WHAT TO LOOK FOR – DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS
VIEW FROM THE TOP: Since the NFL moved to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, No. 1 seeds in the NFC are 19-4 (.826) in the Divisional Playoffs. In the AFC, the No. 1 seed has compiled a 13-10 (.565) record.
Both No. 1 seeds are in action this weekend when the top-seeded Seattle Seahawks host the New Orleans Saints in the NFC and the No. 1-seed Denver Broncos face the San Diego Chargers in the AFC.
The No. 1 seeds in Divisional-round play since 1990:
AFC NO. 1 SEED
NFC NO. 1 SEED
Defeated Miami 44-34
Defeated Washington 28-10
Defeated Kansas City 37-14
Defeated Atlanta 24-7
Lost to Buffalo 24-3
Defeated Washington 20-13
Defeated L.A. Raiders 29-23
Defeated Green Bay 27-17
Defeated Cleveland 29-9
Defeated Chicago 44-15
Lost to Indianapolis 10-7
Defeated Philadelphia 30-11
Lost to Jacksonville 30-27
Defeated San Francisco 35-14
Lost to Denver 14-10
Defeated Minnesota 38-22
Defeated Miami 38-3
Defeated Arizona 41-21
Defeated Miami 62-7
Defeated Minnesota 49-37
Lost to Baltimore 24-10
Defeated Philadelphia 20-10
Defeated Baltimore 27-10
Defeated Green Bay 45-17
Defeated N.Y. Jets 30-10
Defeated Atlanta 20-6
Defeated Tennessee 17-14
Defeated Green Bay 20-17 (OT)
Defeated N.Y. Jets 20-17 (OT)
Defeated Minnesota 27-14
Lost to Pittsburgh 21-18
Defeated Washington 20-10
Lost to New England 24-21
Defeated Seattle 27-24 (OT)
Defeated Jacksonville 31-20
Lost to N.Y. Giants 21-17
Lost to Baltimore 13-10
Lost to Philadelphia 23-11
Defeated Baltimore 20-3
Defeated Arizona 45-14
Lost to N.Y. Jets 28-21
Lost to Green Bay 48-21
Defeated Denver 45-10
Lost to N.Y. Giants 37-20
Lost to Baltimore 38-35 (2OT)
Defeated Seattle 30-28
-- NFL --
FIRST-ROUND BYES: The top seeds – SEATTLE (13-3, NFC No. 1 seed), DENVER (13-3, AFC No. 1 seed), CAROLINA (12-4, NFC No. 2 seed) and NEW ENGLAND (12-4, AFC No. 2 seed) – earned first-round byes and will be featured in this weekend’s Divisional Playoffs.
Two of the four top seeds rank among the teams with the most first-round byes since the 12-team playoff format was adopted in 1990. New England (nine) has the most, while Denver (six) has the fourth-most since 1990.
The teams with the most first-round byes since 1990:
NUMBER OF FIRST-ROUND BYES SINCE 1990
New England Patriots
San Francisco 49ers
-- NFL --
CHAMPIONSHIP GOAL: This Saturday, SAN FRANCISCO (13-4, NFC No. 5 seed) will travel to take on CAROLINA (12-4, NFC No. 2 seed) in a rematch of their Week 10 game when the Panthers defeated the 49ers 10-9 at Candlestick Park.
With a victory against Carolina, San Francisco would advance to its 15th NFC Championship Game, which would tie PITTSBURGH (15) for the most appearances in a Conference Championship Game since 1970.
NEW ENGLAND is tied for fifth on the all-time list with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams and can move into sole possession of fifth place with a win against Indianapolis on Saturday. This would be New England’s third consecutive appearance in the AFC Championship Game.
The teams with the most appearances in a Conference Championship Game since 1970:
MOST APPEARANCES IN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP
San Francisco 49ers*
L.A./St. Louis Rams
New England Patriots**
*At Carolina Sunday ** Host Indianapolis Saturday
-- NFL --
PASSING GREATS: New England quarterback TOM BRADY has thrown 42 career postseason touchdown passes, the third most in NFL postseason history. He trails BRETT FAVRE (44) and Pro Football Hall of Famer JOE MONTANA (45) for the most in NFL history.
With four TD passes against Indianapolis on Saturday, Brady would surpass Favre and Montana for the most postseason TD passes in NFL history.
Denver quarterback PEYTON MANNING (32) is tied for fourth on the all-time list with Pro Football Hall of Famer DAN MARINO and can surpass him with one TD pass against San Diego on Sunday.
The starting quarterbacks with the most postseason TD passes in NFL history:
MOST POSTSEASON TD PASSES
-- NFL --
ROCKET MANNING: Denver quarterback PEYTON MANNING ranks fourth in NFL postseason history with 5,679 passing yards.
With 177 yards on Sunday against San Diego, Manning can surpass Montana (5,772) and Favre (5,855) for the second-most passing yards in postseason history.
Brady holds the record for most postseason passing yards (5,949) and can extend his lead Saturday against Indianapolis.
The players with the most postseason passing yards in NFL history:
MOST POSTSEASON PASSING YARDS
-- NFL --
KAEP IT OFF: San Francisco quarterback COLIN KAEPERNICK has 362 career postseason rushing yards, the fifth-most rushing yards by a QB in postseason history. Kaepernick has averaged 90.5 yards-per-game in his four playoff games, the highest yards-per-game average by a QB in NFL history (minimum four games).
With 71 rushing yards Sunday at Carolina, Kaepernick can surpass DONOVAN MCNABB (422) and Pro Football Hall of Famer ROGER STAUBACH (432) for the third-most rushing yards by a QB in NFL postseason history.
The quarterbacks with the most postseason rushing yards in NFL history:
YARDS PER GAME
-- NFL --
HEAD OF THE CLASS: New England Patriots head coach BILL BELICHICK has compiled an 18-8 (.692) record in his postseason career. Belichick has the third-most playoff wins in NFL history, trailing only Pro Football Hall of FamersTOM LANDRY (20) and DON SHULA (19).
With a win against Indianapolis on Saturday, Belichick would tie Shula (19) for second place on the all-time wins list.
The head coaches with the most playoff wins in NFL history:
MOST PLAYOFF WINS
Baltimore Colts, Miami Dolphins
Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick is famed for cleverly disguising defenses.
The famously dour coach apparently also has a way to cleverly disguise his own identity: by smiling.
A funny story today in New Hampshire's Seacoast Online reports that a smiling Bill Belichick actually confused a New England woman named Natalie Healy, the mother of New Hampshire Navy SEAL Daniel Healy, who died in Afghanistan in 2005.
He's one of the SEALs portrayed in the new movie "Lone Survivor."
Jeff McMenemy of Seacoast Online writes that Natalie Healy was at a reception for the movie in Hingham, Mass. when she went up to a man sitting at a table and said:
"Excuse me sir you look kind of familiar. Were you in the movie?' and they all started laughing,” Healy recalled.
“So Mark (Wahlberg) said, no that's Coach (Bill) Belichick from the New England Patriots, so then they fell over (laughing).
"Healy then replied, “'Oh I'm so sorry sir, I didn't recognize you because you were smiling so much,' and they fell over again.”
We created the Cold, Hard Football Facts Intelligence Index before the start of the season with two purposes in mind:
ONE – