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Joe Nelson - Blogs

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BETWEEN THE LINES - JAN. 12

By Joe Nelson
Posted 01/12/2009 at 05:10 PM

Fans in Pittsburgh may not agree but this year’s Super Bowl champion is likely to be the worst Super Bowl champion in many years. That is not said to disparage the accomplishment, the winner will certainly deserve the praise and respect of any championship team, but considering the regular season numbers and the paths to the big game this was just a down year for the league and there were not any great transcendent teams.

Of the remaining teams there are two #6 seeds and a #4 seed that finished 9-7 to win one of the weakest overall divisions since the eight division switch. The Eagles and Ravens both were fortunate to make the playoffs, needing a lot of help late in the season and the Cardinals had several ugly losses against quality teams in the regular season.

The Steelers finished 12-4 but went 6-0 against its own division that included two of the worst teams in the NFL. Pittsburgh was blown out in two games and caught major breaks to win four of the twelve games. In seven regular season games against teams that made the playoffs the Steelers were out-scored 101-130.

Pittsburgh also had a lot of usual things go its way in its opening playoff game against a team that was once 4-8 and barely made the playoffs. Although the Steelers finished 12-4, recall that 11-5 was not good enough to make the playoffs this season for the New England Patriots and the AFC was not a top heavy conference with a few elite teams, rather a very mediocre conference with a lot of marginal teams.

Several past champions may have had worse records and came in as worse seeds but considering the regular season plus the path in the playoffs, none of the remaining teams will have a resume to stack up anywhere close to some of the NFL’s great championship teams. Last year’s champion was a #5 seed New York team that had some ugly losses but got on a roll and was a 10-6 team in a division where three teams made the playoffs. The Giants also achieved greatness with the Super Bowl upset of the perfect season and winning on the road against the top two seeds in the NFC, teams that went 13-3.

The 2005 Steelers that won as a #6 seed was a much more impressive team than this year’s team. That team was just 11-5 but had gone 15-1 the previous year and went through a brutal road to get to the championship, compared with this year’s squad needing to beat the #4 & #6 seeds at home to get to the Super Bowl. That team won on the road against 14-2 Indianapolis and 13-3 Denver before beating 13-3 Seattle.

When you factor in the final four weeks of the regular season where this year’s Steelers team was incredibly lucky to beat Dallas in game they were dominated in for the most part, beat Baltimore on an extremely controversial play, and was blown out against Tennessee playing for the top seed, it just does not make for a great championship team. We are getting a bit ahead of ourselves, as Pittsburgh is currently the Super Bowl favorite but in a year where a lot of odd things have happened ruling out the Ravens, Eagles, or even the Cardinals would be a mistake.

QB Joe Flacco is the ‘what doesn’t belong’ player in a group including two Super Bowl champions and another that has played in a Super Bowl. The Cardinals are the ‘what doesn’t belong’ team in just about any breakdown but mainly defense as Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Philadelphia finished the year 1,2,3 in yardage allowed.

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