Friday, January 13, 2012

NFL Divisional Round Picks & Rule Changes

NFL Divisional Round Playoffs this weekend.  Here are the picks:

New Orleans at San Francisco
This is a tough pick for me.  I do think NO will struggle to move the ball like they normally do, on the road, outdoors, and against a good defense.  But I can't pick Alex Smith over Drew Brees.  Saints
Denver at New England
The Tebow 3:16 run ends here.  Although I will say this, the NE defense isn't very good, and if Tebow and the Broncos can run the ball and keep the Pats Offense off the field, it could be interesting.  Still, common sense says Patriots.

Houston at Baltimore
This is probably the hardest pick for me.  Usually for playoff games, I go by the best team, then by best quarterback, then by the Home Field advantage.  I'm going to have to go with Home Field in this one.  I don't trust Joe Flacco, although I think he's better than TJ Yates.  And as much press as Baltimore's D gets, Houston's defense is actually better.  I'm taking the Ravens based on experience, and home field.
NY Giants at Green Bay
These two played not that long ago, and it was a close game.  One of the tougher match ups Green Bay had all season was the Giants.  The reason is this, the Giants can generate pressure on the quarterback with just their front four, and drop 7 into coverage.  Green Bay is not a good running team, and the cold weather won't bother the Giants.  Eli Manning has played well in this season, and looked good last week.  But I can't pick him against Aaron Rodgers.  Green Bay to win a close one.

So yeah, I'm pretty much picking all the favorites.  (Sorry Corey.  They are favorites for a reason.)

Which leads me to today's subject:  Rule Changes.  Every year we see rules changed in our favorite sports.  For example this year the NFL moved the kickoff line to the 35 yard from the 30. 
Monday night I was sitting and watching Alabama beat up LSU to win the BCS Championship, and I wasn't liking it.  We need new system for deciding the national championship in college football.  Whether that be 4 Ginormous conferences with 64 teams, maybe it could be my 8 team playoff plan, maybe it's something else.  But there needs to be a rule change.

This got me thinking about rule changes.  If I was made "Galatic President Superstar McAwesomeness of Sports" for a day, what are the rule changes I would make.

Football Section - Things to improve America's favorite game.

NFL Overtime-  OK, this subject has been beaten to death because of Peter King and his whining about the Colts losing in overtime.  That's where it started, don't fool yourself.  Which led to this year's overtime rule change in the playoffs.  (an aside:  How do you have different rules for the play of the game in the playoffs, than you do in the regular season?  That's just silly).  So basically, now the rule is, if the first team scores a FG, the second team has a chance to have the ball.  (Which by the way, wouldn't have mattered in the Peyton Manning game, because Darren Sproles scored on a touchdown run, but I digress)

Rule Change:  Let's take a page from basketball.  Overtime is set for a certain amount of time.  You play til the clock runs out.  The only discussion is the length of time.  Basketball goes with 5 minutes, and they have 12 minute quarters.  But football is different, possession of the ball last about 24 seconds in basketball, much longer in football.  So, let's set it at 10 minutes.  10 Minute overtime.  Done.  Game still tied?  Double Overtime in the playoffs.  Much better than the sudden death rule.  Much better than the college rule.  Continue to play the game, for a shortened overtime period.

NFL Hash marks-  Ever notice how good NFL kickers are, and how rarely they miss any field goal under 40 yards?  Then have you ever watched a college game and wondered why these less talented kickers, have to deal with wider hash marks, and more difficult angles on Field Goals?  It doesn't make sense to me.  Here is the rule with NFL hash marks:  "Hash marks in the NFL are lined up with the goal posts. They are 18 feet 6 inches apart and are located 23 7/12 yards from each sideline."  Why are better kickers, playing on a higher level, given an easier opportunity to make a field goal?  This is like having the Junior High play on regulation hoops, but when the Varsity High School team comes out, lowering it to 9 feet so more people can dunk.  It makes no sense.

Rule Change:  The NFL hash marks will be widened to the college football standard, 40 feet wide and 60 feet in from the sideline.  It will make Field Goals more difficult.  It will make what plays you run in the Red Zone more selective.  Plus, who cares if the offenses don't want to line up wider on the field?  The league is all offense now!  Make the offense work a little harder, they already have every advantage.  Let's give the defense something, here.

Basketball Section - I thought up a few good basketball rules too.

Trapezoidal lane- Anyone who has ever seen international basketball has seen the "Trapezoid" Lane.  American players in High School, College, and Pro have played with the "Rectangular Lane" that most are familiar with.  Pictured here(from the diagram of drill):
Traditional Basketball Lane
Here is my problem with the traditional lane.  It's too small.  Players are always "jammed up" in the paint.  And thanks to the "Bad Boy" Pistons of the early 80's the game has become entirely too physical on the inside.  So, why not take the lane, and expand it out.  Don't allow the offensive players to set up so close to the basket without a 3 second violation.

Let's take a look at a trapezoid lane.

