Failure to earn a bye in NFL playoffs hasn't hurt as much recently
NFL teams have no fear of playing in the wild-card round.
Recent history shows the playoff bye isn't such a big deal anymore. In six of the past seven years, one of the Super Bowl participants didn't get a bye to begin the postseason. And five of those teams wound up winning the NFL title.
So Green Bay's blowing the bye by losing to Minnesota on Sunday might not be such a setback. Same for Houston, which had an even bigger fall, fumbling away home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs as well as the week off, by losing three of its last four.
Of course, Texans coach Gary Kubiak recognizes the week-to-week nature of pro football and how things can change quickly in seven days — and last for a month, right to a title.
“That's life, and that's part of football,” Kubiak said. “How'd you play last week? How have you played the last few weeks? What have you done lately? That's our world. We understand that, and it hasn't been good the last few weeks. So, hopefully, we get it better.”
Nobody knows how to achieve that improvement more than the Packers. Two years ago, they barely squeezed into the Super Bowl chase, then raced to three road victories and, finally, a title win over the Steelers.
“I'd have preferred a week off, to be honest with you,” Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said. “But we put ourselves in this situation throughout the whole year. It's not just this last game.
“This last game had a lot riding on it for us, so ... we're going to go play. Whatever it takes, we just have to win from here on out.”
That begins Saturday night at Lambeau Field against Minnesota. Had the Packers beaten the Vikings on Sunday, they would be sitting at home this weekend watching the Bears play at San Francisco. Instead, they will trudge onto the tundra to face rushing king Adrian Peterson, who ran around, through and over them for 199 yards to get the Vikings into the playoffs.
The Vikings had no chance for a bye; they never really were in the chase for the NFC North title. They're just glad to be in the tournament, knowing that the Steelers, Colts, Packers and Giants (twice) recently covered the lengthier route to the NFL title.
“The cool thing about the playoffs is that once you get in anything can happen,” defensive end Jared Allen said. “You see it happen all of the time, teams make runs and end up winning the Super Bowl.”
Some teams already are on runs. Denver has won 11 straight to grab the top spot in the AFC. Washington takes a seven-game winning into Sunday's home game against Seattle, winner of five in a row.
As for the four teams sitting it out this weekend, there certainly are positives to some down time. Denver and Atlanta were last off on Oct. 21, San Francisco and New England on Nov. 4.