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Football's Back

   by Larry Ness - 08/08/2007

It seems like just yesterday that the Colts beat the Bears in Super Bowl 41. However, last Sunday night in Canton, Ohio, we saw the Steelers beat the Saints 20-7, ceremonially kicking off 2007's preseason. Week 1 of the regular season won't begin until Thursday night September 6, when the Saints visit the Colts in Indianapolis (NBC), but first there's a four-week preseason, beginning Thursday night.

The first three weeks of the preseason will keep us busy five nights a week, with games being contested Thursday through Monday.Week 4's schedule will consist of a 14-game Thursday schedule (August 30), with the final two games being played on Friday, August 31. The college football season opens that same weekend, with games starting on August 30 (but that's a topic for another article).

Three teams made it unscathed through last year's preseason at 4-0, the Bengals, Giants and Panthers. The Cowboys came close, going 3-0-1. The Bengals and Giants both went 4-0 ATS, with the Panthers going 2-2 (the Cowboys were 3-1 ATS). The Bengals dominated in their games last year, winning by 16, 13, 31 and 17 points. While the Giants were also perfect ATS, their margins of victory were much smaller (1, 17, 6 and 8 points). The Panthers won all four games last year but not a single win came by more than double digits (1, 7, 9 and 2 points).

Two teams went winless in last year's preseason, the Steelers (1-3 ATS) and the Redskins (0-4 ATS). As mentioned at the beginning, the Steelers beat the Saints last Sunday, so that losing streak is over. The Redskins lost their games last year by margins of 16, 13, 41 and 7 points and will take a five-game preseason losing streak (also 0-5 ATS) into the '07 season.

The Giants own a seven-game preseason winning streak going back to the '05 preseason, also covering in all seven wins. The Bengals have won five straight in the preseason (also 5-0 ATS) and will be the first team in action in Week 1, opening in Detroit against the Lions (7:30 ET). The defending champs (Indy Colts) have been a dreadful preseason team the last two years, going 1-8 SU and 2-7 ATS. The Colts play at Dallas (Wade Phillips' debut) on Thursday night as well (FOX at 8:00 ET).

The Giants will put their 7-0 SU and ATS streak on the line Saturday, in the Meadowlands against the Panthers. Both teams were 4-0 last year and New York's seven-game preseason winning streak began right here in Week 2 of the '05 preseason, with a 27-21 win over Carolina in New Jersey. The Redskins will try to snap their five-game losing streak Saturday night as well, taking on the Titans in Tennessee (NFL Network at 8:00 ET).

I'll be doing a number of NFL previews (and some college football ones as well) during the next month but up first, will be my look at some of 2007's "surprise teams" in the NFL. I'll set the stage for next Tuesday's article (August 14), with the following data.

The NFL first expanded its playoff field to 12 teams for the 1990 season. Making the playoffs year-in and year-out is not easy. Consider this simple fact. Only five teams have made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. The Bears and Giants made the postseason in both '05 and '06. The Patriots and Seahawks have made four consecutive playoff appearances, beginning in 2003. The longest active playoff streak belongs to the defending champs, as the Colts have been to the postseason in each of the last five years ('02-'06).

The longest playoff drought belongs to the Arizona Cardinals, who have missed the playoffs each of the last eight seasons (1999-06). The Bills and Lions have missed seven consecutive postseasons (2000-06), while the Browns and Dolphins have missed five in-a-row (2002-06). The Texans, who first entered the league in 2002, have yet to participate in the playoffs, in any of that franchise's five years.

Starting in the 1991 season, there have been 192 playoff teams (12 per year, over 16 seasons). A 16-year study shows that only 104 of the 192 playoff teams (54.2 percent), had made the playoffs the previous season as well.

That means that a typical playoff-field consists of 6.5 teams which had made the postseason the year before and an average of 5.5 teams, which had missed the playoffs the previous season.The most-ever "playoff repeaters" came in the 1995 season, when eight teams in that year's playoff field, had made the playoffs in the 1994 season as well. The fewest playoff repeaters came in the 2003 season (just four of 12).

With that in mind, we should expect about five or six teams that failed to make the postseason in 2006, to be a part of the 2007 NFL playoff-field. Join me next Tuesday (August 14), as I' "wonder aloud," just which teams that might be?

Don't forget to listen to Ness Noise every Monday through Friday at 1:00 PM Eastern and Saturday/Sunday at 10:00 AM Eastern.

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