Lane either, as Newcastle spent a record 6 seconds after the second half kicked off before Sammy Ameobi hammered in the equalizer. Ayoze Perez made his debut for Toon and the young Spaniard headed home the winner after 58 minutes. Grim start to the season for Spurs, much like Everton. However, Etoo and Lukaku made sure that Everton took their second win of the season against Burnley, who still haven’t won in the Premier League.
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Is there a better month for North American sports than October? Baseball’s final two teams compete in the World Series this week, NFL football is in full swing, NHL ice hockey just got underway, and the NBA basketball season starts next week! Let’s take a look at some of the biggest storylines and matchups this week…
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball is down to its final two teams. The National League is represented by the San Francisco Giants (88-74). They will be battling against the American League’s Kansas City Royals (89-73). Game 1 is Tuesday night, followed by games on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (if necessary). This matchup is remarkable in that both of these teams entered the playoffs as the Wild Card team. Not since 2002 have two Wild Card teams met in the World Series. Both the Giants and Royals are playing some of their best baseball of the year so it should make for an interesting Series.
Kansas City hasn’t been to a World Series in decades and this team is playing with a lot of energy. However, will it be enough to counter the experience San Francisco brings to this series, as the Giants have played in the World Series three of the last four years?
Only two words for this last week: Peyton Manning. The Broncos quarterback broke the NFL career touchdown record by throwing his 509th touchdown and surpassing Brett Favre in the process. The most remarkable part of that record is that Favre threw 508 touchdowns in 309 games. Peyton broke his record last night in his 246th game. With Peyton looking like he could easily play a couple more years, could we witness the first ever 600-TD passer? It’s not a stretch when some call Peyton Manning the greatest NFL player ever. Manning, the league’s only 5-time MVP, continues to play at an unbelievably high level.
Week 8 in the NFL features some interesting matchups. The Seahawks (3-3) travel to Carolina to take on the Panthers (3-3-1) this Sunday. Both teams were disappointing last week and this game is hugely important for both teams. Neither team wants to go under .500 so expect a physical, hard-fought affair.
Also on Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals (5-1) will host the Philadelphia Eagles (5-1). These teams’ records speak for themselves. The Cardinals and Eagles match up fairly well against each other and that should make for an interesting game. Will Arizona’s top-notch defense be enough to contain the Eagles explosiveness? The pressure is going to be on as Arizona is trying to distance themselves from the other teams in their division, the NFC West, and the Eagles are attempting to keep pace within the NFL East as the surprising Dallas Cowboys sit in 1st place.
The Premiership returned with a boom this weekend, with Manchester City and Spurs kicking off a memorable weekend of football. 4 penalties, 2 penalties saved and 4 Aguero goals pretty much sums that one up. Spurs looked shaky, especially defensively.
Palace vs Chelsea produced a couple of great goals, a horrendous tackle by Azpilicueta and another 3 points for Mourinho. Costa did not participate and could well be out next weekend as well. Or is Mourinho playing mind games ahead of the clash against United?
Southampton has had a fantastic start this season and on Saturday Sunderland was dismantled 8-0. Vergini scored a spectacular own goal and played terribly the rest of the game as well. Dusan Tadic had an awesome game, scoring 1 and providing 4 assists. Saints currently holds the 3rd place in the Premiership.
West Ham and Everton picked up solid wins and even Alan Pardew got some breathing space with a 1-0 win against Leicester. Stoke won 2-1 against Swansea on Sunday having been wrongly awarded a penalty after a blatant dive from Victor Moses.
Hull almost upset Arsenal at the Emirates, but a late goal from Datguy Welbeck secured a point for the Gunners. And what an amazing finish the game on Sunday had! 4 goals in 8 minutes, a couple of own goals and utter despair for QPR who really deserved to get something from the game. Despite the 3 points, Liverpool needs to get things right sooner rather than later. Come Wednesday, Real Madrid will come to Anfield and Liverpool better step up their game. If not, Wednesday’s game could be very humiliating. Get ready for the game and grab the Guts sports promotion!
Hero Award: Sergio Aguero
4 goals could’ve easily been 6 or more for the magician against Spurs. He’s finally back in full force and constantly terrorized the Spurs defenders who had no answer to Aguero’s brilliant play.
Villain Award: Cesar Azpilicueta
Having kept Felipe Luis on the bench for the start of the season, Azpilicueta might have given Luis a free pass to take his place in the Chelsea team. A horrendous tackle right in front of the referee earned the defender a red card and a 3-match ban.
Team Award: Southampton
What can we say? 8-0 is a ridiculous score line and Saints have been very impressive so far this season. Could challenge for a European cup if they manage to keep up their excellent form. Stoke must be terrified ahead of next week’s clash.
Goal Award: Santiago Vergini
Easily one of the best own goals we’ve ever seen. The strike made us laugh so hard that we just have to give him an award.
Guts Gripe of the Weekend: Victor Moses
FFS! That was no penalty, that was a dive! Yellow card, ref! Stoke eventually gained 3 points from that. Very uncharacteristic of Stoke. On loan is he? Makes sense then.
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