Could this work in England?

In the NFL, the New Orleans Saints won what was effectively a quarter-final last weekend. They play again on Sunday. In another quarter-final.

In the States, the more successful your year, then the easier your run in the ‘post-season’. For instance, in American football we have just had ‘Wild Card Weekend’, which works like this… 

The 32 teams are split into the American Football Conference and the National Football Conference, with the winners of each meeting in the Superbowl to decide the overall champion. The 16 sides in each conference are arranged in four regional divisions of four. The symmetry is perfect.

So with four groups of four, the logical route would be for the top two in each section to advance to the last eight, right? Give the quartet of division winners home advantage for the one-off contests, then have semi-finals and a final.

Nope. Only six clubs qualify for the next stage, the four division champions and the two teams with the most wins. Of those half-dozen, the pair with the best record get a bye in the first round. So this year, the New Orleans Saints beat the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons saw off the Los Angeles Rams.

Now the Saints will go to the Minnesota Vikings and the Falcons to the Philadelphia Eagles, the two teams who got to sit out that round and then play at home in what is called, the divisional play-offs. The winners of these two ‘match-ups’ will clash for the conference championship, the AFC and NFC champions will then battle it out to be named ‘world champions’, (seriously).

Imagine if we did the same thing in the Premier League. Based on this week’s table, the two Manchester sides would get a bye. With Chelsea in third we would take on sixth-placed Arsenal at the Bridge, Liverpool in fourth would host Spurs in fifth. If the Blues won, we would go to Old Trafford, the highest seed City would be at home to the lowest-ranked club, which would be the winner of the other tie.

Which system is better? Is it only fair that at the end of the season whoever sits at the top of the pile are crowned champions, or should the six participants with the best record get an (almost) equal shot at the title? As it stands today the formula used in the USA would suit Chelsea better this campaign, but even so, we have not given up on the defence of our crown just yet.