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NFL Notes (Week 17)

   by Larry Ness - 12/31/2004

The NFL season enters its final Sunday of play and 17 teams still have Super Bowl aspirations, while admittedly some teams hopes are rather remote. A quick history check shows that since expanding its playoff structure to include 12 teams back in 1990, the most teams still in Super Bowl contention entering the season's final week came in 2002. That year, 19 teams were still 'alive', in Week 17....

The many playoff scenarios are in your local paper or on your favorite website but there are a few worth noting! The most interesting case is the Rams. The Rams can actually win the NFC West if they beat the Jets and the Seahawks lose at home to the Falcons. Unfortunately though, the Rams could beat the Jets and could still FAIL to claim a playoff spot IF the Seahawks and Vikings win plus the Saints and Panthers game doesn't end in a tie! The Rams DON'T want to be counting the Saints and Panthers tying though, as since 1990 the NFL has featured just THREE ties among the 4,024 games played!...

The 10-5 Jets can claim one of the two wild card spots in the AFC by beating the Rams this Sunday. The Jets can also make the playoffs if Buffalo or the Broncos either lose or tie. However, if the Jets lose while the Bills and Broncos both win, the Jets would become just the THIRD 10-win team since 1990 to be left OUT of the playoffs. The Bills also face the possibility of winning 10 games and getting left out. Buffalo, winners of six straight and nine of its last 11, could beat the Steelers on Sunday yet FAIL to make the playoffs if BOTH the Jets and Broncos win!...

With the possibility of a 10-6 team getting shut out of the AFC's postseason, the NFC could have THREE 8-8 teams in its playoff field! For that to happen, the Rams would have to beat the Jets while the Seahawks lost to the Falcons. That would give the Rams the NFC West title at 8-8 and the 8-8 Seahawks would claim one of the two wild cards. The other wild card spot could then go another 8-8 team in the Panthers, IF they beat the Saints while the Vikings lost to the Redskins....

Since 1990, four 8-8 teams have advanced to the postseason with all four losing their initial playoff game. They were outscored by an average of 21.8 PPG to 9.8 PPG and went just 1-3 ATS!....

It's not easy making the NFL playoffs year-in and year-out these days with free agency and the salary cap. It may surprise some that the Eagles own the longest-current consecutive streak with FIVE straight playoff appearances. Behind the Eagles, only TWO other franchises have made the playoff field three straight years. The Packers are heading into their fourth straight postseason while the Colts are in for the third straight year!...

The Bengals own the longest-current playoff drought. Cincinnati last appeared in the NFL's postseason in 1990, failing to make it again this season for the 14th consecutive year! The Chargers were on the Bengals' heels (well almost!) with EIGHT straight non-playoff seasons but won the AFC West in 2004. The Cardinals now move into second place behind the Bengals, having missed the playoffs each of the last SIX seasons!...

SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS HEADING INTO WEEK 17....

I was always told that the point spread was the great EQUALIZER. That teams with outstanding SU records would be brought back to earth by failing to cover the IMPOST. The story also went that losing teams would often 'sneak under' those big point spreads, making their ATS marks respectable. Well NOT this year!...

Six teams enter the final week with 11 wins or more and a combined SU record of 74-16 (.822). Their ATS mark is 56-29-5, for a winning percentage of .659! Four teams enter Sunday having lost 11 game or more with a collective SU record of 13-47 (.217). Those teams combined to go just 21-19 ATS, for winning (?) percentage of just .350!...

The Atlanta Falcons enter Week 17 at 11-4 but have outscored their opponents by a total of just FIVE points all year (314-309). That makes it possible for Atlanta to finish this year at 11-5 if it loses at Seattle. If the Falcons lose by more than five points, they will end the year having allowed more points than they scored. That got me to checking. Has that ever happened to an 11-win team before?...

NO it hasn't! Since expanding to a 16-game season in 1978, the NFL has produced 61 teams that have won EXACTLY 11 games and NOT ONE OF THEM ever allowed more points than they scored!

The Kansas City Chiefs are another team on the verge of doing something out of the ordinary (to sat the least!). The Chiefs are obviously one of the league's biggest disappointments. They finished last year at 13-3 and were expected to contend again in 2004. Despite outscoring opponents 466 to 411, the Chiefs enter their final game at San Diego just 7-8....

The 466 points scored, couple with a losing record, got me thinking. In one of the many storylines surrounding Peyton Manning breaking Dan Marino's single-season record for TD passes, came the fact that the Colts had become just NINTH team since the merger to have scored more than 500 points (508) in a season....

The Chiefs, just 34 points shy of 500 points on the year, are 7-8! That means if the Chiefs score at least 34 points at San Diego on Sunday, they will become just the 10th team to reach the 500-point mark and could finish no better than 8-8 (7-9 if they lose)! How does that compare to this year's Colts (currently 12-3) and the other eight teams to have topped 500 points scored?...

The nine previous NFL teams that scored 500 points in a regular season combined to go 129-24 for a winning percentage of .843! Six of those teams made the Super Bowl with three winning it and of course the Colts of 2004 have yet to tell their playoff story!...

Closing note....The 1998 Minnesota Vikings own the single-season scoring record with 556 points (an average of 34.8 PPG over a 16-game schedule). However, two other teams deserve mention when it comes to scoring prowess....

The 1961 Houston Oilers of the AFL, scored 513 points during a 14-game season, an average of 36.6 PPG. The 1950 LA Rams scored 466 points in a 12-game season and that team's average of 38.8 PPG has yet to be bettered!...


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