FanPost

A History Of The #3 Seed In The Current NFL Playoffs Format

As everyone knows by now, the Eagles have won the NFC East and are now the 3-seed in the NFL Playoffs.  In 1990, the NFL adopted its current format for the playoffs where the top 2 seeds get a bye while the remaining teams face off in a Wild Card round where the 3 seed faces the 6 seed and the 4 seed faces the 5 seed without any restrictions on not being able to play a divisional rival.  Now it is important to note that in 2002 there was divisional re-alignment and each conference took a team away from a division and a 4th division in each conference was born, but for the past 20 years, the #3 seed was (record wise) the 3rd best division in each conference, their 1st opponent was the worst (record wise) non-division winner to make the playoffs, and their 2nd opponent should they advance has always been the #2 seed which (record wise) is the 2nd best division winner in the conference.  So while division re-alignment happened, the path of the identity and path of the #3 seed have remained the same.  So without further ado, here is a look at how both the NFC and AFC #3 seeds have fared since the adoption of this playoff format and what seed the eventual Super Bowl champions started out as!  (FYI, I am going into this with no idea what I am going to discover or what the majority of the results will be)

 

1990 NFL Season

NFC #3 seed: Chicago Bears

Wildcard round: defeated #6 New Orleans Saints 16-6

Divisional round: lost to #2 New York Giants 31-3

AFC #3 seed: Cincinnati Bengals

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Houston Oilers 41-14

Divisonal round: lost to #3 Los Angeles Raiders 20-10

Super Bowl winner: #2 New York Giants

1991 NFL Season

NFC #3 seed: New Orleans Saints

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Atlanta Falcons 27-20

AFC #3 seed: Houston Oilers

Wild Card round: defeated #6 New York Jets 17-10

Divisional round: lost to #2 Denver Broncos 26-24

Super Bowl winner: #1 Washington Redskins

1992 NFL Season

NFC #3 seed: Minnesota Vikings

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Washington Redskins 24-7

AFC #3 seed: San Diego Chargers

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Kansas City Chiefs 17-0

Divisional round: lost to #3 Miami Dolphins 31-0

Super Bowl champion: #2 Dallas Cowboys

1993 NFL Season

NFC #3 seed: Detroit Lions

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Green Bay Packers 28-24

AFC #3 seed: Kansas City Chiefs

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24

Divisional round: defeated #2 Houston Oilers 28-20

Conference Championship: lost to #1 Buffalo Bills 30-13

1994 NFL Season

NFC #3 seed: Minnesota Vikings

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Chicago Bears 35-18

AFC #3 seed: Miami Dolphins

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Kansas City Chiefs 27-17

Divisional round: lost to #2 San Diego Chargers 22-21

Super Bowl winner: #1 San Francisco 49ers

1995 NFL Season

NFC #3 seed: Green Bay Packers

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Atlanta Falcons 37-20

Divisional round: lost to #2 San Francisco 49ers 27-17

AFC #3 seed: Buffalo Bills

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Miami Dolphins 37-22

Divisional round: lost to #2 Pittsburgh Steelers 40-21

Super Bowl winner: #1 Dallas Cowboys

1996 NFL Season

NFC #3 seed: Dallas Cowboys

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Minnesota Vikings 40-15

Divisional round: lost to #2 Carolina Panthers 26-17

AFC #3 seed: Pittsburgh Steelers

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Indianapolis Colts 42-14

Divisional round: lost to #2 New England Patriots 28-3

Super Bowl winner: #1 Green Bay Packers

1997 NFL Season

NFC #3 seed: New York Giants

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Minnesota Vikings 23-22

AFC #3 seed: New England Patriots

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Miami Dolphins 17-3

Divisional round: lost to #2 Pittsburgh Steelers 7-6

Super Bowl winner: #4 Denver Broncos

1998 NFL Season

 

NFC #3 seed: Dallas Cowboys

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Arizona Cardinals 20-7

 

