The Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings have an opportunity to snap a dubious streak regarding No. 6 seeds in the NFL playoffs. Tennessee's win over the New England Patriots last week and the Minnesota Vikings victory over the New Orleans Saints reseeded the NFL playoffs for the divisional round.
The No. 1 seed plays the lowest remaining seed in the divisional round based on the current NFL playoff structure. With the Titans and Vikings being the No. 6 seed, that means they will play the No. 1 seed in the next round instead of playing the team on their half of the bracket. The Titans will play the Baltimore Ravens and the Vikings will play the San Francisco 49ers (both games obviously on the road).
No. 6 seeds haven't fared well against No. 1 seeds in the divisional playoffs in recent years, which explains the ongoing trend of wild card teams failing to reach the Super Bowl since 2013. A No. 6 seed hasn't defeated a No. 1 seed in the playoffs since 2010 when both the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets defeated the No. 1 seeds (Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots) to advance to their championship games. The Packers became just the second No. 6 seed to win the Super Bowl in that 2010 season, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
Two No. 6 seeds made the divisional playoffs, the Indianapolis Colts, and Philadelphia Eagles, and they both lost. No. 6 seeds have lost nine consecutive games against No. 1 seeds. No. 6 seeds are 6-19 all-time against No. 1 seeds, but that record was much better just a decade ago. Here are all the No. 6 seeds to beat the No. 1 seeds in NFL postseason history (playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990):
2005 AFC Divisional
Steelers beat Colts, 21-18
2005 Super Bowl
Steelers beat Seahawks, 21-10
2008 AFC Divisional
Ravens beat Titans, 13-10
2008 NFC Divisional
Eagles beat Giants, 23-11
2010 NFC Divisional
Packers beat Falcons, 48-21
2010 AFC Divisional
Jets beat Patriots, 28-21
This is the sixth season under the current playoff format which both No. 6 seeds won their wild card game, along with 2005, 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2018. The past two occurrences neither No. 6 seed won in the divisional round. The Titans and Vikings will have a hard time pulling off the upset based on how the No. 1 seeds have fared in their respective conferences.
The Baltimore Ravens finished with the best record in the NFL, winning 12 consecutive games to finish 14-2 and the league's best record. The Ravens averaged 206 rushing yards a game and 5.5 yards per carry, both of which led the NFL. The Ravens set the NFL record for most rushing yards in a season with 3,296, part of what made them the NFL's No. 1 offense in points (33.2) and No. 2 in yards (407.6).
Their defense has been just as dominant over the 12-game win streak. Baltimore is first in the league in points (15.2), touchdowns (18), yards (268.9) and first downs (200) allowed over the past 12 games.
The 49ers are a tough out as a No. 1 seed, finishing with a 13-3 record in having home-field advantage for the first time since 1997. San Francisco finished second in the NFL in points per game (29.9), third in yards per pass (7.9) and ninth in yards per carry (4.6). The 49ers were fourth in yards (381.1) and second in rushing (144.1 yards a game), leading the league in rushing touchdowns (23).
San Francisco's defense was dominant as well, finishing second in yards (281.8 ) and first in yards per play allowed (4.7). They were first in yards per pass (5.2) and pass yards allowed (169.2). Their 48 sacks were tied for fifth in the NFL.
If the Titans and/or Vikings don't emerge victorious Saturday, it wouldn't be surprising given how good the No. 1 seeds in both conferences are. Both teams are massive underdogs heading into the weekend, a testament of the dominance of the Ravens and 49ers are rather than an indictment of the No. 6 seeds they're facing.