Though it's been done several times by various teams since Vince Lombardi's Packers won the first two, repeating as a Super Bowl champion has become increasingly difficult. It hasn't happened for ten years, since the New England Patriots last pulled it off in 2004-2005. Whether it's a letdown, complacency, losing free agents, the tougher schedule that will follow, other teams getting better and staying hungry, or a combination of all the above is a good question.
For the most part, parity in the NFL is alive and well. Over the years teams go up, and teams go down. Last year, few would question the Seattle Seahawks were the dominant team. They rolled through the regular season with a 13-3 record, and wound up blistering Peyton Manning and the Broncos 43-8 in the Super Bowl. Very impressive indeed.
But that was last year. "Last years" in sports are like celebrity marriages. Nobody gives a rat's behind about exes, they're only interested in what's happening NOW.
And now the Seattle Seahawks are facing the proverbial (excuse the tired cliche) do or die game. The Arizona Cardinals come-a-calling this Sunday in Seattle. Though they lost starting QB Carson Palmer for the season due to a knee injury, the Redbirds sport a league-wide best record of 9-1. Meanwhile, the reigning champs have struggled to a 6-4 mark. In other words, going in, Arizona has a 3 game lead on Seattle. If the home teams goes down this Sunday, that lead becomes 4 games with only 5 to play. Pete Carroll and Co. could pretty well kiss the division title good-bye.
Worse, they'd be in definite danger of missing the playoffs altogether. It's not unprecedented. Several Super Bowl winning teams have failed to make the playoffs the following year for various reasons. But who would have thought it possible with the Seahawks and their Legion of Boom, not to mention the most raucous home crowd in the entire NFL? After all, they're still pretty much the same core team. Yes, they lost Golden Tate to the Detroit Lions via free agency. But Tate is only a good, not great, receiver. Given the state of both teams, it seems logical the Lions benefited far more by acquiring him than the Seahawks suffered from his loss.
As NFL fans know, each Conference consists of four divisions. The winners of those divisions, plus two wild-card teams go on to the playoffs where anything can happen, and sometimes does.
Yet look around at the rest of the NFC. In the East, Philly and Dallas both have 7-3 records and are slugging it out for the division crown. Same with Green Bay and Detroit in the North. In the South, co-leaders Atlanta and New Orleans both only have 4-6 records, but SOMEBODY has to win that division and will qualify for the playoffs. Not counting the high-flying Cards, in Seattle's own West division, they find themselves currently tied with San Fran at 6-4.
Put another way, between Philly/Dal, GB/Det, and San Fran, the Seahawks likely find themselves in a four-way fight for a playoff wild card position with only two spots available.
If they win against the Cards (Seattle's a 6 1/2 point favorite) to go 7-4, they keep their hopes alive.
But if they lose to become 6-5, the fat ladies at Starbucks and Microsoft headquarters might just start warming up to belt out a swan song for yet another team to join the year-after Super Bowl championship scrapheap.
On with the game. Should be interesting. No pressure.