The Norman Transcript

Sports

January 3, 2014

Home sweet home: 49ers, Saints forced to hit the road to face foes with inferior records

NORMAN — For the seventh consecutive season, at least one NFL team will be forced to play a playoff game at the stadium of an opponent with a worse record.

If some owners get their way, that eventually will change — perhaps as soon as a year from now.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Thursday the league has “looked at multiple ways” to change its playoff system, including letting the team with the superior regular-season record play at home. While some clubs lobby for that sort of switch, McCarthy said others “raised the concern that reseeding would minimize the value of winning a division; winning a division now means a guaranteed home playoff game.”

Both NFC matchups this weekend will be hosted by the team with fewer wins: The wild-card Saints (11-5) play at the NFC East champion Eagles (10-6) on Saturday night, and the wild-card 49ers (12-4) play at the NFC North champion Packers (8-7-1) on Sunday.

Consider the conditions the Superdome’s Saints and West Coast 49ers are expected to face. The forecast calls for a high of 31 degrees in Philadelphia, and a high of minus-3 in Green Bay.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow, being 12-4 and not having any home games,” San Francisco defensive tackle Ray McDonald said, “but we’re in a tough division and that happens sometimes.”

The league’s competition committee and NFL staff members have compiled reports examining the pros and cons of changing the postseason structure. There have been repeated conversations about the topic, as recently as the owners’ meetings last month, but there hasn’t been a formal vote yet.

“I’ve been there and really felt like, ‘Why in the world are we traveling? Why aren’t we playing at home?’ I’m sure that’s how some of these other teams feel,” said four-time Super Bowl coach Dan Reeves, whose New York Giants played — and lost — a second-round road game against a team with fewer wins after the 1993 season.

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