NFL playoff seed history points to an Atlanta-New England Super Bowl

Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.

Logo of the National Football League Playoffs,...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The final piece of the 2012 NFL playoff puzzle was completed last night when the Washington Redskins defeated the Dallas Cowboys 28-18 to win the NFC East title and the fourth seed in the NFC.

With the 12 playoff teams set on the journey for this year’s Super Bowl, the big question is: Who will face off in Super Bowl XLVII? (Super Bowl 47 for those of you who might be Roman-numerally challenged) Based on a few stats from the past 22 NFL playoffs, it  wouldn’t seem too far-fetched to see an Atlanta Falcons-New England Patriots Super Bowl. Before you start throwing things at your screen, let me explain:

Back in 1990, the NFL went to a 12-team playoff system with six teams making the post-season from the two conferences; each conference is seeded from the top seed to the #6 seed (it is the system that is currently in place). As teams jockeyed for playoff position and seeding yesterday on the final week of the 2012 season, the question ultimately needs to be asked… does it really matter what seed an NFL team is when the playoffs begin?

The obvious answer is “Yes!” Let’s take a look at how well each seed has done in the NFL playoffs since 1990 when the current playoff format was put in place.

Division Seeds win-loss in playoffs from 1990-2011

AFC #1 seed: 24-20 .545
AFC #2 seed: 26-19 .587
AFC #3 seed: 23-21 .523
AFC #4 seed: 25-20 .556
AFC #5 seed: 11-22 .333
AFC #6 seed: 10-21 .323

NFC #1 seed: 37-15 .712
NFC #2 seed: 25-19 .568
NFC #3 seed: 15-22 .405
NFC #4 seed: 21-21 .500
NFC #5 seed: 10-21 .323
NFC #6 seed: 15-21 .417

The best winning percentage in the AFC is the #2 seed (good news for the Patriots), while the best winning percentage in the NFC and also best in the league is the #1 seed (good news for the Falcons).

Let’s take it a step further by combining the seeds for the two conferences:

#1 seed: 61-35 .635
#2 seed: 51-38 .573
#3 seed: 38-43 .469
#4 seed: 46-41 .529
#5 seed: 21-43 .328
#6: seed: 25-42 .373

Did you know? Thirty-three of the 44 Super Bowl teams since 1990 have either been a #1 or #2 seed. The NFC #1 seed has won seven Super Bowls since 1990, most during that time. The AFC #2 seed and NFC #2 seed have each won three during that time. The NFC #1 seed has played in 12 of the 22 Super Bowls since 1990; the AFC #1 seed is second with nine Super Bowl appearances in the last 22 years.

Bad news for Green Bay and Indianapolis. The NFC #3 seed and the AFC #5 seed have not won a Super Bowl since 1990; in fact, an AFC #5 seed has not appeared in the Super Bowl since the league went to the current format in 1990.

Follow Jerry on Twitter @StatsonTapp

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  1. [...] NFL playoff seed history points to an Atlanta-New England Super Bowl [...]

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