AFC #3 seed: Jacksonville Jaguars

Wild Card round: defeated #6 New England Patriots 25-10

Divisional round: lost to #2 New York Jets 34-24

 

Super Bowl winner: #1 Denver Broncos

 

1999 NFL Season

 

NFC #3 seed: Washington Redskins

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Detroit Lions 27-13

Divisional round: lost to #2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14-13

 

AFC #3 seed: Seattle Seahawks

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Miami Dolphins 20-17

 

Super Bowl winner: #1 St. Louis Rams

 

After 1 decade, only 1 #3 seed even made it to the Conference Championship game, and that game was a losing effort by the AFC's Kansas City Chiefs. Let's see if things turn around for the #3 seed as we enter the 2000s (Note: I'll have all results tabulated at the end)

 

2000 NFL Season

 

NFC #3 seed: New Orleans Saints

Wild Card round: defeated defeated #6 St. Louis Rams 31-28

Divisional round: lost to #2 Minnesota Vikings 34-16

 

AFC #3 seed: Miami Dolphins

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Indianapolis Colts 23-17

Divisional round: lost to #2 Oakland Raiders 27-0

 

Super Bowl winner: #4 Baltimore Ravens

 

2001 NFL Season

 

NFC #3 seed: Philadelphia Eagles

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-9

Divisional round: defeated #2 Chicago Bears 33-19

Conference Championship: lost to #1 St. Louis Rams 29-24

 

AFC #3 seed: Oakland Raiders

Wild Card round: defeated #6 New York Jets 38-24

Divisional round: lost to #2 New England Patriots 16-13

 

Super Bowl champions: #2 New England Patriots

 

It is at this point that the Houston Texans are introduced to the NFL, and the NFL switches to a 4-division line up with the Seahawks moving to the NFC to give the NFC a 15th team.

 

2002 NFL Season

 

NFC #3 seed: Green Bay Packers

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Atlanta Falcons 27-17

 

AFC #3 seed: Pittsbrugh Steelers

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Cleveland Browns 36-33

Divisional round: lost to #2 Tennessee Titans 34-31

 

Super Bowl champions: #2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

 

2003 NFL Season

 

NFC #3 seed: Carolina Panthers

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Dallas Cowboys 29-10

Divisional round: defeated #2 St. Louis Rams 29-23

Conference Championship: defeated #1 Philadelphia Eagles 14-3

Super Bowl XXXVIII: lost to #1 New England Patriots 32-29

 

AFC #3 seed: Indianapolis Colts

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Denver Broncos 41-10

Divisional round: defeated #2 Kansas City Chiefs 38-31

Conference Championship: lost to #1 New England Patriots 24-14

 

Super Bowl winner: #1 New England Patriots

 

2004 NFL Season

 

NFC #3 seed: Green Bay Packers

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Minnesota Vikings 31-17

 

AFC #3 seed: Indianapolis Colts

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Denver Broncos 49-24

Divisional round: lost to #2 New England Patriots 20-3

 

Super Bowl winner: #2 New England Patriots

 

2005 NFL Season

 

NFC #3 seed: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Washington Redskins 17-10

 

AFC #3 seed: Cincinnati Bengals

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Steelers 31-17

 

Super Bowl winners: #6 Pittsburgh Steelers

 

2006 NFL Season

 

NFC #3 seed: Philadelphia Eagles

Wild Card round: defeated #6 New York Giants 23-20

Divisional round: lost to #2 New Orleans Saints 27-24

 

AFC #3 seed: Indianapolis Colts

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Kansas City Chiefs 23-8

Divisional round: defeated #2 Baltimore Ravens 15-6

Conference Championship: defeated #4 New England Patriots 38-34

Super Bowl XLI: defeated #1 Chicago Bears 29-17

 

Super Bowl winners: #3 Indianapolis Colts

 

2007 NFL Season

 

NFC #3 seed: Seattle Seahawks

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Washington Redskins 35-14

Divisional round: lost to #2 Green Bay Packers 42-20

 

