Perhaps Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll was thinking that yesterday’s game didn’t mean anything to his team given win or lose it, they can win their division with a victory next Sunday at home over the San Francisco 49ers. This is to assume that yesterday’s loss by the Seahawks to the Arizona Cardinals was more a case of focus than talent.
This goes to illustrate one thing, Carroll is not as much a visionary as New England Head Coach Bill Belichick. In 2006, the Patriots had wrapped up the AFC East title with an 11-4 record entering the last week of regular season action. Their opponent for that final game was the Tennessee Titans, who’s playoff chances were pinned to a win over the Patriots and help.
The football world spent all week talking about how this game meant nothing to the Patriots and everything to the Titans, and the Patriots on the road team was listed as point spread underdog. A spread that opened with New England a field goal underdog that kicked up to them getting 3½ points on game day.
This game is vivid in my memory because like everyone in the “know,” I took the team with something to play for against a squad with “nothing” on the line.
Then the game started.
Tom Brady didn’t just play the first series and get pulled, he was into the second quarter with a team that was playing all their starters and treating this contest like in mattered. Something was amiss here, and in my office Paul went to work to find out why Belichick was going all out to win in Tennessee.
Late in the second quarter, Paul discovered that if the Patriots won this game and advanced to the AFC Championship Game against an opponent other than Baltimore, and the Indianapolis Colts lost their last game of the season, the Patriots would host the game. As it turned out, the Colts beat the Miami Dolphins in their regular season finale, 27-22, and did host the AFC Championship Game in the only season Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl with Indianapolis. The Colts beat the Chicago Bears that year, 29-17, in Super Bowl XLI.
Only Belichick knew that his regular season finale in 2006 mattered, and played like it and won the game, 40-23, over the favored Titans.
So, Coach Carroll, yesterday’s loss to the Cardinals doesn’t make any difference in winning your division, that will be decided next Sunday night against the 49ers. But that loss to the Cardinals could have a huge affect on your playoff seed. With a win yesterday, and a victory next Sunday, the Seahawks would have been assured the top seed in the NFC. Now, even if they beat San Francisco, their first place finish in the NFC West could result in them having to play the first postseason week. Seattle might collect the third seed in the playoffs, behind the New Orleans Saints, who they lost to in third week action, and the Green Bay Packers, who are in Minnesota tonight to battle the Vikings.
What about this Monday Night Football final game of the year?
The Packers can now earn the top seed in the conference with a win tonight and next Sunday coupled with a victory by Seattle over San Francisco Sunday night. The Seahawks loss yesterday also opens the door for the New Orleans Saints to earn the top seed in the conference with a win in their last game and help.
Why does all this matter?
Since 1991, 21 of the 29 Super Bowl winners have opened the playoffs with a bye, 14 were top seeds and 7 slotted in the second playoff position. The third seed, which the Seahawks are now likely to get with a win next week after yesterday’s loss, has proven to be as bad of a spot to open the postseason as a Wild Card team in the fifth seed. Only one third seed and one fifth seed have won a Super Bowl since 1991, while two sixth seeds and four fourth seeds have ended their season clutching the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Saturday and Sunday NFL results have both clinched the playoffs for the Vikings and given life to the Packers hopes for a top seed. So, those that liked the Vikings chances earlier in the week, when the game seemed to mean so much more to them, have now cooled on backing Kirk Cousins team.
For good reason, the game is now more important to the Packers, and Cousins still has as much trouble beating a team with a winning record as Charlie Brown does kicking a football our of Lucy’s hold. Since joining the Vikings, he has beaten only one opponent with a winning mark, that being the Dallas Cowboys earlier this year … and the Cowboys no longer have a winning record.
You like the odds of backing Cousins against a winning team like Green Bay and laying points to boot?
But, I still don’t see any value in a Packers wager tonight given despite their records, the Vikings are the more talented team, at home, looking to possibly move into a postseason bye week.
You can’t make this stuff up, but the NFL does.