FINAL

Sunday Star - - SPORTS -

the No. 3 seed in the AFC and the Chiefs pos­sess the fourth seed.

The Ravens can se­cure one AFC wild card, and end a two-sea­son ab­sence from the post­sea­son, with a vic­tory at home over the Ben­gals. The Ti­tans can seize the other with a tri­umph over the Jaguars in Nashville. The Charg­ers and Bills still have hope but need help. The Bills are at­tempt­ing to make their first play­off ap­pear­ance since the 1999 sea­son, the league’s long­est post­sea­son drought.

In the NFC, the Eagles clinched the No. 1 seed. The Vik­ings can se­cure the sec­ond seed with a tri­umph at home over the Bears. That would give the Vik­ings, who are at­tempt­ing to be­come the first team ever to play a Su­per Bowl in its home sta­dium, an open­ing-round bye and then a home game in a con­fer­ence semi­fi­nal.

The Rams are in the play­offs as the NFC West champ. The Saints and Pan­thers have se­cured post­sea­son spots. The Saints will be the NFC South cham­pi­ons if they beat the Buc­ca­neers, which would rel­e­gate the Pan­thers to a wild card and the No. 5 seed.

The com­pe­ti­tion for the sec­ond wild card and the NFC’s sixth seed comes down to the Fal­cons and Sea­hawks. The Fal­cons, the de­fend­ing NFC champs, are in with a win at home over the Pan­thers. The Sea­hawks need to beat the Ari­zona Car­di­nals and hope the Fal­cons lose.

That’s a de­cent num­ber of loose ends need­ing to be tied up on the final day of the reg­u­lar sea­son.

*** Get­tle­man and the Giants ... The New York Giants made the ex­pected move at gen­eral man­ager Thurs­day when they hired Dave Get­tle­man to re­place the fired Jerry Reese. Get­tle­man has a his­tory in the Giants’ front

of­fice and over­saw a Su­per Bowl team in Carolina.

But was it the right move? There are some within the league who won­der about that. It was Marty Hur­ney, not Get­tle­man, who put much of the core of the Pan­thers’ Su­per Bowl team in place. And Get­tle­man might have dis­as­sem­bled that Su­per Bowl team too quickly when he in­ex­pli­ca­bly re­moved the fran­chise player tag from cor­ner­back Josh Nor­man, al­low­ing him to leave Carolina and sign with the Redskins.

It also is pos­si­ble that the hir­ing of Get­tle­man could take the Giants out of the run­ning for Pa­tri­ots of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Josh McDaniels to fill their head coach­ing va­cancy. Some within the league sus­pect that McDaniels wants to work with Pa­tri­ots ex­ec­u­tive Nick Case­rio or ESPN an­a­lyst Louis Rid­dick as his GM. The Giants in­ter­viewed Rid­dick but went with Get­tle­man, who for­merly worked for Ernie Ac­corsi in the team’s front of­fice. Ac­corsi as­sisted the Giants’ search.

Get­tle­man very well might make things work and re­store the Giants to their ac­cus­tomed level of suc­cess. But not ev­ery­one within the sport con­sid­ers that a sure thing. Riveron and re­play ... When NFL own­ers voted in March in Phoenix to rat­ify cen­tral­ized re­play — mean­ing that rul­ings on in­stant re­play re­views would be made from the league of­fice, with the ref­eree on the field merely con­sult­ing — they did so with the be­lief that Dean Blandino would be over­see­ing the new sys­tem as head of the NFL’s of­fi­ci­at­ing depart­ment.

The move was an at­tempt to make re­play rul­ings more con­sis­tent and more ac­cu­rate. It also could have been in­ter­preted as a vote of con­fi­dence in the per­for­mance of Blandino, who had earned re­spect in most teams’ front of­fices for the man­ner in which he did a ver y de­mand­ing job.

But then Blandino abruptly left the NFL to be­come a rules an­a­lyst for Fox, and the league pro­moted Al Riveron to re­place him. The hope was that the tran­si­tion would be seam­less, given that Riveron had been by Blandino’s side as­sist­ing him on re­play rul­ings and other key tasks.

The tran­si­tion has not been seam­less. A num­ber of re­play rul­ings this sea­son have raised eye­brows in and around the league, most re­cently the de­ci­sion to over­turn a touch­down catch last week­end by the Buf­falo Bills’ Kelvin Ben­jamin. Bills owner Terry Peg­ula went pub­lic this week with his dis­sat­is­fac­tion, say­ing that the NFL must fix its re­play sys­tem.

Some of this sea­son’s re­play rul­ings have been crit­i­cized by Blandino and Mike Pereira, Blandino’s pre­de­ces­sor with the NFL who also is a Fox rules an­a­lyst. Some within the league be­lieve that Riveron has, at times, at­tempted to re-of­fi­ci­ate plays from New York rather than ad­her­ing to the in­tended role of re­play and merely cor­rect­ing ob­vi­ous mis­takes while oth­er­wise al­low­ing the calls made on the field to stand.

So the is­sue be­comes: Is the NFL’s re­play sys­tem bro­ken? Or is it merely be­ing mis­ap­plied this sea­son?

It will be in­ter­est­ing to see what hap­pens this com­ing off­sea­son when the NFL’s rule-mak­ing com­pe­ti­tion com­mit­tee de­lib­er­ates and then re­ports to the own­ers at the an­nual league meet­ing in March in Or­lando. The re­play sys­tem it­self could be tweaked. Or if the con­clu­sion is that the sys­tem it­self is fine but the way it is be­ing ap­plied is not, there could be a di­rec­tive made to change the ap­proach.

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