2011 NFL playoffs: Seahawks have a chance despite lackluster regular season
Saturday, January 8, 2011; 12:37 AM
Stan White still remembers the feeling when he and the Detroit Lions made the NFL playoffs with a 4-5 record following the strike-shortened 1982 season. It wasn't shame or embarrassment, White said this week. It was a sense of pride, and optimism that the Lions could make some noise in the postseason despite their modest record.
"I remember we won our last [regular season] game and then we went back to the locker room to watch the 49ers-Rams game, I think it was, to see if we'd get in," said White, a linebacker who spent eight of his 11 NFL seasons with the Baltimore Colts and now is a broadcaster in Baltimore. "We were excited to make the playoffs. There hadn't been too many playoff teams in Detroit. It was an accomplishment."
The spotlight is back on losing teams in the NFL playoffs after the Seattle Seahawks beat the St. Louis Rams last Sunday night in Seattle to win the NFC West with a record of 7-9. The Seahawks became the first team to reach the NFL playoffs with a losing record in a non-strike season, and they'll host the New Orleans Saints in a first-round NFC playoff game Saturday.
"The competition within a division sometimes isn't as good," former Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Doug Dieken said. "That changes on a year-to-year basis. The NFC West this year, it looked like everyone was tripping over themselves."
Dieken played for the Browns in 1982 when they, like the Lions, made the playoffs with a 4-5 record. After the '82 season was interrupted by a 57-day players' strike, the NFL opted to follow its nine-game regular season with a 16-team postseason.
"A lot of things went on," Dieken said. "You didn't really feel like you'd played a season. We didn't play all the games. You didn't have that endurance factor, with the highs and lows of a season. It was nice to get into the playoffs. But with that said, it was just such a unique situation. You were just happy to be back playing football."
The Seahawks have joined the '82 Lions and Browns as the only losing teams to reach the NFL playoffs. Ten other teams have made the playoffs with .500 records. The 1969 Houston Oilers of the AFL reached the playoffs with a record of 6-6-2, and nine NFL teams have made it with 8-8 records.
Two of those 8-8 teams, the 1985 Browns and the 2008 San Diego Chargers, won their divisions. The Seahawks are the league's first-ever division winner with a losing record. They have taken an unapologetic approach.
"This is the system. . . . We just played it out and this is what happened," Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said after last weekend's 16-6 triumph over the Rams.
The Seahawks' inclusion in the playoff field - along with the fact that they'll be hosting the wild-card Saints, who had an 11-5 record but finished two games behind the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC South - has reignited a debate about the NFL's system for seeding playoff teams.
Few people in and around the league, it seems, are begrudging the Seahawks their spot in the playoffs. But some are questioning whether they should be allowed to play at home.
"If you win your division, you should be in the playoffs," former NFL coach Dan Reeves said. "But that doesn't mean you need to get a home game. Once you make the playoffs, winning your division shouldn't be any different than being the wild card. The better team gets to play at home."