Current Playoff Seeding System Puts Fair Emphasis on Division Title, Dungy Says
INDIANAPOLIS – As Tony Dungy sees it, the Colts should blame themselves.
Dungy, in his seventh season as the Colts' head coach, said although there are many who believe the Colts should have a chance to play a home game in the first round of the playoffs next week, he doesn't necessarily agree.
The Colts (11-4), assured of the fifth seed in the AFC, will play either Denver (8-7) or San Diego (7-8) in the first round on January 3-4. The Chargers and Broncos will play Sunday, with the winner winning the AFC West.
The Colts, despite finishing at least two games – and possibly four games – ahead of the West winner, will play on the road because under the current playoff system division champions are seeded 1-4 and assured of a home playoff game even against a Wild Card team with an inferior record.
Some have questioned the fairness of the situation.
Dungy isn't among them.
"I think winning the division should mean something," Dungy said Tuesday as the Colts prepared to play AFC South champion Tennessee (13-2) in the regular-season finale at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis Sunday at 1 p.m.
"If you win the division, you should get a home game. We had our opunity. If we hadn't lost to Jacksonville (23-21 in Week 3), we'd be playing this game for home-field advantage. We had our chance and we didn't get it, so I don't think we can cry now and say, 'We should look for different seedings.' That's the NFL.
"If we're going to have divisions, they ought to mean something."
The NFL's Competition Committee last offseason voted by 7-1 to change the way the league seeds the playoffs, recommending to the league owners that the conferences seed the playoffs based on records rather than automatically slotting division winners in the top four slots.
Colts President Bill Polian, a member of the Competition Committee, said this week league owners overwhelmingly voted to keep the current system in place.
"The Competition Committee agreed that the team with the better record should get the home game and the higher seed," Polian said. "The owners, however, disagreed for those reasons – that it is a revenue enhancer for the team that gets the home game. They felt the division winner regardless of record should get the home game.
"I'm not sure we got more than seven votes on the floor. It was roundly defeated in any event and probably won't see the light of day for some time."
Dungy said the current system places deserved emphasis on winning a division.
"If we want to take the top teams, we should have an AFC and go," Dungy said, adding of the possibility of visiting a team with four fewer victories than the Colts in the playoffs, "We did it to ourselves."
While the Colts practiced Tuesday, they did not release an injury report and instead will issue one Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Dungy said middle linebacker Gary Brackett (fibula) is the only Colts player who definitely will not play Sunday.
"He'd be the only one we would be really ready to rule out today," Dungy said.
Polian said on his Monday radio show that running back Dominic Rhodes could miss Sunday's game with a rib injury sustained against Jacksonville Thursday.
"That's one we'll look at," Dungy said. "If he's not feeling 100 percent, we're going to keep him out. He made it through the game and made some big plays at the end of the game, but he did get hit, and he's sore a little bit, so we'll see how he is."
Starting running back Joseph Addai missed Thursday's game and had a shoulder injury in recent weeks.
"Joseph is pretty good," Dungy said. "We were able to keep him out of the game. He was ready to go if we needed him. I think he'll be ready this week. We're going to do that. As guys practice if there's anything where they're sub-100 percent we'll keep him out."
Wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who missed the Jacksonville game with a hamstring injury, may play Sunday, Dungy said.
"Marvin's doing fine," Dungy said. "He actually came to me (Monday), on an off day. He was in and said he felt good and was ready to play, so I'm assuming he'll be ready to go."