Dec 23 2013, 1:41pm CST | by Forbes
Detroit, which had to win to stay in the playoff race, was up a touchdown on the 5-9 Giants, at home, with 5 minutes left and the ball. Then Matthew Stafford threw a pass that was tipped and run back for a TD by the Giants’ Will Hill. The Giants kicked a field goal to win 23-20 in overtime and knock Detroit out of any playoff chance. The Lions were once 6-3; now they’re 7-8.
Green Bay had Pittsburgh at home in the snow at Lambeau Field. If the Packers can’t win at home in the snow in December, when can they win? Not Sunday. The Steelers scored with 1:28 left to win 38-31 after a fumble by Packers QB Matt Flynn. You might remember Flynn as the former Packer backup who had one great game, signed big free-agent deals with Seattle and Oakland, washed out in both places, and is now back in Green Bay. He’s filling in for All-Pro Aaron Rodgers, who has missed seven games with a broken collarbone. The Packers are 2-4-1 in those games.
So all Chicago had to do Sunday night was beat Philadelphia and the Bears would win the North. Instead: Philly 54, Chicago 11. And it really wasn’t that close.
Now we’re left with 7-7-1 Green Bay at 8-7 Chicago this Sunday, and the winner gets to go to the playoffs. This seems unfair to actual successful NFL teams, like the Arizona Cardinals, who are 10-5 and just beat the Seahawks in Seattle but won’t make the playoffs without a lot of help.
So I was thinking, just this one year, maybe we can pretend the NFC North doesn’t exist. We’ve believed impossible things before. We used to think smoking was good for us! We can say they didn’t turn in their playoff application on time. All the flights out of the Midwest got snowed in. Computer glitches. Locusts. Something.
Some of you might want to extend this idea to the NFC East, which has given off a rancid odeur for long stretches this year. But the East’s two playoff contenders, Philly and Dallas, both won Sunday (although Dallas beat Washington, which at this point should count for maybe half a win). Plus, the East has entertainment value: Chip Kelly vs. tradition, RGIII vs. the Shanahans, Eli vs. the all-time interception record, Good Romo vs. Bad Romo, Jerry Jones vs. common sense. Can’t you see the Best Bad Team In Sports losing to the Eagles in heartbreaking fashion Sunday night? Of course you can.
The most entertaining player in the NFC North is Adrian Peterson, and he plays for the Vikings — who were out of the playoff race long before Sunday. (They lost 42-14 to the Bengals anyway, out of solidarity.)
The divisional system does what it’s supposed to do — it keeps more teams alive for the playoffs, which means more fans will still be interested late in the season. But when every team in a division is mediocre or worse, it’s like a blight on one of those beautiful holiday clementines. Better to toss the whole thing and start fresh.
No, this is not going to happen. Yes, iffy playoff teams (hello, 2011 Giants!) have gone on to win the Super Bowl. Absolutely, Aaron Rodgers could come back this week and lead the Packers on a legendary playoff run. This is all part of the magic of sports. But sometimes you don’t pull the rabbit out of the hat. Sometimes all that’s in there is what the rabbit left behind. That’s the NFC North. It’s asking too much to hope for the Packers and Bears to give us a great, meaningful game this weekend. At least let there be snow.
Source: Forbes Business
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