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News » Bye may be oversold

Bye may be oversold

Bye may be oversold
Carolina Panthers coach John Fox has spent much of this week trying to play down the importance of his team getting the NFC playoffs' second seed and an accompanying first-round bye. Both of those scenarios -- along with an NFC South championship -- would materialize if the Panthers (11-4) beat the New Orleans Saints (8-6) today in their regular-season finale at the Superdome, or if the St. Louis Rams (2-13) can beat the Atlanta Falcons (10-5).

Actually, Fox might be on to something.

The past two Super Bowl champions -- last season's New York Giants and the Indianapolis Colts in the 2006 season -- won the league title without a first-round bye. The Giants, in fact, were a wild card -- the playoffs' fifth seed who had to win three road games just to advance to the Super Bowl. The Colts were the AFC's third seed.

"The biggest thing we were trying to accomplish over the last month ... was getting in the playoffs," Fox said. "And we've accomplished that. That's the No. 1 goal. There are no guarantees if you're a high seed or low seed."

Since 2000, four teams that have been seeded either one or two in the playoffs have won the Super Bowl, a 50-50 proposition. That's opposed to the decade of the 1990s, when eight Super Bowl champs were the No. 1 or 2 seed.

"I think the game has changed," Fox said of the difference. "There is more parity in the league. There were dominant teams in those days. There were some teams that were just flat better. I think the landscape of our league makes everything more equal. I think you're seeing that in college Football [and] pro Football."

That said, winning today and having next week off would benefit the Panthers' immensely. Injuries have cropped up on the defensive line, where tackle Maake Kemoeatu (ankle) is questionable for today's game and the other starter at tackle, Damione Lewis, is doubtful because of a shoulder injury.

Whether Kemoeatu plays or not, having an extra week to get him completely healthy would be valuable, as it would for Lewis.

Then there's the mental side of things. The Panthers played the Giants last week for the NFC's No. 1 seed. With that gone after the Giants' 34-28 overtime victory, the Panthers' playoff seeding would fall to fifth if they lose to New Orleans today. They would play at NFC West champ Arizona next week in a first-round game.

On the other hand, if the Panthers are the NFC's second seed, a Giants loss in their NFC semifinal game might still bring the NFC Championship Game to Charlotte on Jan. 18, if the Panthers are still alive.

"We can still get everything we want," linebacker Jon Beason said. "The first-round bye is huge.

"[Last week,] everybody was talking about us being the best thing since sliced bread. Now, if we lose the next one, we're a fifth seed and it's going to be like we aren't even there. It would be awful not to get the first-round bye. I think we owe it to ourselves to finish off what we've done this season."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 28, 2008

Darrell Reid Name: Darrell Reid
Position: DT
Age: 26
Experience: 4 years
College: Minnesota
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