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Last weekend, it was ensured for another year that the Super Bowl Champion would not be the No. 1 seed from the AFC or NFC. This time we had the New York Giants being eliminated by the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tennessee Titans being eliminated by the Baltimore Ravens.
Both the Giants and Titans were the No. 1 seeds and with home field advantage in the playoffs, and it would seem that their eliminations were flukes. But in the current NFL climate, even a perceived large gap in talent level can be nullified for one game.
The first game to consider is one that is not quite so sentimental in value for me: the Tennessee-Baltimore matchup. These two teams were a bit closer in talent than their seeding and win-loss records indicated due to Baltimore having a much tougher schedule than Tennessee. Plus, when you look at the game’s box score, Tennessee played very well and was hurt mostly by fumbles.
Fumble recoveries are much more influenced by luck than interceptions and certainly are not indicative of being more talented (The one exception is when you’re playing Madden and you run past the ball on the ground. That is your fault and you should take all blame for it). Let us not forget the referees missing the delay of game on the Ravens, either. When it comes down to it, this game was very much luck influenced. Plus, the missed field goal for Tennessee was something unexpected. It’s not like Tennessee had the wind conditions that New York had.
Speaking of New York, while the final score did not indicate it, that game was very close. The Giants had two missed field goals, they helped the Eagles very much with their first touchdown (the Eagles gained almost all of the yardage on the interception return) and the winds prevented long throws from being on target.
The Eagles were a baffling team this year in that they played very well against good teams, but poorly against a lot of bad teams. But the fact that they played very well against those solid teams was not a fluke, given that they did not have a weak schedule (nor was it tough, either). The Eagles’ strong defense gave the Giants problems with running the ball in short yardage situations.
What did not help the Giants either was some bizarre play calling. On the 4th and inches, to choose to go with a rather immobile Eli Manning when you have three good running backs was a poor call. So while this game was not as influenced by luck as the Ravens-Titans game, there were still factors outside of the control of the Giants’ players that kept the N.Y. from winning. I suspect in a less windy environment, this game would have had a different tone to it.
Perhaps taking down the No. 1 seeds took their toll, as the Eagles lost to the Cardinals in Arizona and the Ravens lost to the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
So, what we really had here was that a combination of luck and very small disparity in overall talent led to perceived upsets. Of course, in the NFL, that means that most of the television analysts, who are unprepared to understand this, will harp on about it being a bigger deal than it really is. But just remember, perception is not always reality.