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What Is The Value Of Being The First Seed In The NFL Playoffs?

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How often does the first seed in the NFC meet the first seed in the AFC in the Super Bowl? Before reading on, make a guess.

The NFL has a philosophy of trying everything possible to make the league a "parity" league. They want every team to have a shot of winning the Super Bowl if they draft well and if they spend their money wisely. They not only give the worst teams the best draft spots but also give the teams with the best records a more difficult schedule.

While giving a good team a more difficult schedule is not very easy because the scheduling formula doesn't leave any games to chance, the sequence of those games is not determined by any formula.

Once we reach the playoffs, there is normally not one or two elite teams and then the rest of the playoff field. The normal situation is that all of the teams that make the playoffs are usually very good or they would not be in the playoffs, and the No. 1 seeds would not lose about half of the first-round games.

So, what does this all mean for the Cowboys who are the third seed and will have to beat either the first and/or second seed to advance to the Super Bowl? Or, once again, do the playoff seedings have anything to do with a teams chances of winning the Super Bowl?

Since 1975, the NFL has gone with a seeding system. Last year, the number one seed in the NFC met the number one seed in the AFC in the Super Bowl, but that is not the norm. In fact, it is fairly evenly split between the first and the other seeds, as you can see below.

Super Bowl Winners By Playoff Seeding
Division Winners Wildcard Total
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th
55.3% 21.1% 5.3% 10.5% 2.6% 5.3%
21 8 2 4 1 2 38

First_Seeds-2

First Seed

** In the graphics above, since the article is a year old, the winners from last years playoffs are not included.

Notice that a little more than half of the first seeds have won the Super Bowl, and that the first seed has lost their first-round game about half the time.

Also since 2000, only three first seeds have won the Super Bowl, the 2003 Patriots, the 2009 Saints and the 2013 Seahawks.

For more observations, see the article.