Three things to know about the 5 seed in the NFL (you might want to shield your eyes)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sure, it ended like a hot mess — and this isn’t soccer, you don’t get points for ties — but Sunday was sweet validation for the "bottom" half of the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster. And, needless to say, vindication for general manager John Dorsey and the personnel department, too.
With coach Andy Reid resting key starters — tackle Eric Fisher and fullback Anthony Sherman were among the few exceptions — and the Chiefs’ playoff seeding already decided, a total of 11 players made their first NFL start at Qualcomm Stadium: wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, guard Rokevious Watkins, center Eric Kush, guard Rishaw Johnson, quarterback Chase Daniel, tailback Knile Davis, defensive tackle Jaye Howard, defensive tackle Jerrell Powe, linebacker Nico Johnson, linebacker Josh Martin and cornerback Ron Parker.
The official ledger says Week 17 was a 27-24 overtime loss, but the Andy Gang’s B team played a San Diego squad scrapping for its postseason life essentially to a standstill — and, in truth, dominated proceedings for most of the afternoon. If not for Ryan Succop’s miss from 41 yards out with 4 seconds left — a field-goal attempt that perhaps should have been kicked again, based on what replays showed to be a questionable formation by the Chargers’ special teams — San Diego coach Mike McCoy would’ve had an awful, awful lot of explaining to do.
Hey, here’s a wacky idea: Maybe the AFC’s No. 6 seed should’ve gone to the Chiefs’ JV squad instead. As for the recent history of the 5 seed, well …
THREE THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE 5 SEED IN THE NFL PLAYOFFS (SINCE 1990, ANYWAY)
:03 … First, the really, really ugly bit: Since the NFL’s current playoff model was adopted, for the 1990 season playoffs, no seed in the AFC or NFC has lost more wild-card games than the 5.
From 1990 through 2012, the No. 3 seed had lost 15 wild-card games; the No. 4 seed 15, the No. 6 seed 28 and the No. 5 seed 31. During that span, the 5 seed in the AFC won 11 and lost 23 overall in the playoffs, a winning percentage of .323. In the NFC, the No. 5’s playoff record was 11-22 (.333). Woof.
Winning three road games to get to a Super Bowl is rough; winning three plus a neutral-site showdown is positively brutal. Since 1990, of the 46 No. 5 seeds in the field, 31 were eliminated in the wild-card round, 10 in the divisional round and four in the conference championship. Only one squad — the 2007 New York Giants — won the whole shebang.
:02 … The Chiefs were the first-ever 5 seed on the AFC side of the bracket in the current playoff format.
They’ve been here before, but it’s been a while: Before this season, the Chiefs had been the 5 seed just one other time in recent franchise history — 1990, the initial year of the 12-team postseason format.
Mind you, that journey also began on the road and proved to be painfully brief. The Chiefs went to Miami and lost, 17-16, despite taking a 16-3 lead into the fourth quarter and dominating for most of the contest. The host Dolphins scored what would be the game-winning touchdown with 3:28 left in the contest, the second Dan Marino scoring pass of the period, but the Chiefs got the last shot, on a 52-yard field-goal attempt by Nick Lowery that fell short. It was, in hindsight, a harbinger of more place-kicking agony to come over the next two decades.
:01 … Don’t lose all hope: Of the last 16 Super Bowls, seven have featured a 4 seed, 5 seed or 6 seed.
It wouldn’t be January without an upset or two, right? Granted, the trend lines are all kinds of ugly: Kansas City is 0-3 all-time in the playoffs against the Colts, and no AFC No. 5 has ever reached a Super Bowl, let alone won the thing.
Then again, once you’re in the field, anything can happen — the Chiefs’ recent, painful, playoff finishes will tell you that. Welcome to January, where the charm walks, arm in arm, with the aggravation.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.