A common refrain from nonplussed football fans complaining about watching football this weekend (a very strange habit by the way) was that the NFL's Super Wild Card Weekend could have remained non-super. That the seventh-seeded teams are superfluous to the process of determining a winner. A blatant cash grab by a league that, for some reason, enjoys printing money. And while there may be some credence to these thoughts two years into expanded playoff, it's still far too small of a sample size from which to make sweeping conclusions.
Both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles were thoroughly outclassed by their second-seeded opponents. Late cosmetic scores meant a 16-point final margin in Tampa and late scores brought about a 21-point Chiefs win in Kansas City. Last year's seven-seeds — the Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears — lost by three and 12 points, respectively. So, four games into the new era, teams securing the final playoff berth are 0-4 and have lost by an average of 13 points.
But we need to see more evidence. Especially against the backdrop of a broader trend in the league: seemingly unstoppable No. 6 seeds who have won 7 of their last 8 first-round matchups. The Buffalo Bills, somehow, became the first No. 3 seed to win since 2017 by thumping the New England Patriots. Underdogs have been feasting. It's just that the latest underdogs haven't been given time to sharpen their knives.
Look, no one likes snoozers during elimination play. No one wants the 2-7 games to become predictable blowouts like the professional version of the College Football Playoff semifinals. Yet let me offer a slightly contrasting opinion.
The new system is working in terms of competitive balance and rewarding the second-best teams who no longer receive byes. It is not the worst thing in the world to have the better team take care of business most of the time. Allowing them to play the weakest of the weak is the design, not a flaw. When we bemoan blowouts we're essentially bemoaning largely elite teams playing at an elite level and mediocre teams playing at a mediocre level. That's kind of the point of all this.
So let's have some patience here and see what the numbers look like five years down the road. If 7-seeds are still winless, then yeah, it's a bit of a problem. More so if the matchups aren't competitive or compelling. My gut says that things will level out a bit over a larger sample and the upsets, when they come, will be more special.