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Friday, January 6

   by Larry Ness - 01/06/2006

The NFL regular season ended last weekend with 11 teams finishing with at least 11 wins, the most in any single year since the league adopted a 16-game schedule in 1978. The 10-6 KC Chiefs became just the 4th 10-win team not to make the playoffs since 1990, the year when the NFL expanded to its current 12-team postseason format.

The Philadelphia Eagles became the 5th straight Super Bowl loser to finish the following season with a losing record (6-10) and the team's failure to make the postseason in 2005, ended the NFL's longest current playoff streak (five) of any franchise. Green Bay finished just 4-12, ending the league's second-longest streak (four). That leaves the Colts, who finished with a league-best 14-2 mark, with the league's longest current postseason run, at four straight years.

The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC North with an 11-5 mark, ending the league's longest current playoff drought at 14 consecutive playoff-less seasons. The new 'leader' in that department is the Arizona Cardinals, who have failed to make the playoffs for seven straight years.

My free play for Friday is on the Tor Raptors over the Hou Rockets at 7:05 ET. It's a large 13-game card in tonight's NBA but I see just one STAND-OUT play. It's tonight's ESPN matchup between Miami/Phoenix. Get it now with my full analysis. Check back for my NFL wild card round selections at around 6:00 ET.

The Bengals were the only new division winner in the AFC this year. Denver (West), Indianapolis (South) and New England (East) all won their respective divisions last year too. Pittsburgh (won the North in 2004) is back as a wild card team in 2005, leaving 12-4 Jacksonville (1st playoff appearance since 1999) as the only playoff newcomer from last year's group.

In the NFC it is a much different picture. Seattle (West) is the only repeat division-winner, as Chicago (North), New York (East) and Tampa Bay (South) all failed to make last year's postseason. Both of this year's NFC wild card teams (Carolina and Washington) missed the playoffs last season, meaning that FIVE of the NFC's six playoff teams in 2005, were absent from last year postseason.

Overall, SEVEN of this year's playoff-field of 12, did NOT participate in last year's postseason!

Looking ahead, it's important to note that NONE of the last 30 Super Bowl slots (since the playoffs were expanded to a 12-team playoff-filed in 1990) have gone to teams seeded fifth or sixth. In fact, just two No. 5 seeds (Indy in '95 and Jax in '96) have ever made it as far as the conference championship game.

Of the 30 Super Bowl participants, 25 spots have been filled by either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed but interestingly enough, the Super Bowl hasn't featured a matchup of No. 1 seeds from both conferences in 12 years (Dallas/Buffalo in SB XXVIII)!

As of Friday morning, here are the playoff lines and totals. In Saturday's games, Tampa Bay is favored by 2 1/2 points over Washington at home with a total of 37 and New England is a 7 1/2-point home favorite over Jacksonville with a total of 37. The New York Giants are 2 1/2-point favorites in the Meadowlands against Carolina on Sunday (total is 43 1/2), while Pittsburgh is a three-point road favorite at Cincinnati (total is 46 1/2.) An interesting pointspread note this weekend is that since 1978, home 'dogs' are 8-1 ATS in the Wild Card round but as we all know, home dogs were an abysmal 29-48-4 in 2005!

Final NFL Notes

Interestingly, the 9-7 Miami Dolphins (a non-playoff team) ended the regular season with the league's longest winning streak (six games). The Washington Redskins' five-game winning streak is tops among playoff participants. Minnesota's 34-10 Week 17 win over Chicago gave them a 9-7 record. The Vikings finished the year as the NFL's lone winning team to have allowed more points (344) than they scored (306). Conversely, no losing team was able to score more points that it allowed.

Indy finished with the league's best record (14-2) with Houston finishing with its worst (2-14). Seattle was the league's top-scoring team (28.3 PPG) and KC its top offensive team, averaging 387.0 YPG. Cleveland was the league's lowest-scoring team (14.5 PPG) and San Francisco its least productive according to yards gained (224.2 YPG). Chicago was the league's stingiest team allowing 12.6 PPG and Tampa Bay allowed the fewest yards (277.8 YPG). Houston allowed the most points (26.9 PPG) and San Francisco the most yards (391.2 YPG).

Seattle and Denver were the only teams to go undefeated at home, with Seattle posting a 6-2 ATS mark and Denver going 5-2-1. The worst home record belonged to Houston at 2-6 SU and ATS. Indy was the league's best road team at 7-1, going 6-1-1 or 6-2 ATS (depending how one graded the team's 26-18 win at Jax in Week 14). The Jets (1-7 ATS), Ravens (2-6 ATS) and Texans (5-3 ATS) all finished 0-8 SU on the road.

Ness Notes is available Monday through Friday by 1:00 ET and Saturday and Sunday at 7:00 ET.

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