Behold: The 2006 Seahawks v. the 2008 Cardinals. Lots of interesting similarities:
-The '06 Hawks started 8-4, went on a three-game slide where they generally looked unworthy of a playoff spot, before winning a "meaningless" game in week 17 to pull out a 9-7 record.
-The '08 Cards started 7-3, then lost 4 of 5, where they generally looked unworthy of a playoff spot, before winning a "meaningless" game in week 17 to pull out a 9-7 record.
-2006 Hawks point differential: -6 (15th in NFL)
-2008 Cardinals point differential: +1 (18th in NFL)
-Both the '06 Hawks and '08 Cardinals were home underdogs in the wild card round given little chance to advance.
Of course, the big difference is that the 2006 Seahawks lost in OT at Chicago in the divisional round, while the 2008 Cardinals made it all the way to the Super Bowl.
But look back at those 2006 Hawks... They outplayed the Bears (to a large degree because Shaun Alexander had the last great game of his career), and I'll go to my grave believing they would have won at the Superdome in the NFC Championship Game against an overrated and inexperienced Saints squad.
Yes, they would have been pounded into osprey pate by the Colts in XLI, but it still would have been nice to go to another Super Bowl.
The point of all of this? The NFL is great/exciting/torturous because the tiniest mistake or stroke of luck can mean the difference between glory and infamy. If Rex Grossman had coughed up six turnovers back in that divisional playoff, the 2006 Seahawks might have been THE WORST TEAM TO EVER REACH THE SUPER BOWL... If Jake Delhomme hadn't this year, the Cards are likely just another crappy NFC West Champion...