The Seahawks will be looking to make a little NFC playoff history Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.
Statistics and historical numbers can be spun lots of different ways in the sports world, generally depending on which side one is rooting for.
Consider the history of No. 6 seeds in the NFL playoffs through the years, which is relevant to Seattle fans this week with the Seahawks standing as the No. 6 seed in the NFC.
If you’re looking for a good omen, then you’ll like the fact that No. 1 seeds in both conferences are just 11-9 in the divisional round since 2005, which includes two seasons — 2008 and 2010 — when both No.1 seeds lost. Among the teams to beat No. 1 seeds in that stretch are the two No. 6 seeds that went on to win the Super Bowl — the 2005 Steelers and 2010 Green Bay Packers.
But another way of parsing the same history — looking at the NFC only — shows the potential difficulty of the task ahead for the Seahawks.
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NFC No. 1 seeds are 21-4 all-time in the divisional round since the current playoff format was adopted in 1990. Only one of those wins was by a No.6 seed —the aforementioned 2010 Packers, who beat Atlanta 48-21.
The other three teams to defeat a No. 1 seed in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs were No. 4 or No. 5 seeds.
So put another way, Seattle is attempting to become just the second No. 6 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in the divisional round in NFC history.
Adding to the historical uniqueness of Seattle’s task is that Carolina finished the regular season 15-1.
Just seven NFL teams have been 15-1 or 16-0 since the league went to 16 games in 1978. Only one of those teams lost before the conference championship round — the 2011 Green Bay Packers, who a year after making happy history by winning the Super Bowl as a No. 6 seed then made some dubious history by losing to the New York Giants in the divisional round.
So to again put it another way, the Seahawks will be hoping to make the Panthers just the second of the seven teams to finish 15-1 or better to not win a playoff game.
But as noted earlier, No. 1 seeds have been more vulnerable than ever the last few years, which may be the most relevant part of any of this.
No. 1 seeds in the AFC are just 5-5 in the divisional round the last 10 years, and 6-4 in the NFC. No. 1 seeds are also just 5-5 in the last five years in the divisional round, with the Seahawks accounting for two of the wins.
If there is something of a common theme to the upsets it is teams that have some familiarity.
Two of the four teams NFC No. 1 seeds have lost it was to another team in its division — the Giants over Dallas in 2007 and the Eagles over the Giants in 2008 (the others were the aforementioned wins by the Packers over the Falcons in 2010 and then the Giants over the Packers in 2011).
That could be a good omen since the Seahawks and Panthers have played often the last few years — six times in the last four seasons now — to almost have the feel of a divisional rivalry.
Or maybe none of this means anything, and as coaches and players often remind us, the game is played on the field and what’s happened in the past doesn’t mean anything.
But whatever happens, it’ll add to the history sure to be called up again in the future.