Someone has to win it all -- don't they?
January 10, 2003
THE NFL's annual tournament is down to eight teams. Eight flawed teams, one might say. And we're not just talking about porous pass defenses or weak special teams.
If you listen to Steve Hirdt, the executive vice president of the Elias Sports Bureau, none of eight will win Super Bowl XXXVII. Earlier this season in ESPN the Magazine, Hirdt came up with several postulates that eliminated all 32 teams from winning football's grandest game.
Here's why, according to Hirdt, each of the elite eight shouldn't win it all:
-- 49ers: Fact I -- The 49ers lost to the Packers in a wild-card game last season. Fact II -- No team that lost in the wild-card round has ever won the Super Bowl the following season.
-- Buccaneers: Fact I -- The Buccaneers' home stadium is Raymond James Stadium. Fact II -- No team that has played a regular-season game in Raymond James Stadium has ever won a Super Bowl that season.
-- Falcons: Fact I -- The Falcons were 7-9 last year. Fact II -- No team has ever won a Super Bowl the season after winning exactly seven games.
-- Eagles: We might lose you on the is one, so pay close attention. Fact I - - Donovan McNabb was the Eagles' opening-day QB. He was drafted by the Eagles, who have never drafted a QB who has won a Super Bowl. Still with us? Fact II --
No team whose opening-day QB was drafted by a team that had never before drafted a Super Bowl-winning QB has ever won a Super Bowl. Whew.
-- Raiders: Fact I -- The Raiders' coach is Bill Callahan. Fact II -- No team with a head coach whose surname begins with the letter "C" has ever won a Super Bowl.
-- Jets: Fact I -- The Jets lost to the Raiders in a wild-card game last season. Fact II -- See 49ers above.
-- Steelers: Fact I -- The Steelers' coach is Bill Cowher. Fact II -- See Raiders above.
-- Titans: Fact I -- The Titans went 7-9 last year. Fact II -- See Falcons above.
Historically speaking, it all makes sense -- well, except the goofy logic about the Eagles and their quarterbacks. And because Commissioner Paul Tagliabue will force somebody to win the Super Bowl, we're picking the Eagles.
THE COMEBACK KIDS: Last weekend, the 49ers and Steelers pulled off two of the six greatest comebacks in NFL postseason history. But for those counting on the magic to continue all the way up to a Super Bowl trophy, don't count on it.
Of the other four teams that recorded playoff comebacks of 17 points or greater, only one won an NFL title:
-- Buffalo, which trailed by 32 points in a wild-card game, won two more games (at Pittsburgh and at Miami) before losing 52-17 to Dallas in Super Bowl XXVII.
-- The Lions, who trailed the 49ers by 20 points in a divisional playoff in 1957, won the NFL title the following week.
-- Dallas, which trailed the 49ers by 18 points in a divisional playoff in 1972, lost 26-3 the following weekend.
-- Miami, which trailed by 18 in a divisional playoff following the 1985 season, lost 31-14 the following week.
RANDOM NUMBERS: Cleveland QB Kelly Holcomb threw for 429 yards in Sunday's 36-33 loss at Pittsburgh. It was the third-highest yardage total by a quarterback in playoff history, and the most in a playoff game that didn't require overtime. Only Cleveland's Bernie Kosar (489 yards in 1986) and San Diego's Dan Fouts (433 in 1981) threw for more. . . . The Giants' 38 points tied the record during the Super Bowl era (since 1966) for most points in a playoff loss. The Oilers lost a wild-card game 41-38 following the 1992 season,
and the Dolphins lost a 41-38 divisional playoff following the 1981 season. . . . The total of 77 points scored by the 49ers and Giants was the sixth-most in a playoff game during the Super Bowl era. It was the most since the Rams (49) and Vikings (37) combined for 86 in a divisional playoff following the 1999 season.
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