Since the NFL was founded in 1920, no team has reached the playoffs with a losing record, other than the strike-shortened 1982 season when teams played only nine games. But the 7-9 Seahawks will be making history Saturday to open the NFL post-season when they take on the defending Super Bowl champions from New Orleans that finished the season at 11-5.
Despite starting the season 3-7, Seattle qualified for the post-season by becoming the champions of the NFC West, the weakest division in the NFL with all four teams finishing under .500. Head coach Pete Carroll acknowledges the uniqueness of the situation.
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll (file photo)
"This may never happen again, it never happened before, so who knows," Carroll said. "This is our way in [to the playoffs] and we're thrilled to be coming back and playing next week and understand it's a Saturday game and we're looking forward to it."
The Seahawks' success has reopened the debate about whether teams that win their division should should host a home game when they have the worst record in the playoffs. As Seattle prepares for its wildcard playoff game against New Orleans, two non-division-winning teams that finished at 10-6 - the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers - failed to gain post-season berths.
Carroll, who previously coached college football at the University of Southern California from 2001-2009, has gotten used to complaints of playoff systems and sees no reason for a change in the NFL.
"If you've ever followed my track record, talking about the systems we played in, whether its in college in the BCS [Bowl Championship Series] or here in the NFL system, this is the system," Carroll said. "I don't give a crap about that. We just played it out and this is what happened. I'm sure some other teams are a little disappointed in that, but there were some teams that were disappointed in the BCS system as well. But you just play it out the best you can."
Even with an 11-5 record, the New Orleans Saints finished as runner-up in the much stronger NFC South Division. They qualified as one of the wildcard teams so the Saints will have to open defense of their title in Seattle instead of at home. But head coach Sean Payton does not take exception to the system in place.
"We all have a formula for getting in. We all know ahead of time and so no one was upset about it or complaining about it before the start of the season," Payton said. "I think that value of winning your division means something."
The other NFL playoff match-up on Saturday also features a division winner with a worse record than the wild card team, as the AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts are 10-6, while the New York Jets - second in the AFC East - finished 11-5.