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NFC Mess

   by Larry Ness - 01/03/2005

AFC teams won three of the four interconference games played in Week 17 and finished the season with a record of 44-20 (41-21-2 ATS) against their NFC counterparts. Baltimore, Buffalo and Jacksonville all finished at 9-7 but are home for the rest of the winter while the 8-8 Rams and 8-8 Vikings of the NFC are still 'alive'....

The Rams and Vikings become just fifth and sixth teams to qualify for the playoffs at 8-8 since the league expanded to a 12-team playoff format in 1990 (the Browns won the AFC Central in 1985 at 8-8). The Rams beat the Jets in OT 32-29 in their final game, despite three giveaways and zero takeaways. So what else is new? St Louis finished the year with just 15 takeaways (tied for the lowest in the league) after leading the NFL in takeaways last year with 46! The Rams' minus-24 ratio, was also a league-worst!...

The Vikings made the playoffs despite not only losing 21-18 at Washington in Week 17 but by losing SEVEN of their last 10 games for the second consecutive year! Culpepper had a GREAT season but the Vikings defense, after getting 28 interceptions last year, was able to come up with only 11 in 2004. Minnesota's loss at Washington was its 20th loss in its last 21 games outdoors and will play At Green Bay on Sunday....

Seattle (at 9-7), was the worst of the four NFC division winners. The Seahawks opened 3-0 but then blew a 17-point 4th quarter lead at home to the Rams, losing 33-27 in OT. The Seahawks saved their year by beating the Cardinals (by three) and the Falcons (by two) in the season's final two games (both played at home). In a division that featured the 2-14 49ers and the 6-10 Cardinals, Seattle went just 3-3 in division play, including losing BOTH of their games to the Rams, the team they host when the NFL playoffs open on Saturday....

One could make the case that the 10-6 Green Bay Packers are the NFC's best team. Green Bay opened 1-4 but closed with NINE wins in its last 11 games and of course, has Brett Favre. The trouble with that argument is, Green Bay will enter the playoffs with statistically one of the worst pass defenses to ever reach the postseason! Green Bay allowed 33 TD passes in 2004, while making just EIGHT interceptions. The team's 15 takeaways tied with St Louis for a league-low and if not for the Rams' ridiculous minus-24 ratio, Green Bay's minus-14 turnover ratio would be the worst of any playoff team....

The NFC's top-two records belong to the 13-3 Eagles and the 11-5 Falcons but those two teams have each lost their last two games. That doesn't bode well for either team, as only the 1967 Green Bay Packers and the 1972 Washington Redskins have made it to the Super Bowl after losing their final two regular season games!...

The Falcons lost on Sunday at Seattle, 28-26. Vick, held out of the team's 26-13 Week 16 loss to the Saints, threw just seven passes in this one before leaving in the second quarter. He left complaining about numbness in his passing hand, leaving Falcon fans holding their collective breath. It's hard to take the Falcons too seriously when looking at the way they finished the year. Over their final five games they lost 27-0 at Tampa Bay, defeated 5-11 Oakland at home, edged Carolina at home in OT, lost by 13 at New Orleans and then lost by two at Seattle....

Atlanta scored on the game's final play at Seattle, closing to 28-26 but failed to convert on a two-point conversion attempt. The Falcons finished the season with 340 points scored and 337 points allowed. If they had failed to score on Sunday's final play, they would have lost 28-20 and finished the year with 334 points scored and 337 points allowed. I mention that because that would have made them the first team in NFL history (since the league expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978) to have completed a season with exactly 11 wins (62 have done it, including Atlanta!) while allowing more points than they scored!...

The Eagles opened the season with the stigma of having lost three consecutive NFC title games. However, with the addition of T.O. and the great play of McNabb (plus a typically stout Jim Johnson-coached defense), the Eagles were CLEARLY the best of a weak NFC (and arguably in the class of New England and Pittsburgh), as they entered their Week 15 game with Dallas at 12-1....

T.O. got hurt in that game and although Philly rallied to win 12-7 and move to 13-1, the Eagles have PLAYED SCARED in the season's final two weeks. Resting most of their starters in a Week 16 Monday Night game at St Louis, the Eagles lost 20-7. They "threw in the towel" again in Week 17, losing 38-10 at home to the Bengals....

Can the NFC's only LEGITIMATE team, re-group? The Eagles of course have a bye this week and will get either the Vikings or the winner of the St Louis-Seattle game at home in two weeks. Assuming they win, they'll play in their FOURTH consecutive NFC Championship Game on January 23, hosting it for the third straight year....

RIDDLE ME THIS?...Would losing four consecutive NFC Championship Games (three at home!) be considered worse than the Buffalo Bills losing four consecutive Super Bowls?....


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