Just don't win as much, baby?
What do we make of this? For the third straight year, the eventual NFL champion won 10 games or LESS during the regular season.
Sunday's Super Bowl XLVII winner, the Baltimore Ravens, opened 9-2 but would finish 10-6 thanks to four losses in their last five games. And that's exactly the kind of momentum that often propels teams to go on a four-game winning streak in the postseason and capture the Lombardi Trophy thanks to a 34-31 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
The recent evidence is overwhelming. Getting to the playoffs is obviously the key. But for those who feel that isn't enough, we're here to show you that it is.
Case in point and dating back to the 2005 postseason, when the Pittsburgh Steelers became the first team to win three road playoff games and the Super Bowl, defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Detroit in Super Bowl XL. That feat was repeated in 2007 (Giants) and again in 2010 (Packers).
In fact, six of the last eight Super Bowl champions (dating back to those '05 Steelers) have had to play that extra playoff game. The 2006 Colts, 2011 Giants and now these Ravens were all division champions but still played (at home) on wild-card weekend. The lone exceptions over this recent span were the 2008 Steelers and 2009 Saints, the latter of which opened the season at 13-0, lost its last three games and still went on to capture Super Bowl XLIV.
Ah, the losing streak. John Harbaugh's 2012 Ravens suffered through a three-game slide in December, becoming the third team in the last four years to lose at least three straight and still went on to grab the Lombardi Trophy. The other being the aforementioned '09 Saints as well as the 2011 Giants, who opened 6-2, then lost four games in a row before gathering themselves in time to beat the Patriots in another Super Bowl (XLVI).
And who mentioned momentum? We earlier alluded to Baltimore's late-season woes, which included a Week 17 loss at Cincinnati. None of the last seven Super Bowl champions brought any more than a two-game winning streak into their respective postseason. In other words, it's hard to figure out who the hot team will be when it hasn't caught fire as of yet.
As we begin another offseason, it won't be long until we'll be thinking about another NFL campaign and who we like to take it all in Super Bowl XLVIII. But the only take these days that you can count on is taking nothing for granted.
Russell S. Baxter has spent the last 40-plus years watching football. A former NFL research coordinator for ESPN, he is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country and was blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.