Three years ago, I remember getting very annoyed with Football Outsiders mastermind Aaron Schatz because he expressed dismay that the Arizona Cardinals -- a team that had lost four of six going in to the playoffs (and two of its final three by 20+ points), with a net point differential of just +1 -- had managed to make a Super Bowl run. As Schatz saw it, the fact that a team like the Cards could find its way in the championship game denigrated the importance of the regular season.
Now, this annoyed me because I found the Cardinals run to be extremely entertaining, and because we shouldn't pooh-pooh what I considered to be an anomaly: a 9-7 team making the Super Bowl.
But Schatz was concerned that this wasn't an anomaly, and lo and behold, here we have a 9-7 New York Giants team that is now stunningly well-positioned to win it all.
Since the Super Bowl era began in 1967, no team has won a Super Bowl with such a lousy regular-season record, 9-7.
U.S. & World
A Giants' Super Bowl win would be coming on the heels of Green Bay winning the title as a #6 seed last season. Three of the past six Super Bowl champions have been Wild Card entrants (including the Giants back in 2007). Four of the past six Super Bowl champions were teams that had to play a game on Wild Card weekend.
So does that mean, should the Giants win it all, that the NFL regular season is a joke, the way that the NBA and NHL regular seasons are a joke?
I'd still argue no. What the NFL has right now is a good balance between surprise teams and dominant teams vying for the title. You need that in pro sports. You can't have it where the Super Bowl title is always won by one of the top two seeds in either conference. When that happens, the postseason gets denigrated, with Wild Card slots being little more than a moral victory.
Trust me: It's better to have a meaningful postseason than a meaningful regular season. Ask college football, which has somehow turned its postseason into a meaningless exhibition parade.
It's a fallacy to say that "the better team lost" in the case of a team like Green Bay or New Orleans going down last weekend. There's no such thing as a definitive best team. There's only the impression you get as to which team is the best, an impression taken mainly from regular season play. But the regular season doesn't tell us EVERYTHING we need to know about certain teams. The Giants didn't beat Green Bay out of sheer luck. They just matched up brilliantly with a team that happened to have more weaknesses than were exposed early on.
So don't fret if the Giants end up winning it all. The NFL regular season still means something. And thankfully, its postseason means even more.