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News » Top seeds draw short straws

Top seeds draw short straws

Top seeds draw short straws
One of the indisputable truths of our world is that rank has its privileges. Unless, of course, it is 2009, you are a top-seeded NFL team and it's playoff time.

On the surface, the NFL seeding system appears to be soundly constructed, eminently fair and essentially beyond reproach. The teams with the best records get the best spots in the playoffs. They start out playing the weakest opponents in the friendliest surroundings. After a draft and regular-season schedule seemingly devoted to emboldening the weak, the postseason is all about ensuring that little, if anything, stands in the way of a division winner's path to the Super Bowl.

But this year, don't tell that to the Giants or the Titans, the No. 1 seeds in each conference whose excellence has earned them nothing other than the right to sleep in their own beds until Super Bowl week.

If, in fact, either of them gets there.

Winning the NFC East, rolling up a 12-4 record and keeping their focus and intensity right up to the second half of a meaningless regular-season finale has earned the Giants this: a playoff opener against a team on a serious roll, the Eagles, Sunday at Giants Stadium.

As for the Titans, their NFL-best 13-3 record pays off as follows: a visit Saturday by Ray Lewis and his band of merry henchmen, the Ravens.

If there are any two teams no one should want to face right now, they are the Eagles and the Ravens. Both are hotter than Sharon Stone and meaner than Bernard Madoff with someone else's pension fund.

Congratulations, Giants. Mazel tov, Titans.

This is not to say that the two top dogs deserve or need your sympathy. They most certainly do not, and will not get any here.

It is only to point out that there is something amiss when the No. 2 seeds - the teams who were shown to be inferior to the No. 1 seeds both in the standings and in head-to-head competition - wind up with easier second-round opponents than the teams who worked so hard to finish ahead of them.

The Panthers, undisputed runners-up to the Giants after losing a 34-28 overtime showdown for home-field advantage in Week 16, have to be overjoyed about hosting the Cardinals, losers of five of eight road games - and often by lopsided scores - Saturday night.

And the Panthers' glee can be topped only by that of the Steelers, whose second-class status to the Titans was firmly established in a 31-14 Week 16 trouncing in Nashville, on the same day the Giants taught Carolina the same lesson.

Some lesson. Now the Steelers get to face the Chargers, who are likely to be without LaDainian Tomlinson, and in the decidedly hostile confines of Heinz Field.

If the Titans and Giants are truly as good as their records say they are, none of this should make any difference, and even if it does, too bad. You've got to play - and beat - whom you draw. But by the matchups alone, it appears that the No. 2 seeds have a much better chance of getting to the conference championship games than do the No. 1s.

Admittedly, the Eagles have been more road worriers than warriors this season, going 3-4-1 away from the Linc in the regular season. But one win came against the Giants, and anything can happen whenever these teams play, as Herm Edwards would be glad to remind you.

And the Ravens did lose to the Titans, 13-10, in October. But the Titans and Kerry Collins needed an 80-yard drive in the final two minutes to pull it out, and the Ravens are vastly improved since then.

It is a good thing that only Amani Toomer remains from that Giants team that got punk-slapped by the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV, because the raucous band of thieves they sent out on defense Sunday in Miami looked frighteningly like the one that terrorized Collins and the Giants eight years ago.

In fairness, this is not the first time this has happened, and realistically, there is no feasible solution. How else are you going to determine seedings except by the unassailable certitude of the numbers? You could try to assign some kind of subjectivity to the rankings, but you'd wind up with the BCS, and we all know how well that works out every year.

By the numbers, the Giants and Titans were the best teams, and as such, merited relatively "soft touches" for their entry into the playoffs.

The numbers also say that this year, the soft touches come from Philadelphia and Baltimore. This year, the numbers lie. Being the No. 1 seed is supposed to be a privilege. Right now, it looks like a penalty, with no avenue for review.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 6, 2009

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