Being wrong in the wild.
Well, it looks like I was wrong. In one of my posts from the beginning of the NFL playoffs, I spent quite some time complaining about how the Chargers and the Cardinals made the play-offs at 8 – 8 and 9 – 7, respectively. Looks like the Cardinals proved me wrong by making it all the way to the Super Bowl, making them the first 4 seed to make it to the Super Bowl since the league switched to 4 divisions in 2001.
Why has a 4 seed never made it to the Super Bowl (until this year) in the era of 4 divisions? It’s because usually they are the worst team in the play-offs. Since they have switched to 4 divisions, at least one wild card team has had a better record than one of the 4 seed 5 times in 7 seasons. No four seed has ever won a Super Bowl in the four division era, and Arizona is the only 4 seed to make it to the Super Bowl with four divisions.
(Note: This is the first Super Bowl in the 4 division era not to feature a number 1 seed.)
And what happens when we look back to when the NFL had only three divisions? We see that the 3 seed never made it to a Super Bowl, but the 4 seed (the highest wild card team) made it to (and won the Super Bowl) 2 times in the six seasons between 1996 and 2001. I’m going to eventually get around to going back as far as I can, but for now I only have data going back to 1996.) Also, over this same period, two number 4 seeds (the highest seeded wild card) won the super bowl.
So here is my suggestion: Seed teams based on record. If you win your division at 8-8 (San Diego) or 9-7 (Arizona), you should be a lower seed than a wild card team that went 11-5 (Baltimore) or 12-4 (Indianapolis). If you are trying to have a play-off that is the fairest, you should seed based on wins, not how it is currently done. Tennessee got royally screwed this year in the play-offs because of this system. Their reward for being the number one seed? A first round bye and then a showdown with the 11-5 5th seed which they lost, while the number 2 seed had a relatively easy ride to the conference championship by beating the lowly 8-8 4th seeded San Diego Chargers. It just doesn’t make sense to seed San Diego higher than Baltimore in this season. Baltimore is a better team and they had more wins. Make things fair and seed based on record.
Final note: I still think Arizona is terrible. But I have been wrong three weeks in a row. However, let me remind you that a 4 seed has never won a Super Bowl in the 4 division era. And I still think they are terrible. Thusly, the statsinthewild blog’s official pick for Super Bowl XLIII is the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-13.