Toughest postseason schedules

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Feb 12, 2008



There's no way to minimize the amazing playoff run of the 2007 Giants. They won three straight road playoff games, including back-to-back victories over 13-3 division winners from Dallas and Green Bay. They topped it off, of course, with a miraculous 17-14 Super Bowl victory over New England, the first 16-0 team in NFL history.
 
The Cold, Hard Football Facts, which often slam the door on conventional wisdom, do nothing in this instance but support the starry-eyed wonder with which fans and "pundits" stare at New York's playoff run.
 
The Giants faced playoff opponents who were a combined 51-13 (.797). They tied the 2005 Steelers for the second toughest slate of postseason opponents any Super Bowl champ has ever faced, behind only the 2004 Patriots (40-8; .833).
 
However, those 2004 Patriots played just three postseason games, and only one on the road. The 2005 Steelers and 2007 Giants each played four postseason games, including three each on the road. So, though the opponents of the 2004 Patriots had a better cumulative winning percentage, it's certainly reasonable to conclude that the 2005 Steelers and 2007 Giants faced tougher challengers.
 
Below is a list of every Super Bowl winner since the AFL-NFL merger, with the cumulative records of their playoff opponents.
 
One thing will jump out, and it supports the assertions made yesterday by Cold, Hard Football Facts reader Jeff Blout: the NFL has become an utterly top-heavy league. Super Bowl champs have never faced tougher slates of opponents than they have this decade.
  • The three toughest postseason schedules in history have all come in the last four seasons
  • Five of the nine toughest postseason schedules in history have come this decade
The death of pigskin parity is a common theme among the Cold, Hard Football Facts. We routinely look at the gridiron mastodons who dominate the modern NFL as proof that this cliche is dead.
 
It's literally inarguable, for example, to say that teams of the past (when parity did rule) faced such daunting postseason prospects as teams do today. Pigskin romantics love to talk about the great battles of the past, such as those of the 1970s between powerhouses like Oakland, Miami and Pittsburgh, or in the 1990s between the likes of Dallas and San Francisco.
 
But the truth is that none of these teams ever faced a series of powerhouse opponents like Super Bowl contenders have in recent years. The Cowboys, 49ers and Steelers, for example, combined for 14 Super Bowl titles in the 25 seasons from 1971 to 1995. Only one of those 14 teams, the 1992 Cowboys, faced a postseason schedule that was among the 10 most difficult in history.
 
In fact, most of those teams faced pretty easy postseason schedules, at least by 21st-century standards: these three dynasties faced six of the 10 easiest playoff schedules in history.
 
In other words, the Cowboys, 49ers and Steelers dynasties beat up patsies in the playoffs.
 
Of course, there is another way to look at it: perhaps parity is alive and well. After all, we live an NFL age when muddling 11-5 and 10-6 wildcard teams can turn on the jets in the playoffs and overcome the toughest postseason schedules in history.
 
You decide how you feel for yourself. But here are the Cold, Hard Football Facts.
 
TOUGHEST POSTSEASONS OF SUPER BOWL CHAMPS (since merger; four-game playoffs in italics)
Year
Team

Opponents' Record

Opponents' Win %

2004

New England

40-8

.833

2007
N.Y. Giants
51-13
.797
2005
Pittsburgh
51-13
.797

1990

N.Y. Giants

38-10

.792

1976

Oakland

32-9-1

.774

2001

New England

37-11

.771

1972

Miami

32-10

.762

1973

Miami

31-10-1

.750

2000

Baltimore

48-16

.750

1992

Dallas

36-12

.750

1997

Denver

48-16

.750

1998

Denver

36-12

.750

1974

Pittsburgh

31-11

.738

1975

Pittsburgh

31-11

.738

2006
Indy
47-17
.734

1996

Green Bay

35-13

.729

2003

New England

35-13

.729

1988

San Francisco

35-13

.729

1991

Washington

35-13

.729

1971
Dallas
30-11-1
.726

1977

Dallas

30-12

.714

1999

St. Louis

34-14

.708

1980

Oakland

45-19

.703

1986

N.Y. Giants

33-14-1

.698

1983

L.A. Raiders

33-15

.688

1981

San Francisco

33-15

.688

1984

San Francisco

33-15

.688

2002

Tampa Bay

33-15

.688

1985

Chicago

32-16

.667

1995

Dallas

32-16

.667

1978

Pittsburgh

32-16

.667

1989

San Francisco

32-16

.667

1994

San Francisco

32-16

.667

1987

Washington

29-15-1

.656

1970

Baltimore

26-14

.650

1993

Dallas

31-17

.646

1979

Pittsburgh

30-18

.625

1982

Washington

22-14

.611

 


From our partners




Team Pages
AFC East NFC
South
North
West

Connect With Us
Sign up for our newsletter to recieve all the latest news and updates...
Privacy guaranteed. We'll never share your info.




The Football Nation Network

© Copyright 2014 Football Nation LLC. Privacy Policy & Terms of Use
Some images property of Getty Images or Icon/SMI