Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

20 Aug 2009

Verification on statistics from last year's playoffs, and questions about implications

I might be wrong, but I believe that every single playoff game from last season that didn't involve the Steelers was won by the team with the worse record, except for the game between the 11-5 Fins and 11-5 Ravens.

First Round
Ravens (11-5) beat Dolphins (11-5
Chargers (8-8) defeat Colts (12-4)
Cardinals (9-7) defeat Falcons (11-5)
Eagles (9-6-1) defeat Vikings (10-6)

Second round (Steelers excluded)
Ravens defeat Titans (13-3)
Eagles defeat Giants (12-4)
Cardinals defeat Panthers (12-4)

NFC Conference Championship
Cardinals defeat Eagles

I also think that the Steelers were the fifth consecutive non #1 seed to win the Super Bowl, and that the Cardinals made it so that all but two Super Bowls from this decade featured a wild card team (which happened only once or twice a decade previously). What does this mean for the NFL, and should something be done to change the current playoff structure to favor top teams again?

Posted by: duffman83 on 20 Aug 2009

1 reply , Last at 21 Aug 2009, 11:21am by Bowl Game Anomaly

Re: Questions about implications
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Fri, 08/21/2009 - 11:21am

What does this mean for the NFL?

That wins and losses are not necessarily the best indicator of team quality, and to a lesser extent that the better team sometimes loses.

Should something be done to change the current playoff structure to favor top teams again?

The top 4 teams already get a bye plus home field. What more do you want?

Also, I think you're overstating the case. The Cardinals were 9-7, but they totally stopped trying for a few games toward the end of the season when they had locked up their division. If they had played hard all season, they could have been 11-5 and their wins over the Falcons and Eagles wouldn't be upsets (and they'd be much closer to the Panthers). The 9-6-1 Eagles were famously unlucky in the regular season, being a team that clearly played well but still lost a number of games on heartbreaking flukes. Their win over Minnesota shouldn't be considered an upset. So the results are not really as extreme as you suggest.

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