Second seeds, but first-rate performances

More than three-fourths of the No. 2 seeds have won their divisional game after a first-round bye, though they have won only four Super Bowls in the previous 17 postseasons.

History doesn't win football games, but it can add some perspective to the future.

The Green Bay Packers are the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs. What does that mean in a historical sense?

Since the NFL went to the current six-team playoff format in 1990, the No. 2 seeds are 26-8 in the divisional round of the playoffs. That's a .765 winning percentage, meaning more than three-quarters of the No. 2 seeds come out of their playoff bye by winning their first playoff game. That's not surprising, since the best teams get the bye and they're playing at home.

The advantage, however, hasn't been as great in recent years.

Last year, the second-seeded Baltimore Ravens lost to the third-seeded and eventual champion Indianapolis Colts.

After the 2005 regular season, the fifth-seeded Carolina Panthers beat the second-seeded Chicago Bears 29-21.

Both of the No. 2 seeds from the 2004 season, New England and Atlanta, won their first playoff games, with the Patriots winning the Super Bowl by winning at top-seeded Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game and holding off Philadelphia in the Super Bowl.

Neither of the No. 2 seeds from the 2003 season, Kansas City and St. Louis, advanced out of the divisional round of the playoffs.

Thus, in the last four years, the No. 2 seeds are merely 4-4 in the divisional round.

In the 17 postseasons since the NFL expanded to six playoff teams per conference, nine teams have reach the Super Bowl from the No. 2 position. Those teams are 4-6, including the 1997 Packers team that was upset by fourth-seeded Denver in Super Bowl XXXII.

That was part of an incredible five-year run in which a No. 2 seed reached the Super Bowl, only to lose each time. The 1996 Packers beat second-seeded New England in Super Bowl XXXI.

What this means for these Packers remains to be seen. What's more important, the momentum built by the wild-card winner or the chance to get healthy by getting a playoff bye?

Actually, in the end, it probably boils down to how one neophyte (Mike McCarthy) and one wily veteran (Brett Favre) handle the playoff pressure. If they learned from how they handled the Dallas game, the Packers will join the list of No. 2 seeds who tasted initial playoff success.

The following list shows whether each conference's No. 2 playoff seed won its first playoff game, and whether that team reached the Super Bowl.

Year: AFC's No. 2 seed; NFC's No. 2 seed

2006: Baltimore no; New Orleans yes

2005: Denver yes; Chicago no

2004: New England yes (Super Bowl win); Atlanta yes

2003: Kansas City no; St. Louis no

2002: Tennessee yes; Tampa Bay yes (Super Bowl loss)

2001: New England yes (Super Bowl win); Chicago no

2000: Oakland yes; Minnesota yes

1999: Indianapolis no; Tampa Bay yes

1998: New York Jets yes; Atlanta yes (Super Bowl loss)

1997: Pittsburgh yes; Green Bay yes (Super Bowl loss)

1996: New England yes (Super Bowl loss); Carolina yes

1995: Pittsburgh yes (Super Bowl loss); San Francisco no

1994: San Diego yes (Super Bowl loss); Dallas yes

1993: Houston no; San Francisco yes

1992: Miami yes; Dallas yes (Super Bowl win)

1991: Denver yes; Detroit yes

1990: Los Angeles Raiders yes; New York Giants yes (Super Bowl win)

Steve Lawrence is a regular contributor to E-mail him at

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