Playoff teams picking their opponents. Should it be tried?

With the start of the NFL playoffs today, I started thinking of this idea, which I’ve seen thrown around before. I don’t want to limit the discussion to any particular sport or level of play. Whatever sport you enjoy is up for debate. Would that sport benefit from a playoff system in which the higher seeded teams get to pick their opponents from the lower seeded teams?

For the NFL, I think it would add entertainment. Let the home teams in each round pick amongst the visiting teams, with the highest seed getting to choose first. Make it into a selection Monday like the draft. With the first pick of the wildcard round, the Kansas City Chiefs pick the Las Vegas Raiders, and so on down the line.

It is a terrible idea. No Coach or GM would want this. It is almost all bad and little good.

In the NFL, for example, playoff pairings are reset after each round, with the lowest-seeded remaining team being paired with the highest-seeded team remaining, then the next-lowest-seed being paired with the next-highest seed. If you allowed the top teams to pick their next opponents, odds are that it would come out looking a lot like this, anyway.

There is something like this for tie-breaking games in baseball though not in the actual series. I forget the actual details.

I would like to see a schedule where the last 3 games of the regular season seed the conferences into qualifying groups of 4, where a team has to go at least 2-1 within their to make the playoffs, with the top seeds in each group facing each other in the last week. No more of these throw-away games in the last week, every team still has a shot theoretical at the post-season with 2 weeks to go.

I don’t even thing you should limit it to “designated home teams pick from designated visitor teams”.

In the NFL, if Tampa Bay (2 seed) thinks that they have the best shot against Dallas (3 seed) due to an injury or just general matchups, they should be able to make the Cowboys go on the road. Sorry Jerry, you can’t host this week. Should have won more games.

I don’t think baseball gets much more interesting, unless the #1 team wants to dodge a potentially hot and streaking team coming out of the wildcard (even if they just threw their best guy).

NHL probably works with 16 teams in. NBA does too (though add the wrinkle of having to pick before the play-in games are done). Honestly, the first round needs more spice. In the NBA, you might also try this with the push that’s been made to stop allotting berths by conferences. I’m not sure the NHL would be interested in getting rid of the traditional trophies for semifinalists, though they did modify it to not be conference specific due to COVID last year.

I don’t think it works in something like March Madness. The field is too big, the sites are too diverse and games are too close together. Also, filling out the brackets is a big part of the fun. I also don’t think it makes in knockout soccer competitions where teams are randomly drawn.

Most teams will take the normal seeded matchups, but the times when that doesn’t happen will be intriguing and full of bulletin board material.

The real problems with football have been endlessly documented elsewhere. This isn’t a solution for any of them.

This practice would open the door to scads of second guessing and damaged egos. So I’m in favor of it.