The Baltimore Ravens’ win in Super Bowl XLVII showed once again that the NFL is in the midst of its wild card era.
The last three Super Bowl winners, and six of the last eight, opened their title run with a win on wild-card weekend, which bucks the former trend that holders of playoff byes were more likely to win the Super Bowl.
For the first 15 seasons after the NFL adopted its current, 12-team playoff format in 1990, teams with playoff byes won 13 Super Bowls. Only the John Elway-led 1997 Denver Broncos and the Ray Lewis-led 2000 Ravens won Supers Bowls after playing on wild-card weekend.
Since 2005, the tide has totally shifted, with teams holding byes faltering often in the playoffs.
From 1990-2004, teams with playoff byes had a collective playoff record of 87-47 (.649). Since 2005, those first two seeds have gone just 28-30 (.483.)
The Patriots have suffered four of those bye-team losses, in the 2007, 2010, 2011, and 2012 seasons.
It used to be that teams playing on wild-card weekend rarely even earned a trip to the Super Bowl. Before the 1997 Broncos’ win, only four such teams (the 1975 Dallas Cowboys, 1980 Oakland Raiders, 1985 Patriots, and 1992 Buffalo Bills) had played in the Super Bowl. And only one, the 1980 Raiders, had won it.
A look at how wild card teams have risen to the top of the NFL over the past 23 seasons:
|Year||Super Bowl winner||Bye teams W-L|
|2012||Baltimore Ravens||Wild card||4-4|
|2011||New York Giants||Wild card||4-4|
|2010||Green Bay Packers||Wild card||3-4|
|2009||New Orleans Saints||5-3|
|2007||New York Giants||Wild card||3-4|
|2006||Indianapolis Colts||Wild card||3-4|
|2005||Pittsburgh Steelers||Wild card||3-4|
|2004||New England Patriots||7-3|
|2003||New England Patriots||4-3|
|2002||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||7-3|
|2001||New England Patriots||6-3|
|2000||Baltimore Ravens||Wild card||4-4|
|1999||St. Louis Rams||5-3|
|1997||Denver Broncos||Wild card||4-4|
|1996||Green Bay Packers||6-3|
|1994||San Francisco 49ers||7-3|
|1990||New York Giants||7-3|