Season finale could make history
I have a keen interest on Week 17’s match-up between the St. Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks. At first glance, two teams with losing records (the Rams are 7-8 and the Seahawks are 6-9) would rarely register as a game of note among pro football fans. As it turns out, this game will determine the winner of the NFC West Division and more than just the team’s local markets will be watching. The NFL just announced that the game will be moved into the Sunday Night Football slot on NBC.
One of two very rare things will occur with this game. As stated before, the winner of this game takes the division and in turn will play the following week in the post-season. If Seattle wins, they improve their record to 7-9. This will mark the first time in NFL history that a team with a losing record wins their division.
If St. Louis wins, they will become just the third team in NFL history to win their division with an 8-8 record. The other two teams to accomplish the feat were the 1985 Cleveland Browns and the 2008 San Diego Chargers.
There is a popular cliché used in the NFL: any team can beat another team on any given week. Meaning you must respect your opponent, regardless of their record, if you want to come out on top. This will hold true to the teams that faces the winner of Sunday Night’s division battle.
A look at history proves that. The ’85 AFC Central Division champion Browns faced the 12-4 Miami Dolphins in the divisional playoffs that season. No doubt, Cleveland put a huge scare into Dolphins fans. Led by running back Earnest Byner who delivered a 161-yard rushing performance, the Browns roared to a 21-3 lead in the third quarter. Miami, however, was able to regain their composure and battled back to win 24-21.
The 2008 Chargers, who won the AFC West Division, entered the playoffs on a four-game winning streak while outscoring their opponents 149-73 during that span. They continued that hot streak against the 12-4 Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Wild Card Game. Although the Chargers trailed 17-14 late in the fourth quarter, they were able to win 23-17 in overtime. The star of the day was Darren Sproles who gained 328 all-purpose yards, third most in NFL playoff history, and scored the winning TD on a 22-yard run in sudden-death. San Diego fell the next week 35-24 in a hard fought battle to the Pittsburgh Steelers, the eventual Super Bowl champions.
I think one of the main ingredients as to why the NFL Playoffs are so compelling is that that anything can happen. I am sure that we are in few a few surprises this year as well. I cannot wait. But, first I’ll be tuning into the showdown in Seattle.
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