Not that the past has any direct correlation to what will happen in the future in this example, but I was thinking recent NFL Playoffs, I got to thinking that No. 2 seeds haven't done so hot in recent NFL playoffs. Or so I thought. Obviously the last time the Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl - their sixth Lombardi back in 2008 - they were the No. 2 seed in the AFC. However, I had a hard time remembering other No. 2 seeds in either conference doing all that well in recent memory.
So I double checked the annals and my memory was more or less correct. Let's take a look real quick at how those second seeds have fared in each conference outside of the Steelers' run to SB XLIII in Tampa two February's ago. (Record in parentheses = combined records of No. 2 seeds that year prior to SB.)
2009 - San Diego loses Divisional Round Game to New York Jets; Minnesota wins Div Round Game over Cowboys, loses AFC Championship Game to New Orleans. (1-2)
2008 - Carolina loses Divisional Round Game to Arizona Cardinals, 33-13. (0-1)
2007 - Indianapolis loses Div. Round Game to San Diego; Green Bay wins Div. Round Game over Seattle; loses AFC Championship Game to New York Giants. (1-2)
2006 - Baltimore loses to Indianapolis; New Orleans wins Div. Round Game over Philadelphia, loses NFC Championship Game to Chicago. (1-2)
2005 - Denver wins Div. Round Game over New England , loses to Pittsburgh in AFC Championship Game; Chicago loses Div. Round Game to Carolina. (1-2)
2004 - New England wins Div. Round Game over Indianapolis, wins AFC Championship Game over Pittsburgh; Atlanta wins Div. Round Game over St. Louis, loses NFC Championship Game to Philadelphia. (3-1)
2003 - Kansas City loses Div. Round Game to Indianapolis; St. Louis loses Div. Round game to Carolina (0-2)
Combined Records in Conference Playoff Games = 7-12*
So, what does it mean? Well like I said, the past performance of other No. 2 seeds has zero influence on what will transpire this year. And it's not as if that 7-12 record is atrocious. Nevertheless, it's far enough below .500 that I found it somewhat interesting. Of course, the No. 2 seed is typically going to play a very competent No. 3 seed, or a No. 5 seed that's got momentum on their side after qualifying for the playoffs as a Wild Card and then winning on the road in the opening round.
My sense is that the ideal seed to play in the Divisional Round - whether you're the No. 1 or the No. 2 seed - is the No. 4 seed, or the least impressive of the four division winners. No. 2 seeds rarely get that draw, but in the years I examined, they're a perfect 2-0. The Steelers of course face the Ravens, this year's No. 5 seed that thrashed the No. 4 seed Chiefs on Sunday. Here's to hoping that Pittsburgh can avoid the fate of so many other No. 2 seeds in recent years, and instead match their run to the Big Game from the two-hole like they did in '08.
* = ('08 Steelers not included)