AFC #3 seed: San Diego Chargers

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Tennessee Titans 17-6

Divisional round: defeated #2 Indianapolis Colts 28-24

Conference Championship: lost to #1 New England Patriots 21-12

 

Super Bowl winner: #5 New York Giants

 

2008 NFL Season

 

NFC #3 seed: Minnesota Vikings

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Philadelphia Eagles 26-14

 

AFC #3 seed: Miami Dolphins

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Baltimore Ravens 27-9

 

Super Bowl winner: #2 Pittsburgh Steelers

 

2009 NFL Season

 

NFC #3 seed: Dallas Cowboys

Wild Card round: defeated #6 Philadelphia Eagles 34-14

Divisional round: lost to #2 Minnesota Vikings 34-3

 

AFC #3 seed: New England Patriots

Wild Card round: lost to #6 Baltimore Ravens 33-14

 

Super Bowl winner: #1 New Orleans Saints

 

Results

 

Combined results for the #3 seed.

Wild Card round losses: 14

Divisional round losses: 20

Conference Championship losses: 4

Super Bowl losses: 1

Super Bowl wins: 1

 

Combined results for the #3 seed in the NFC

Wild Card round losses: 10

Divisional round losses: 8

Conference Championship losses: 1

Super Bowl losses: 1

Super Bowl wins: 0

 

Combined results for the #3 seed in the NFC under the current division alignment

Wild Card round losses: 4

Divisional round losses: 3

Conference Championship losses: 0

Super Bowl losses: 1

Super Bowl wins: 0

 

Combined Super Bowl wins by seed.

#1: 9

#2: 6

#3: 1

#4: 2

#5: 1

#6: 1

 

Combined Super Bowl wins from the 2002 season to the present

#1: 2

#2: 3

#3: 1

#4: 0

#5: 1

#6: 1

 

Conclusion

 

So what exactly does all this tell us? Well for starters, the NFL playoffs are very random. And if it is not random, the sample size is still a little too small to yield anything statistically significant. An example of the randomness is the number of losses by the #3 seed in the Wild Card round in the NFC compared to the AFC. Of the 14 NFC teams that have ever lost in the Wild Card round, 10 of them have been from the NFC. And it's not like things have been better post division re-alignment either. 4 of the NFC's 10 Wild Card losses have been in the past 8 years, meaning that 50% of the time the 3rd seed in the NFC loses to the worst non-division winner in the conference. This also goes to the point that home field advantage is overrated to a point. It may be a slight advantage, but it is not a be all and end all. If so, #1 seeds would have dominated the Super Bowl. Out of the 40 possible teams and 20 possible Super Bowls, only 9 #1 seeds have gone on to win the whole thing. That's less than 50%. So while some may be disappointed that the Eagles can't be the #1 seed, it is nothing to lose a whole lot of sleep over. That being said, 15 of the 20 Super Bowls were won by a team that received a 1st round bye, so there might be something to resting that bye week, but again, it is not a final nail in any team's coffin. 25% of the time, a team without a first round bye wins the Super Bowl. Each seed has won the Super Bowl at least once in the 20 years this format has existed.

 

The Eagles have been the #3 seed twice in the past 20 years. The first time they were eliminated in the Conference Championship at the hands of the Rams. The second time the Jeff Garcia era ended with a loss to the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round. The only #3 seed to win the Super Bowl was the Indianapolis Colts in February 2007. The other team to make it as a #3 seed, the Carolina Panthers, lost to the Patriots in a game better known for the worldwide unveiling Janet Jackson's left nipple.

 

The #3 seed has not fared great in the playoffs, but by no means is that a death sentence. Home field advantage gets overrated to a degree and if history tells us anything, it is that the playoffs are a crapshoot where the team that wins may not have had the best season in a given year and that teams are just as capable of winning on the road as they are at home.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Bleeding Green Nation

You must be a member of Bleeding Green Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bleeding Green Nation. You should read them.

Join Bleeding Green Nation

You must be a member of Bleeding Green Nation to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Bleeding Green Nation. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9341_tracker