Of course, the Packers were in this position last year.
It’s not just the NFL where the season’s best team usually falters in the playoffs.
In the last 10 seasons, only two teams in each of the other major pro sports leagues parlayed the best regular-season record into a championship, according to STATS, LLC. They were: the 2007 Red Sox and the `09 Yankees, the 2002-03 Spurs and the `07-08 Celtics and the Red Wings in 2001-02 and `07-08.
Since the first Super Bowl, the team with the best regular-season record has won just 21 of 46 championships, or 46 percent, which is more than in the NHL (42 percent), NBA (41 percent) and MLB (28 percent), according to STATS.
“Everyone wants to have the best record, win the division and play at home for the playoffs, but in my opinion, the team that is playing the best has the best opportunity,” said NFL Network analyst Kurt Warner, a former MVP and Super Bowl champion. “This game is always about confidence and momentum. If you have it, you’re tough to beat, nobody wants to play you and it gives you a distinct advantage. It starts in the regular season and you want to be playing well down the stretch.”
With that in mind, here’s how the dozen playoff teams rank from hottest to coolest:
2. Redskins (10-6) _ They’ve won seven straight games since coach Mike Shanahan’s comments about playing for next year (well, it is 2013 now!) after a loss to Carolina on Nov. 4 dropped them to 3-6.
3. Patriots (12-4) _ Their only loss in their last 10 games was to San Francisco two weeks ago that snapped their 21-game home winning streak in December. Even in defeat, Tom Brady was spectacular as New England nearly became the first team since 1980 to win a game after trailing by 28.
4. Seahawks (11-5) _ Forget the “Fail Mary” touchdown/touchback ending that gave Seattle a disputed win over the Packers in Week 3 and hastened the return of the regular officials. The real robbery was the selection of QB Russell Wilson in the third round of the draft. He’s guided them to five straight wins.
5. Bengals (10-6) _ Cincinnati matched the best finish in club history, winning seven of its last eight games behind Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, who will now try to secure the Bengals' first playoff win since 1990.
6. Colts (11-5) _ Indy won nine of its last 11 despite a soft defense, rallying around assistant coach Bruce Arians, who took over while coach Chuck Pagano was treated for leukemia. Pagano is back and the Colts have gotten over their breakup with Manning and moved on with rookie Andrew Luck.
7. Packers (11-5) _ Green Bay won nine of its last 11 but couldn’t close out the season with a win at Minnesota that would have ensured them a first-round bye. Maybe that’s a good thing for a team that won it all as a wild card two years ago.
8. Vikings (10-6) _ Although Adrian Peterson came up just short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record, he carried the Vikings into the playoffs with wins in their last four games.
9. 49ers (11-4-1) _ San Francisco lost to division rivals St. Louis and Seattle in December, but Colin Kaepernick and Michael Crabtree put the 49ers into the playoffs with some much-needed momentum with dazzling performances in a win over Arizona on Sunday.