Trapezoid Lane
If you are a post player setting up on the block, you are several feet farther out than you are in the traditional lane.  And your teammate on the other side of the lane is farther away too.  And so is their defender, in theory.  This would open the game up!  Less pushing, fighting, grabbing, double teaming, clutching... less ugly basketball.

I've heard arguments that this would "take away" from the impact of big men, and make the game all about the perimeter players.  I could not disagree more.  If the lane is wider, it becomes tougher to double team.  It puts more of a premium on being able to defend one on one in the post, without help.  On offense, your big man is going to have to become a better shooter, ball handler, and especially a better passer.  So while it may marginalize the impact of lesser big men, the truly dominant big man would become more important than ever.

Rule Change:  Basketball, at all levels should implement a trapezoid lane.  Yes, all levels.  We want the high school kids, and traveling teams and AAU sponsored clubs to be learning this style of play from an early age.  (Youth BB... meaning pre-High School, could use a "shortened down" smaller version of the trapezoid, but it should still be there.)
NOTE:  FIBA changed their rules in 2010 to go to a rectangular lane.  They went from 6 meters wide at the baseline and narrowed it to a rectangular lane at 4.9 meters wide.  Leave it to FIBA.  They did ONE thing better than American style of basketball, and then they get rid of that one thing. 

NBA Playoffs-  Every year we see it in the NBA.  Various teams who have no chance of making the playoffs, putting every dude who can play on the injured reserve, so they can effectively "tank" the season, and get better odds in the NBA draft lottery.  Now, I won't go off on the draft lottery here, other than to see that a lottery is a terrible way to set draft positioning.   Every team that doesn't make the playoffs is in the lottery, and the worse your record is, the greater your odds are of getting a high pick.  All the teams in the playoffs are held out of the lottery, and their draft position is decided by record.
Another thing I dislike about the NBA playoffs is the 7 game format in every series.  It used to be a 5 game series in the first round, and I liked that much better.  It shortens up the playoffs, it makes the games more important, and it increases (slightly) the chance of an upset in the first round. 
Lastly, the 2-3-2 format  for the NBA finals stinks.  If this is the best format, why don't they use it for every round?  The team with the better record hosts two home games, goes on the road for 3, and then goes home for the final two.  I don't like this.  In the early 80's the format was 2-2-1-1-1 with alternating locations, and I preferred that much better. 
So, with my list of grievances fully explained, let's get to the changes.

Rule Change(s):  First off, we need to do something about the "tanking" that is going on at the end of every single NBA season.  So, here is what we do.
The Play-In Tournament
1.  Only 14 teams ( top 7 from each conference) qualify for the playoffs. 
2.  The last 16 teams are placed into a single elimination tournament for the final two playoff spots.
3.  The tournament would be seeded out 1-16.  With the best record facing the worst record, etc...  The Higher Seeded team would be the host team for the first two rounds (This is assuming you have a "central location" for the final four... maybe you don't do that, and you continue to have home teams host). 
4.  The tournament would take place in one week.  First round Monday and Tuesday( 4 games each night)... Second Round Wednesday/Thursday...Third Round Saturday... Final Round last game before the official playoffs on Sunday.  (If you wanted to hold it Final Four style in a central location that would be great...)
5.  Each winning team would get paid, standard playoff victory salary, for each victory.  Losers will take home bupkiss.  This will motivate them to play.
6.  The top two teams, who make the finals will quality to enter the NBA playoffs and play the top two seeds.  (The Winner will face the #1 seed with the worse record, the loser will face the #1 seed with the best record in the league.)
7.  This is Critical:  The winning team of the "play in" tournament will receive the #1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, the second place team will have the #2 pick.  Following on down, the 3 and 4 picks would be decided by the other two semifinalists, based on record(lower record/higher seed) format.
-This would eliminate teams "tanking" and placing players on IR just to improve lottery odds.  Oh, you want to field the worst team in the league?  How's the 16th draft pick grab you?

Also, this would prevent things happening like we have seen time and time again with perennial losers.  Who draft a good player, have him build up a decent reputation, and then leave town for greener pastures as soon as his rookie contract is up.  You know those teams who are on the verge of being good, but never get over the hump, and then their star leaves and they are left rebuilding.  No longer.

In addition, for anyone who thinks this would prevent the truly bad from improving, I disagree.  The NBA is still a salary cap league, there is still free agency, you can still spend money and make trades however you want.  Key players will still get injured.  Bad coaches will destroy a locker room, etc...  The key thing is, if you hire a good coach, and make good decisions on personnel, you can improve much more quickly.

So after the Play In Tournament we start the "Official NBA Playoffs"
Round 1 - Back to the Best of Five Format (this will gain back the week from the play in tournament)
Rest of the Rounds remain at 7 games.
-All best of seven Rounds, including the finals will revert back to the 2-2-1-1-1 format.

In my opinion, these tweaks to the playoff format would make a huge difference in the shape of the league, and make it more competitive from start to finish.  The regular season would mean more to every team.  The "non" playoff teams have something to play for, the tournament.  If you are on a team that is "almost" a contending of those teams that is battling on that 8/9 seed range (in the current format), you wouldn't kill yourself to win that tournament and secure the top pick in the draft for your team that next season? 

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