This is a re-posting of a blog post from January 2017. On this year's version of Super Bowl Sunday, it felt fitting to post it again and wonder about what could be for the NFL...
Fans of our podcast know that we are American sports fans who put soccer at or near the top of our sports lists. As sports fans in general, then, it is not lost on us that the Super Bowl – the final game of the National Football League (NFL) season – is approaching. This one game is the biggest American sporting event of the year; in many years, it’s also the biggest in the world.
Biggest does not necessarily mean best. Regular pod listeners have heard Scott argue that playoffs in sports do not crown the best teams in a sport as champions. Playoffs simply reward the team playing the best at the end of the season.
The two best teams in the NFL this season were the New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys. Thanks to the playoff system, however, the championship game will only feature one of those two teams. While the Atlanta Falcons are a very good team, they should not be in the Super Bowl – if you want a system that maximizes the importance of the regular season.
The NFL’s Regular Season
NFL teams play 16 games during the regular season. The top six teams in each conference then move on to the playoffs to crown a champion in a tournament format. It’s exciting TV, and it’s what American fans are used to seeing. Is it best, though?
Of the 10 playoff games played so far, nine of them featured two teams who had already played each other during the regular season. Think about that for a minute. Nine of the 10 playoff games were repeats of games already played.
It’s enough to make you want to skip the regular season altogether and wait for the playoffs.
The Premier League Season
One of the first surprises awaiting new fans – specifically American fans – of the Premier League is its lack of postseason. While the season is more than twice as long (38 matches), each match carries equal importance toward determining a champion.
Each team plays the other 19 teams twice, once at home and once on the road. That kind of symmetry allows the league to say that the first place club at the end of the season is its champion.
There’s no need for extra matches, for playoffs. That would just water down the season. From August to May we watch because points dropped during any match over those nine months might affect a team’s place in the table at the end of the year.
Premier League Wins
With just 16 games, the NFL still manages to maintain some importance on its regular season. The problem is that the biggest games during the regular season are the ones you need to watch the least. Unless your team is playing, it was a waste of time to watch those nine regular season games that were duplicated in the playoffs.
Don’t miss this. When two obvious playoff teams play during the regular season, you are supposed to be most excited to watch those games. However, you could just skip them and wait to see if they also play in the playoffs. After all, those games are the only ones that truly matter.
We will take the Premier League’s system. The season is longer, and there are more matches. We know, however, when we sit down and watch that those points mean something. The biggest games are actually the biggest games. There is no regular season mirage, like with the NFL.
Luckily, after all the Premier League action on February 5 has ended and we sit down to enjoy this year’s Super Bowl, we will be watching a game between two teams who didn’t play each other during the watered-down regular season.