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News » Going 11-5 might not be enough for New England

Going 11-5 might not be enough for New England

Going 11-5 might not be enough for New England

The press room talk at Gillette Stadium Sunday centered mostly on the crying injustice of it all.

The Patriots could become only the second team in NFL history to finish 11-5 and miss the playoffs. The first was Denver in 1985, a year New England was part of a tiebreaker that kept the Broncos out.

I don't recall any Patriots fans leaping to the Broncos' defense in '85. This is why, as our team confronts a destiny out of its own control, we should accept that an 11-5 playoff no-show would be unfortunate, but not unfair.

The alleged inequity of the system was dramatized Sunday, when Arizona gave one of the great mail-it-in performances of NFL history.

Despite its embarrassing 47-7 loss, the Cardinals are playoff-bound. The Patriots must hope either the Ravens or Dolphins lose in Week 17.

The Jets should beat Miami at home, but New York seems intent on throwing its season away, so I don't feel good about New England's chances.

The AFC West and NFC West champs could both finish 8-8. Watching Sunday's fiasco, and pretending the Cardinals were more playoff worthy than the Patriots, begged the question: where is the justice in rewarding mediocrity, and sending an 11-5 team home?

It is found in a playoff system which has served the NFL incredibly well and is, as much as can be expected, a fair one.

The tiebreaker formula is complicated, but based on a logical process of elimination. Winning a division should mean something, and it does.

And it's not as if the Patriots didn't contribute to their own predicament, either.

They lost three games at home, and five in all. Life would be a lot simpler if they had lost only four.

This is not the college BCS, where a team can go 12-0 and be given no shot at the title.

If any inequity exists, it is found in the imbalance of the conferences. If the Patriots played in the NFC, I think they would be the No. 3 seed at the very least.

Bill Belichick refused to dwell on that Sunday.

"We're not in the NFC," he said.

For Belichick, this passes as an expansive comment, but he's right.

The AFC's plus-3 head-to-head edge over the NFC understates the gap between conferences. Most of the really good teams are in the AFC, as usual.

Still, the NFC has made small strides at narrowing the gap this season. All eight of its East or South Divisions have winning records.

In 1985, only five teams per conference made the playoffs. The Browns (8-8) made it as a division champ. The wild-card Patriots (11-5) reached the Super Bowl.

Denver went nowhere. We didn't complain about the system then, so please, no whining now.

All we can do is ROOT for the Dolphins or Ravens to lose, and accept the possibility that a very good season might not be good enough.

Ron Chimelis can be reached at rchimelis@repub.com

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 25, 2008

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Chris McAlister Name: Chris McAlister
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