As ever, please note that I have no direct contact with the WFA, and it is always possible that some changes have happened that have been communicated directly to team management and not to me. But everything that is here came from the league; it is not conjecture. (Who has time for that? Not me.)
In the past, the WFA bracket has generally been made up of some combination of division winners and wildcards. This is not the case in 2015.
As far as I know — and this is consistent with the information I’ve gotten from three independent sources — this year, the criteria is solely Massey rating within region.
So there’s no such thing as an in-division record. By itself, overall record counts for nothing. Neither does head-to-head record, common opponent, even point differential — in and of themselves, they are not used to determine playoff standings.
However, since Massey ratings inherently take into consideration ALL of those things, you could also say that every one of those criteria were being used to determine who goes to the postseason this year. It’s just that they’re being used within a highly respected algorithm that aims to balance all of that AND strength of schedule to find the strongest teams in any one area. Or you could be crabby about it. You make the call!
Just because there aren’t divisions in the same way that there were in the past doesn’t mean there’s no geographic boundaries; it’s just that the boundaries are bigger, and they are used only to divide teams into groups for seeding – your record within your region carries no more weight than your record against teams outside of it. But you are seeded within your region. (If you just want the bottom line, skip to the second chart below – the one that only has red and blue headings.)
It’s understandable that this is confusing, since if you look at the standings page of the WFA site, there are regions and divisions listed and they all look like they actually mean something. The playoff document circulated by the WFA contains the following chart of “divisions” (click image for larger version, but don’t spend too much time trying to actually puzzle it out).
This is malarkey:
But that chart, in combination with the bracket in the same document, makes no sense. Look at the Midwest region – the bracket just says Midwest Winners #1 – #4; there’s no mention of any “Great Plains/Gulf Coast/South West” anything. If there were four “divisions”, it would be conceivable that the bracket meant the top Massey-rated team in each division…but there’s three. Ditto “Pacific West”, “Great Lakes”, etc. In fact, as far as the championship playoff bracket is concerned, only ONE division actually means something*, and that’s the division of the Northeast East into “Northeast East: Mid-Atlantic” and “Northeast East: New England”. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first here are the regions/divisions/whatever you want to call them that are actually important (again, as far as I know).
This is accurate:
So that’s what I got. There are effectively six regions, and the top Massey-rated teams within each of those six regions go to the playoffs. Why’s all that other stuff there? No idea. (I just interpret this stuff; I can’t necessarily explain it.)
*One more caveat: Within the Southeast Region, the “North Atlantic” and “South Atlantic” divisions MAY mean something for the “Alliance Regional Bowl Games” – see last question on this page.
NE East Region
• Boston Renegades
• Cleveland Fusion
• Central MD Seahawks
• Columbus Comets
• DC Divas
In the bracket, there’s “NE East Winner #1″, “NE East Winner #2″ and “NE East Mid-Atlantic #1″. So those first two, it would seem, would be the top two highest Massey-rated teams out of any of the five teams in the NE East. And the third would be the highest Massey-rated team in the NE East, as long as it wasn’t Boston.
Even putting politics aside, this hurts my logical head. ‘Cause this could really mean two things:
Option 1: NE East Winners #1 and #2 are seeded first – so, right now that would be DC and Boston, respectively. Then the NE East Mid-Atl spot goes to the next-highest seed from the Mid-Atlantic, which would be Cleveland. So DC, Boston and Chicago would all play each other in the first two rounds while Cleveland hosted whichever teams from the South could make it up there. I do not think Option 1 is likely.
Option 2: The NE East Mid-Atlantic winner is seeded first; this can only be DC. Then, since DC already has a spot, the NE East Winners #1 and #2 would be Boston and Cleveland, who would play the other Northeast teams while DC hosted the Southeast teams. I find this the far likelier option.
That concludes the objective portion of this question. And whatever else I have to say about it, I will say on my own blog (if I ever get time to write it out, which is actually not that likely).
This is a good time to add that the Massey ratings being used for all this are essentially “frozen” before the playoffs start; that is to say, the Massey ratings themselves will continue to be updated throughout the playoffs, but those updates will not be used to determine home field or anything else. (Last year there was an issue with some teams ending up being penalized for starting as a higher seed because of the effects on the ratings of early playoff games. So maybe that’s why they’re doing it like this now? That would make some sense.)
I’ll update once I know more. Last thing: this Alliance Regional Bowls thing is the only other place that I can see the WFA’s “divisions” actually meaning something, since it specifies that one Southeast team should be from the North Atlantic division and one from the South Atlantic. Again, those divisions do not seem to factor into the championship playoff bracket at all — just here. Whatever.