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NFL 2013, A First Look (Part 2)

   by Larry Ness - 08/14/2013

I noted in part 1 of this three-part article that since the NFL expanded its playoff field to include 12 teams beginning in the 1990 season, there have been an average of 6.2 teams per season returning the playoffs from the prior season, leaving an average of 5.8 "newbie" teams. In part three of my article (out on Saturday), I'll predict all 12 playoff teams for 2013 plus list a my favorite team over/under season win totals.

The NFL expanded to an even 32 teams with the addition of the Houston Texans for the 2002 season and the league enters its 12th season comprised of four, four-team divisions in each the AFC and NFC. The Colts and Patriots have been the most consistent playoff participants in that span, each appearing in NINE of the last 11 postseasons. However, it's the defending champion Baltimore Ravens who own the longest active streak, having made the postseason in FIVE consecutive years!

The Ravens have made the postseason seven times since the 2002 season, joined by the Eagles, Giants and Steelers. The Pats won Super Bowls following the 2003 and 2004 seasons but lost following the 2007 and 2011 seasons, each time to the Giants. The Steelers join the Giants and Pats as the only two-time Super Bowl winners since 2002, winning following the 2005 and 2008 seasons. The Colts won their only Super Bowl since moving to Indianapolis after the 2006 season and despite seven postseason trips since 2002, the Eagles are still looking for the first Super Bowl title in team history.

The only franchise to ever appear in four consecutive Super Bowls (following the 1990-93 seasons), the Buffalo Bills, will enter the 2013 season with the longest active playoff drought of any team, having not made the postseason since 1999. That's 13 consecutive playoff 'misses.' Next in line for futility are the Cleveland Browns and Oakland Raiders, each with 10 straight non-playoff years.

It's a 'safe bet' that neither of the above three teams (all in the AFC) will be playing in January 2014 this season, either (Week 17 of this year's NFL season is Sunday, December 29). The NFC team with the longest playoff drought is the St Louis Rams and despite improving from 2-14 in 2011 to 7-8-1 (not to mention going 11-5 ATS) in Jeff Fisher's first year as head coach in 2012, don't expect the Rams to be around in January, either (NFC West has become one tough division).

Seattle was the only team to stay unbeaten at home in 2012 (8-0), although Atlanta, Green Bay and Minnesota in the NFC plus Denver and Indianapolis in the AFC, all came close by going 7-1. At the other end of the spectrum, Arizona, Cleveland Jacksonville and Kansas City all went 1-7 on the road, with Jacksonville and Kansas City each going 1-7 at home, as well, tying for the NFL's worst record in 2012 at 2-14.

Indy, St Louis, Seattle and Washington all went 11-5 ATS, with Tampa Bay going 10-5-1. At the losing end of the pointspread spectrum were the Eagles (2-13-1 ATS) plus KC and Oakland (each at 5-11 ATS). The Pats (34.8 PPG) saw 11 of their 16 games go over and the Broncos (30.1 PPG) went 10-5-1 to the over, despite owning the AFC's stingiest defense (18.1 PPG).

The Giants (26.8 PPG) and the Falcons (26.2 PGG) each saw 11 of their 16 games go under, matching the Dolphins (also 11-5 to the under), who averaged only 18.0 PPG. The Seahawks gave up the fewest points (15.3 PPG) but were 8-8 vs the over/under line, while the Bears allowed the second-fewest points (17.3 PPG), going 9-7 in favor of the over.

Check back Saturday for my "fearless" 2013 predictions.

Good luck...Larry

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