Souhan: Lower NFL seeds can have high expectations

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 1, 2013 - 10:32 PM

 Think the Vikings' chances of winning the Super Bowl are outrageous? Several fringe playoff teams have beaten the odds.

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Vikings running back Adrian Peterson supplied 199 rushing yards against the Packers, but also caught this 2-yard touchdown pass from Christian Ponder in the third quarter.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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They elbowed their way into the playoffs like angry shoppers on Black Friday. Their playoff hopes seemed silly only weeks earlier, before they rallied in December. They faced the hardest possible road to the Super Bowl.

That's true of the 2012 Vikings. That was also true of the 2011 New York Giants, the 2010 Green Bay Packers, the 2007 Giants and, perhaps most notably, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Four of the past seven Super Bowl winners, including the past two, were seeded fourth or lower among the six playoff teams from their conference. Each defied the notion that Super Bowl champions always are dominant teams that earn a bye week and thrive on the comfort of home playoff games. Each defied the notion that champions can be identified in August, or even December.

With a second-year quarterback only a month removed from his most disappointing game as a pro, and a team a month removed from falling to 6-6 and facing the prospect of utter collapse, the Vikings enter the playoffs as the sixth seed in the NFC. They don't look like potential Super Bowl champs. Other recent champions didn't look primed to win it all, either.

Last year the New York Giants, like this year's Vikings, found themselves at 6-6. They followed a four-game losing streak by winning three of their last four games to finish 9-7 and earn the fourth seed in the NFC.

They beat Atlanta at home, then won at Green Bay and San Francisco before winning the Super Bowl over the Patriots. Hardly dominant or consistent, they became the first team ever to win the Super Bowl while posting a negative point differential during the regular season, scoring 394 points and allowing 400.

They weren't great, at least not before January. They got hot and healthy at the right time.

In 2010, the Packers lost two in a row to fall to 8-6. They needed to beat the division champion Chicago Bears in the last game of the regular season to make the playoffs, and they eked out a 10-3 victory.

They entered the playoffs as the sixth seed, then won playoff games at Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago -- the NFC's top three seeds -- before beating Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. All four of Aaron Rodgers' career playoff victories came during that run.

In 2007, the Giants defied the notion that resting players when a playoff berth is clinched is ideal. With nothing to gain from victory, they played an inspirational game in the last week of the regular season, losing 38-35 to a Patriots team that finished 16-0.

The Giants entered the playoffs as the fifth seed and won playoff games at Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay before beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl and ruining New England's perfect season.

In 2005, the Steelers looked a bit like the 2012 Vikings. They featured a second-year quarterback who was a first-round draft pick. Ben Roethlisberger was an effective player but far from a star. The Steelers relied on running backs Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis and a powerful defense.

They entered the playoffs as the sixth seed, with an 11-5 record. They were 7-5 following a three-game losing streak before winning their last four regular-season games to make the playoffs. They won playoff games at Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Denver (the AFC's top three seeds) before beating Seattle in the Super Bowl.

Those teams played their best at the end of the season. They benefited from avoiding a bye week, which can lead to rust or overconfidence.

Any rational oddsmaker would bet against the Vikings winning a Super Bowl, but teams not unlike the Vikings have beaten the odds before, recently and frequently.

Ponder began his news conference Tuesday by saying, "Playoffs?", channeling the old Jim Mora rant. Ponder's been talking about winning the Super Bowl all season.

Maybe he's just an optimist. Maybe he's a historian.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

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Atlanta 7 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Miami 5 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4 FINAL
Detroit - WP: J. Nathan 6
Minnesota 4 FINAL
Boston 5
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Toronto 4
Cincinnati 13 FINAL
Cleveland 2
Los Angeles 9 FINAL
Chicago WSox 6
Kansas City 3 FINAL
Seattle 0
Seattle 1 FINAL
Milwaukee 15
San Diego 3 FINAL
Arizona 3
NY Mets 8 FINAL
Washington 3
LA Angels 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 4
Colorado 3 FINAL
Texas 6
Oakland 6 FINAL
San Francisco 4
Indiana 107 FINAL
Milwaukee 111
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Carolina 5
New Jersey 2 FINAL(OT)
Washington 3
Los Angeles 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 4 FINAL(OT)
Buffalo 3
Anaheim 3 FINAL(OT)
Boston 2
Nashville 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
NY Rangers 5 FINAL
Ottawa 1
Florida 4 FINAL
Toronto 1
Montreal 2 FINAL
Winnipeg 5
Colorado 4 FINAL
Vancouver 1
Wichita State 70 FINAL
Notre Dame 81
North Carolina 72 FINAL
Wisconsin 79
Evansville 89 FINAL
Louisiana 82
West Virginia 39 FINAL
Kentucky 78
Xavier 60 FINAL
Arizona 68
St Johns 55 FINAL
Villanova 63
NC State 79 FINAL
Temple 80
Missouri 55 FINAL
Michigan 65
Oral Roberts 64 FINAL
Louisiana 65
Duquesne 39 FINAL
West Virginia 60
Ole Miss 70 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 82
Northern Colorado 60 FINAL
UCLA 74
St Marys-CA 77 FINAL
Sacramento St 69
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pmX42-10
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit NoonX17-3
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo NoonX17-16
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay NoonX19-13 ot
Nov 2 - vs. Washington NoonX29-26
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago NoonX21-13
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay NoonX24-21
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina NoonX31-13
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets NoonX30-24 ot
Dec 14 - at Detroit 3:25 pmX16-14
Dec 21 - at Miami NoonX37-35
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago NoonX13-9

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