The New York Jets and Green Bay Packers have a 23 percent chance of making football history -- the first Super Bowl between a pair of No. 6 seeds.
Since the National Football League’s postseason expanded to 12 teams in 1990, the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers are the only team to reach the Super Bowl as the final seed in its conference, a feat that requires three straight playoff wins on the road.
The odds against a Super Bowl between the Jets and Packers at the start of the playoffs were 138 to 1, a 0.72 percent chance, said RJ Bell, president of Las Vegas-based handicapping information website Pregame.com. Those odds are slightly less than 3-1 now that both teams are in their conference championship games.
“We’d all be surprised because we know how tough it is to win on the road,” Phil Simms, a former quarterback for the New York Giants and now an NFL analyst for CBS, said in a telephone interview. “But it’s getting hot at the right time, it’s matchups and I know how the league is, sometimes you have to be fortunate to win the close games.”
The Jets are 3 1/2-point underdogs against the Steelers in the American Football Conference championship game at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field, according to Las Vegas oddsmakers. The Packers are 3 1/2-point favorites over the Chicago Bears in the National Football Conference title game at Soldier Field in Chicago. The Steelers and Bears were No. 2 seeds.
No Top Seeds
This will be the fourth time since 1990 that the Super Bowl won’t feature a No. 1 seed, with the top-ranked New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons both losing in the second round. The previous years were 1993, 1998 and 2009.
Two years ago, the Steelers, then the second seed from the AFC, beat the Arizona Cardinals, the NFC’s fourth seed, for the title.
The Jets beat the Steelers 22-17 last month in Pittsburgh, and defensive tackle Sione Pouha said New York is trying to take the next step after losing the AFC title game in Indianapolis last season.
“The last thing we remember was white and blue confetti falling over our faces,” Pouha said in an interview on the team’s website. “That’s etched deep and dark in my mind. That’s pretty much the driving motor for me and a lot of the guys who were here last year.”
The Packers split their two meetings with the Bears, losing 20-17 in Chicago during Week 3 before winning 10-3 at home in their regular-season finale to make the playoffs.
Even though the Bears had already clinched a postseason berth, they played their starters throughout the second game against their division rivals.
“The Bears had it right -- let’s go up and beat the Green Bay Packers and get them out of the playoffs,” said Simms, who quarterbacked the Giants to a Super Bowl title after the 1986 season. “They knew what they were trying to do, they just fell a little short.”
Green Bay’s six losses are the most of the NFL’s remaining playoff teams, yet four defeats came on field goals in overtime or in the final seconds of the fourth quarter. The other two came on touchdowns with less than eight minutes left, including one when quarterback Aaron Rodgers was injured.
Green Bay is the first team never to trail by more than a touchdown at any point in a season since the 1969 Minnesota Vikings. After consecutive road wins, including a 48-21 rout in Atlanta, the Packers are listed as Super Bowl favorites.
“This group has a lot of confidence,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said yesterday. “We’ve never wavered from our goals. We’ve had challenges, everybody does. But we’re here for a reason. We deserve to be here.”
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