Leading up to this weekend’s playoff match-up between the Seahawks and the visiting Saints, it’s already a foregone conclusion to many that Seattle doesn’t deserve to be there. Their 7-9 regular season record has left the team huge underdogs at home this weekend, and an apparent afterthought for Bears coach Lovie Smith as he prepares his team to take on the Wild Card game’s winner next weekend. It’s not like Seattle’s the first so-so team to sneak into the post-season in professional sports; yet, they’ve become the laughingstock of the NFL in recent days for their playoff showdown with the reigning Super Bowl champion Saints, who won four more games than them this year. Is the ridicule fair?
Back off, please: “Suck it up, America. This is actually a good story,” says Jerry Brewer in The Seattle Times. “If you like your playoff teams to have winning records, then, no, the Seahawks don’t deserve this. They’re unworthy. But they don’t care. And they don’t need to apologize.” Despite some “humiliating defeats,” the Seahawks stayed alive thanks to “an incredible rally to salvage a kind of season that their coach pushed for.” That kind of strong and “unlikely finish” should be celebrated.
They should have been much better: Seattle achieved its “inglorious record against mediocre opposition,” says Nate Silver in The New York Times. “Not only did they have the benefit of playing six games against the other weak teams in the N.F.C. West,” if you factor in the rest of their opponents, the Seahawks has the fifth easiest schedule in the league. “The more deeply one looks at the Seahawks, indeed, the worse they tend to appear” – you can make the case that “the Seahawks were actually the very worst team in the N.F.L. over the course of the regular season.”
This entire debate has little substance: “Does it matter? The NFL’s eight-division alignment and asymmetric schedule more or less guarantee that the 12 teams that make the playoffs are not the league’s best 12 teams,” says Slate’s Tom Scocca. “History is full of teams whose reward for making the playoffs is a swift, merciless beating.” That’s more than likely what will happen here, too. “The system is set up to make sure that the top four or five teams, the real contenders, get in.” It shouldn’t matter if they stampede over the 13th-ranked or the 27th-ranked team in the league to move forward. “Either way, most years, some joke of a team makes the playoffs. It’s just that this year’s joke comes with a laugh track.”