Why are the Cardinals in the Superbowl?

A survey conducted by the USA Today, the phrasing be-fuddles me:  Do the 9-7 Cardinals NOT BELONG in the Superbowl?  Good thing the responses given clarify the positions instead of offering up a “Yes” and “No” to the negative-loaded question (“Belong” and “Don’t Belong”), because otherwise it’s a confusing and badly phrased question.

This writer believes that the Cardinals don’t belong.  And he spins the Cardinals appearance in the Superbowl, gilded with two home playoff games against teams with better records, to the NFL’s expansion to 32 teams and sub-letting into divisions of four teams.  And to a degree, I agree and thought at the time that this would lead to this sort of inevitible situation where an 8-8 team was going to get in in the form of the San Diego Chargers versus an 11-5 New England Patriots team sitting out.

But going down this list presented of anomolous results, I can come up with a perfectly good reason for the results.

The 2005 Steelers were the first No. 6 seed to win a Super Bowl and the first team to win the Super Bowl without the benefit of a home playoff game. The 2005 Steelers, in other words, were an anomaly by historic standards.
The 2005 Steelers would have been a #1, or perhaps #2 seed — similar to the season before when they finished 15-1, if not for Ben Rothenberger mid-season injury.  The team sucked for a few weeks.  They then got their quarterback back, and were good again.

The 2006 Colts entered the playoffs with the worst run defense the NFL had seen since the expansion Vikings of 1961 (Indy surrendered an awful 5.33 YPA) and a unit that surrendered 360 points that year. It was the worst defense of any Super Bowl champion. The 2006 Colts, in other words, were an anomaly by historic standards.
This strikes me as an attempt to force an argument.  The Colts also finished with a 12-4 record.  Their defense proved their undoing the previous season, they managed go get past it this season.  If the Bears had won — the NFC Superbowl team and #1 seed– they would have been an anomolous team with a historically subpar offense and quarterback.

The 2007 Giants were a 10-6 team that outscored opponents by a mere 22 points. Yet like another No. 6 seed, the Steelers two years earlier, the Giants won three straight road games before winning the Super Bowl. Their +22 scoring differential is the lowest of any Super Bowl champion and only the 2006 Colts (360 points) gave up more points than the Giants (351). The 2007 Giants, in other words, were an anomaly by historic standards.
Whose fault is it that the Undefeated New England Patriots couldn’t defeat a team that, in a six team per conference playoff scheme, was legitimately  Team #6?  For what it’s worth, the supposed “Turning Point” for the team in becoming Championship Contenders was the final week of the season, when they went toe to toe with the Undefeated New England Patriots, thus shoring up the idea that they could battle anyone, a Moral Victory which tend to be lame except here it was surpassed by an Actual Victory.  At any rate, The Giants’s Legitimacy as Team #6 out of 6 stands in opposition to:

The 2008 Cardinals are the latest Team Nobody Saw Coming – the anomalous Super Bowl contender that not only lost seven games this year, but lost many of them badly. The Cardinals were blown out by 21 points or more four times this year. They scored just one more point than the surrendered (427 to 426) and if they do win Sunday – remember, they get to play at home – they’ll easily be the worst team and the worst defensive club that’s ever reached a Super Bowl. 

 Okay.  This is the first anomoly of Championship Contending that can be placed on these out-of-balance divisions.  The Cardinals turning point was said to be, again, their defeat against the New England Patriots, where they lost by 40 points, and where the Coaches decreed, as they were going to stumble into the playoffs even if they ended with a 7-9 record, that the team needed to get better.  Losses against New England appear to be what spurs teams into the Superbowl, apparently.  What can be said?  If this were a fair world, they wouldn’t have scratched at the playoffs.  Once there, they rallied around the idea that they were the Worst NFL Team Ever to make the Playoffs.  Maybe everyone just sucked this year?

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