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NFL Week 13

   by Larry Ness - 12/04/2004

One would expect Week 13 to be a little odd and it is with no inter-conference match-ups for the first time since the season's opening week. That's good news for NFC teams, as the AFC has dominated play to-date....

After 50 inter-conference meetings the AFC leads 32-18, going 31-17-2 ATS. Since the 1970 merger, the most wins by one conference over the other came in the 1999 season when the AFC won the season series 38-22. The best winning percentage in any one year came in 1979 when the AFC's 36-16 mark gave it a winning percentage of .692. With fourteen inter-conference games remaining, the AFC seems a shoo-in to break the total of 38 wins it posted in 1999, although it's unlikely AFC teams will top that .692 win percentage set in 1979....

With all the games being of the intra-conference variety this week and EIGHT of the 16 being division opponents meeting for the second time this year, much is on the line in Week 13. Of the eight, the game between the 7-4 Broncos and the 8-3 Chargers holds the most significance but every one of these division re-matches features at least one team fighting for its playoff life or playoff seeding....

Part of the fall-out from the AFC's dominance over the NFC is that in the AFC this year we may have for the first time-ever, a team win 11 games and FAIL to qualify for the playoffs! Since the NFL expanded to a 12-team postseason in 1990, all 35 teams to reach 11 wins have qualified for the playoffs. Since 1990, only the 2003 Miami Dolphins (10-6) and the 1991 Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) have failed to make the playoffs in a year in which they won 10 games!...

In the AFC with New England and Pittsburgh already at 10-1, look at the log-jam of good records behind them. The Colts, Chargers and Jets are at 8-3, the Broncos and Ravens are at 7-4 plus the Jaguars are at 6-5. Only FOUR of those teams will make it in and almost ASSUREDLY a 10-win team will FAIL to qualify for a Super Bowl-run....

Conversely in the NFC, it's likely we'll see an 8-8 team 'sneak' into the playoffs. That's not unprecedented, as since 1990, FOUR 8-8 teams have qualified for postseason play. In 1990 it was the New Orleans Saints, in 1991 the New York Jets and in 1999 it was the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions. It should come as no surprise that all four teams LOST in their first playoff game!...

In 2004, the Eagles have already clinched the NFC East at 10-1 and the Falcons are close to clinching the NFC South at 9-2. Either the Packers or Vikings (both 7-4) will win the NFC North with the 'loser' most likely claiming one of the two wild-card berths. The NFC West is up-for-grabs between two of the league's most disappointing teams, the 6-5 Seahawks and the 5-6 Rams. The last wild-card spot will go to either one of the those two NFC West teams or to possibly the 5-6 Giants. There are currently SEVEN 4-7 teams in the NFC, including last year's NFC Champs (Carolina), that are all still 'alive' if any of those teams can win FOUR of their last five games!...

CLOSING NOTE....One of those seven 4-7 teams in the NFC still in the playoff-hunt, is the New Orleans Saints. The Saints rank 32nd in total defense in 2004 by ranking last in both passing defense and rushing defense (an impressive daily-double!). The Saints have allowed 312 points (28.4 PPG), staying just out of last place in that category. The once-proud San Francisco 49ers are 32nd in scoring defense through 12 weeks, having allowed 320 points in 2004, an average of 29.1 PPG!...

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