As I start this post, the Seattle Seahawks are hosting the New Orleans Saints in a divisional playoff game. On the surface, this is not strange. The Seahawks won their division; the Saints did not. Thus it makes sense, right?
Well, it does until you learn that the Seahawks have a 7-9 record, while the Saints are 11-5. This has caused a whole lot of controversy. Arguments that this is perfectly acceptable, that it is ok the Seahawks are in but they shouldn’t host, and that the Seahawks shouldn’t get in at all. The rules support the first: they won their division, so they get in and host a first round playoff game. Anything else requires a rule change.
Personally, I do not think this is a big deal. The changes of this situation happening are rather rare. In fact, no division winner has ever had a losing record in the NFL before this year. The only other teams to make the playoffs with a losing record were the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions in the strike shortened 1982 season (both had a 4-5 record).
This situation also happens regularly in other sports. In the last 10 seasons, seven teams have qualified for the playoffs in the NBA with a losing record. While none of these have won their division, a “loser” in the playoffs is not odd. If you include overtime loses, you’ll find similar instances of losers in the NHL playoffs as well. A strike shortened 1981 season even got a sub-.500 Kansas City Royals team into the MLB playoffs. Baseball even almost had a sub-.500 division winner in 2005. The San Diego Padres needed a hot streak at the end of the season to just barely pull out a winning 82-80 record.
All this means is that this controversy is not nearly as big a deal as it appears. In the end, the quality of the Seattle Seahawks was determined on the field of play. They hung with the Saints the entire game, leading at half time. Then, when push came to shove, they held off the defending champions and won 41-36. With that victory, they proved the can hang with the big boys, at least for this week.
Next week? Chicago, where the Seahawks have already won a game this year. Maybe they can make it to 9-9? We’ll see on Sunday.
-That is all.