Why No. 6 seed could be a lucky number for the Miami Dolphins

Howard Green of the Green Bay Packers holds the Vince Lombardi trophy after the Packers won 31-25 against the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Howard Green of the Green Bay Packers holds the Vince Lombardi trophy after the Packers won 31-25 against the Pittsburgh Steelers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Don’t be disappointed that the Dolphins couldn’t climb out of the No. 6 seed.

If you’re a Dolfan, you might want to celebrate it.

Despite having no shot at a home game, No. 6 seeds have made a mockery of the seedings in recent seasons — more so than No. 5s and more than you might think.

No. 6 seeds from the AFC and NFC are 6-0 in the wild-card round over the past three seasons. And going back to 2005, the sweet 6s swept the wild-card round seven times. By contrast, they were swept by higher seeds in only four seasons.

You have to go back to, well, 2015 for a case in point. The 6s were Pittsburgh (10-6) and Seattle (10-6). The Steelers won at Cincinnati 18-16 in the wild-card round before being eliminated by eventual Super Bowl champ Denver. The Seahawks ousted host Minnesota 10-9 before losing in Carolina 31-24.

The year before, Baltimore and Detroit survived the wild-card round. In 2013, San Diego and New Orleans advanced.

And if you really want to think big: The 2010 Green Bay Packers and 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers each won three playoff games away from home before winning the Super Bowl. The ’10 Packers beat Pittsburgh 31-25 in the Super Bowl and the ’05 Steelers beat Seattle 21-10.

Dolphins guard Jermon Bushrod seemed to sense all this history even after Sunday’s 35-14 loss to New England.

“We know where we want to go,” Bushrod said. “It won’t be easy. Teams have done it before.”

The current run by No. 6s is part of a recent phenomenon. From 2000-04, the sixth seeds were 2-6 in the wild-card round.

The biggest recent playoff underdog story of interest to Dolphins fans occurred in 2007, when the New York Giants beat New England 17-14 in the Super Bowl to keep the ’72 Dolphins as the only perfect team in NFL history. But those Giants were a No. 5 seed. Since 2010, No. 5 seeds are 5-7 in the wild-card round.

A few theories on why the recent results for 6s have gone contrary to the seedings:

  • Sometimes, No. 6s are relegated to wild-card status because they have the rotten luck of being in a strong division. Detroit was a No. 6 in 2014 despite going 11-5, thanks to Green Bay winning the NFC North at 12-4.
  • Not all No. 3 seeds (who host the No. 6s) are special. The 2013 Eagles, who were knocked off by New Orleans 26-24, were 10-6. The only reason they weren’t the lowest-seeded division winners is because the North was claimed by Green Bay at 8-7-1.
  • Some teams don’t wake up in September. The 2005 Steelers got hot when the weather turned cold. They won four straight to close out the regular season and make the playoffs. Who could have known that when they lost to Cincinnati in early December, it would be their last loss of the year? Dolfans have to hope this applies to 2016, since Miami is on a 9-1 run after starting 1-4.
  • Upsets happen. Hey, it’s the NFL.

The Dolphins landing at No. 6 means they must travel to Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field next weekend. Miami is 1-1 all time in the playoffs in Pittsburgh, winning 21-17 in 1972 but losing 34-14 in the 1979 playoffs. The Dolphins also beat the Steelers 45-28 in Miami in the 1985 playoffs. The ’72 Dolphins had to travel despite being unbeaten because playoff sites were rotated at the time.

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