Curran: Doubt planted that NFL playoff seeding matters

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Curran: Doubt planted that NFL playoff seeding matters

It's going to be hard for the Patriots to duck the Wild Card round.

Despite having lost their four games in 2012 by a total of 11 points and beating the two teams ahead of them in the AFC playoff race, the Patriots are likely bound for a home game at Gillette on the weekend of January 5 and 6.

If form holds, the Patriots will head to Denver for a rematch with the Broncos and Peyton Manning.

Blame the NFC West. The Patriots went 1-3 against the once-hapless division, their only win coming against the St. Louis Rams in London.

So how screwed are the Patriots if they have to win four playoff games to bring home a fourth Lombardi?

Using history as a reference point, not totally screwed.

The Giants were the No. 4 seed in the NFC in 2011 with a 9-7 record and they hammered Atlanta, outplayed Green Bay, lucked out against San Francisco and weathered the Patriots to win the Super Bowl.

In 2010, the No. 6 Packers won at Philly, at Atlanta and at Chicago before knocking off the AFC's No. 2 Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.

The Saints and Colts were both No. 1 seeds in 2009 and made it to the Super Bowl where New Orleans won when Manning threw it to the wrong team in the waning moments of a would-be game-winning drive.

The Cardinals were the fourth-seed and the Steelers were a two-seed in 2008 when they had their epic bout in Tampa.

And the top-seeded Patriots lost to the fifth-seeded Giants in the Super Bowl in 2007.

Extra games increases the likelihood of injury to key players. Road games bring on crowd noise, adversity presented by travel and any number of comfort factors on game day.

The mettle and mental toughness of a team is what's relevant. Can a team embrace the adversity it's been handed -- as the Giants have done in their runs -- or will it lament how it got itself in a spot where it's playing on the road?

These are the dynamics the Patriots will face in January. Would it be "easier" if they didn't face the specter of two road games against Houston and Denver? Probably. But the whole thing's supposed to be hard anyway. C'est la vie.

Clayborn beats out Seymour, Vrabel to enter Patriots Hall of Fame

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Clayborn beats out Seymour, Vrabel to enter Patriots Hall of Fame

Raymond Clayborn has been voted into the Patriots Hall of Fame, beating out both Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour for the honor. The corner, who is tied for the franchise record for interceptions with Ty Law (36), will be the 26th person inducted to the Hall. 

Clayborn was a three-time Pro Bowler (1983, 1985, 1986) during his 13-year Patriots career from 1977 through 1989. He was drafted by the Patriots in the first round (16th overall) out of Texas in 1977, and chipped in both in the secondary and as a kick returner. As a rookie in the return game, he averaged 31 yards per return and brought back three for touchdowns. 

Clayborn reacted to the news on Twitter soon after the announcement was made. 

"I was fortunate to be a season ticket holder during Raymond's entire Patriots career," Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement. "For the first half of his career, he teamed with Michael Haynes to form one of the best corner tandems in league history. Throughout his career, Raymond was a physical, shutdown corner.

"One of my favorite memories was watching the 1985 team advance to the Super Bowl after Raymond helped us break the Orange Bowl curse when he stymied future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino with a dominant performance against Pro Bowl receivers Mark Duper and Mark Clayton. Raymond had six passes defensed and an interception to help us claim our first conference title. It was the greatest upset victory in franchise history at the time and one the entire New England region celebrated. It is a well-deserved honor and I look forward to presenting him his hall of fame jacket."

Clayborn has been a finalist for each of the last four years but was not able to generate enough support in the annual online vote to beat out Ty Law (2014 inductee), Willie McGinest (2015) or Kevin Faulk (2016). Clayborn was eligible to be voted in by the senior committee since he's now been retired for 25 years, but he did not receive the requisite eight of 10 senior committee votes to be elected in that way. 

As it turns out, he didn't need to be. When Kraft called Clayborn with the news, he said Clayborn received over 40 percent of the vote to beat out the pair of three-time Super Bowl champs. 

Kyle Shanahan: One play I regret in Falcons' collapse vs. Patriots

Kyle Shanahan: One play I regret in Falcons' collapse vs. Patriots


Remember that Atlanta Falcons offensive game plan against the Patriots in the final five minutes of the Super Bowl?

Kyle Shanahan, then the Falcons offensive coordinator and now coach of the San Francisco 49ers won't forget it. If Atlanta had simply run the ball and kicked a field goal with an eight-point lead, the Falcons would have likely held off Tom Brady and the Pats' comeback from a 28-3 third-quarter deficit.

Shanahan told The Rich Eisen Show there's one play call he'd like to have back. 

"The second-and-10 that we got sacked on,” Shanahan said. “I wish I had dialed up something differently. And then the next play, we called an option to [Mohamed] Sanu, we got right back in field goal range, but we had a holding call on the play and it knocked us out some more, and an incompletion on the next one.”

Click here for the play: Patriots defensive lineman Trey Flowers sacked Matt Ryan for a 12-yard loss. 

"I go through every single play in the game, but when it comes down to it, the big one was the sack that we had on second-and-10,” Shanahan told Eisen. 

Shanahan probably won't see the Patriots again this season, unless it's in the Super Bowl. And with the 49ers rebuilding under him, that's not likely to happen.