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Coming Soon: NFL 2005
by Larry Ness - 07/07/2005
New England's 24-21 win over Philadelphia in SB XXXIX gave the Pats back-to-back Super Bowl titles. New England became the seventh franchise to claim consecutive Super Bowl wins (Pittsburgh did it twice) and joined Dallas as the only franchises to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span.
The Patriots can't avoid the dynasty tag these days. However, while New England still must be considered the league's best team heading into the new season, the Patriots did lose both their offensive and defensive coordinators.
No team in the Super Bowl era has ever won three straight championships and in NFL history, only Lombardi's Green Bay Packers have won three consecutive titles. Green Bay won the NFL title in 1965 and then won the first two Super Bowls, following NFL title-game wins in the 1966 and 1967 seasons.
As for Philadelphia, the Eagles finally broke their NFC title-game hex, beating the Falcons 27-10 in the NFC Championship Game, where they had lost the three previous years. The Eagles are easily the NFC's best team again this year but they are facing the fact that four straight and five of the last six Super Bowl losers have failed to post winning records the following year!
It's not easy these days to make the playoffs year in and year out. New England has won three Super Bowls in four years but in 2002, the Pats failed to even reach the postseason. Only three franchises have made it to the postseason in each of the last three years. Philadelphia tops the list with five straight playoff appearances, followed by Green Bay (four straight) and Indianapolis (three straight).
The Bengals own the longest playoff drought, having last been to the postseason in 1990. They'll enter the 2005 season with a stretch of 14 consecutive playoff-less years. Behind Cincinnati is Arizona with six straight non-playoff seasons. Buffalo, Detroit, Jacksonville and Washington have each missed the postseason the last five years.
The San Diego Chargers ended an eight-year playoff drought last season, by improving from 4-12 in 2003 to 12-4 in 2004. A turnaround like the Chargers experienced last year has not exactly become the norm but it's not a rarity these days either.
Over a five-year period (2000-04), 25 of the 60 playoff participants (41.7 percent) have been teams that were .500 or worse the year before. Along with San Diego last year, Atlanta (from 5-11 to 11-5), the New York Jets (6-10 to 10-6) and Pittsburgh (6-10 to 15-1!) all made the playoffs coming off a non-winning season.
What can we expect in 2005? I'll begin my NFL previews on Monday, August 8 (the day of the Hall of Fame Game). I'll post my MLB mid-season update during the All Star break and on Monday, July 18, I'll begin three weeks of college football previews (every Monday, Wednesday and Friday).
A look back at some important 'numbers' from the 2004 season:
The 2004 season may be best remembered as the year Peyton Manning re-wrote the record book with his passing exploits (he threw a record 49 TD passes while compiling a single-season record 121.1 passer rating). However, running the football effectively was still the key factor when it came to winning games, both SU and ATS.
Teams that outrushed their opponents in a game last year finished 183-72 SU and 171-48-6 ATS (that's a winning percentage of 68.7 percent). Teams with the most rushing attempts in a game 'covered' at a better than 70 percent rate!
There were 179 100-yard rushing games in the 2004 season. The previous single-season high was 151 such games in 2003. Teams that featured a 100-yard rusher went 134-45 SU and 127-49-3 ATS. That's winning percenatges of 74.9 SU and 72.2 ATS.
A quick comparison shows that teams with 300-yard pasing efforts went 36-45 SU in 2004 and a pathetic 29-50-2 ATS (36.7 percent)!
NFL 2005 is just around the corner.