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Wild Card Recap

   by Larry Ness - 01/10/2005

Three road teams won this past weekend for the first time since the NFL expanded its wild card round to include eight teams and four games! That's just ONE of the many highlights and lowlights from the weekend. Read on....

Home teams have DOMINATED the NFL wild card round since 1990, winning 41 of the 56 games played prior to this weekend. Collectively, wild card road teams had never done better than the 2-2 marks they posted in the back-to-back seasons of 1991 and 1992. In the other 12 years, home teams went 3-1 in 11 wild card rounds and were a perfect 4-0 in 2000....

However, this past weekend, only the Indianapolis Colts delivered a win for the home fans! Minnesota, the New York Jets and Saint Louis all won on the road. The Rams and Vikings became the first 8-8 teams to ever win a postseason game, which draws even more attention to what I called the "NFC Mess" last Monday....

The Colts' 25-point win as well as the 73 points scored in their game somewhat skewered the game averages (51.3 PPG) and the average margin of victory (12.3 PPG) of the wild card games. Still, the fact remains that this year's average margin of victory makes it the SIXTH consecutive season in which wild card games have been decided by an average of at least 10 PPG! After averaging 55.3 PPG in 2002 and 46.8 PPG in 2003, this year's average of 51.3 PPG (it was 44 PPG without Denver-Indy) continued the trend of fairly high-scoring games....

One of the major storylines entering last weekend's games was that in the St Louis-Seattle game and the Minnesota-Green Bay game, the Rams and Packers were trying to beat their opponents for the third time this season. The Rams were able to complete the three-game sweep, the Packers were not. Last weekend's results make teams trying to complete a same-season, three-game series sweep in the postseason, 11-6 SU and 8-8-1 ATS!...

In the two other games, the Jets' 20-17 overtime win over the Chargers was their second win this year over San Diego. The Jets also won 34-28 at San Diego in Week 2. As for the Colts, their 49-24 win over the Broncos avenged their 33-17 loss just last week in Denver. The Colts' meeting with the Broncos marked the 13th time in NFL history that clubs have met in the playoffs the week after they ended the regular season against each other. With the Colts win, only FIVE times has the team that won the last regular season game won the follow-up playoff game!...

Looking ahead to next week's Divisional Round, familiarity of opponents once again takes center stage. In the AFC, the Jets visit Pittsburgh and the Colts visit New England. The Jets lost to the Steelers in Pittsburgh in Week 14 (17-6), while the Colts lost in New England to the Patriots (27-24) way back on September 9, in the NFL's 2004 season-opener. Of course, Indianapolis also lost last year's AFC Championship Game in New England 24-14, with Manning throwing four interceptions....

In the NFC, the Rams visit Atlanta and the Vikings go to Philadelphia. The Falcons beat the Rams in Atlanta 34-17 in Week 3 and on a Monday Night game in Week 2, the Eagles beat the Vikings 27-16 in Philadelphia. The rams get a break by playing in a dome and of course the Vikings get the Eagles minus T.O.! Could if be two 8-8 teams meeting in the NFC Championship Game on January 23?...

I'll preview the NFL's Divisional Round on Friday and will take a look at the current college and pro basketball seasons in Wednesday's Ness Notes....

CLOSING NOTES....Chris Berman still seems confused regarding Randy Moss. What's so confusing? The guy's a MORON and there is little anyone can (or will) do about it. If Minnesota no longer wants to put up with him, there are 31 other teams waiting for the opportunity. Don't think so? All one has to do is remember back to last off-season and the T.O. situation. I think Berman is great but his problem is that he thinks covering the NFL is akin to covering the "Last Supper"!...

A question for Berman and his partner Tom Jackson...."Will you EVER criticize Brett Favre, or does he own a "lifetime exemption"? Favre's RIDICULOUS play at the end of the first half may have cost his team a chance to win? Replays show Favre could have likely run for a first down at the two-yard line but instead "underhanded" a pass after he had gone past the line of scrimmage....

Now one can never know what a person knew or didn't know but Favre's "smiles" gave me the "feeling" he knew he was over the line. What's so funny about that? The Packers could have closed to 24-17 at the half and who knows how the game would have gone from there?...

If some other QB had made that play, Berman and Jackson (not to mention Sean Salisbury!) would have been ALL OVER them and rightly so! However with Favre, they talk in "hushed tones"! Maybe it is time for Brett to retire? After all, Berman and Jackson CAN'T IGNORE these numbers! Favre has now lost FOUR of his last five playoff games, throwing for seven TD passes and 14 interceptions!...

Marty Schottenheimer was named NFL Coach of the Year on Saturday and celebrated by losing his 12th playoff game in 17 tries. It was also the EIGHTH time in 12 playoff appearances his team had lost its first game! As Marty said in the post-game conference, "I've been through this before"....

The Seahawks' loss on Saturday to the Rams was the team's SIXTH straight playoff loss, an NFL record they share with five other franchises! I noticed the NY Giants on that list, with six straight playoff losses from 1939-1950 and it got me to thinking (and checking)....

Back then, the only playoff game was the NFL Championship Game! Did the Giants really lose six straight title games? NO, but they came close. The Giants actually lost four NFL title games during that stretch, as well as two conference playoffs. INCREDIBLY, the Giants were outscored in those six losses by the combined score of 138-33!...

I guess compared to the Giants, the Seattle franchise shouldn't feel so bad! For that matter, nor should the Buffalo Bills, which lost four consecutive Super Bowls but won NINE straight playoff games (including four AFC title games), just to get there!...




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