Analysts make such a big deal about playoff seeding, but in recent seasons, seeding has done little to help determine who wins the Super Bowl. In fact, the past three Super Bowl champions played on Wild Card weekend, casting some doubt on how much seeding really matters in January.
Last year, the Baltimore Ravens limped into the playoffs and were expected to be one-and-done. However, Joe Flacco caught fire and the Ravens stunned the Denver Broncos in the AFC Divisional Round. Eventually, a red-hot Baltimore franchise held off a rapid comeback by the San Francisco 49ers to reclaim the Lombardi Trophy. The New York Giants and Green Bay Packers won the previous two Super Bowls after playing on Wild Card weekend as well. In the past, having a week off and then playing at home meant a near-lock for top seeds to reach at least the conference title game, but recent trends show gaining home field advantage means little in terms of crowning a champion.
However, for a team like the Seattle Seahawks that plays in one of the toughest environments in the National Football League, earning the top seed in the NFC can't be undervalued. Opponents cringe at the idea of playing at CenturyLink Field in front of the vaunted "12th Man," which has set two world records this season and will bring the noise to another level in postseason play. Up until the Arizona Cardinals 17-10 upset victory in Week 16, the Seahawks hadn't lost at home in nearly two full seasons, and winning a playoff game at the 'Link will be that much more challenging.
If the Seahawks had rested most of their starters in Week 17, concern about rustiness in the Divisional Round would make sense. But Pete Carroll and his staff were relieved that Seattle played a meaningful game to close out the season, and this week off should only be beneficial to the team. Several key players got banged up against the St. Louis Rams last Sunday, and the extra time should allow these players to return next weekend. The Seahawks also could have receiver Percy Harvin back, a surprising revelation considering that Carroll hinted two weeks ago that he could end up on season-ending Injured Reserve.
Without a game this weekend and no idea who they will be playing in the Divisional Round, I decided to examine the three potential opponents Seattle could face next week. All three teams have flaws, but each presents different challenges that could cause problems for the Seahawks. All three teams also have capable quarterbacks, especially with Aaron Rodgers back from a collarbone injury for the Green Bay Packers. It'll be interesting to see how the NFC Wild Card games shake out this weekend, and the Seahawks have to be prepared to face any of these three teams. It's the playoffs, and anything can happen, as the Ravens showed last season.
None of these three teams would be an easy out, but football is a game of match-ups, so which team would be the best draw for the Seahawks? I examined game film and statistics for each of the three teams that could travel to Seattle next weekend and looked at advantages/disadvantages the Seahawks would have against them to determine which team would be the most ideal opponent.