Worthy winners?

The Green Bay Packers won their fourth-ever Super Bowl last week. However, Ryan Mackenzie argues that this does not necessarily make them the best team in the leagueSeeded as the worst NFC team in the Playoffs and away from home for a month, the Green Bay were never meant to win Super Bowl XLV. However, the Packers’s victory stands as another reminder that the NFL is arguably the most unpredictable league in professional sport and also stands to question the way in which teams and success are measured in the league. With a modest 10-6 record, Green Bay would appear to have been lucky to make the playoffs, with New York’s Giants and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers also finishing with ten wins and not making it to the post-season. However, this record is an inaccurate reflection of the Packers’s season – an obvious omission being their 45-17 thrashing of the Giants in Week 16. In fact, the Packers were often no more than a field goal away from a perfect season. Of their six loses, four were by a mere three points and two were by only four points. What’s even more incredible is that the Packers never trailed by more than four points in any game of the season, including their magnificent Playoff run. So it would seem unfair and grossly inaccurate to have seeded them last in their conference, but that is the unfortunate format of the NFL. Similarly, the Seattle Seahawks brought the concept of a regular season record into disrepute this year. With a pitiful 7-9 record, the Seahawks topped their NFC West Division to become the first team with a losing record to feature in the post-season. They were therefore labelled as the ‘worst team to ever make the playoffs’ and were rather fittingly pitted against the reigning Super Bowl champion Saints from New Orleans – who entered the playoffs on the back of an 11-5 regular season, a better record than Green Bay. However, the Seahawks beat the Saints in one of the biggest upsets in playoff history. Therefore, the post-season makes the 17 weeks of regular season football seem pointless. A team’s hard work and even dominance in the regular season often count for nothing once the playoffs start, while a team such as Green Bay can have an average season and come good in the knock-out stages to become Super Bowl champions. Take the New England Patriots for example. Tom Brady’s team were the shining stars of the regular season, finishing with a 14-2 record. The Patriots even entered the playoffs on the back of an eight-game winning streak, during which they beat Green Bay. However, the heavy favorites, whom many felt were unstoppable, fell at the first hurdle to the New York Jets, thus ending their season before it even began.A more pertinent example, and an unhappy memory for Patriots fans, occurred during the 2007 season. New England entered the Super Bowl at a remarkable 18-0, ready to claim the title of the greatest team ever. Instead they lost by three points to the New York Giants – a team they had beaten only a few weeks before – in a shocking upset that rendered their impeccable season futile. As a result, the Patriots went from being considered the best team ever to only the second best team of that season, in one game.While the NFL never fails to provide drama and excitement, it does fail to accurately reward the best teams. It is clear that entertainment is the basis of the league and Americans love the spectacle of the Playoffs, but it’s a shame to see a game become more of a show than a sport.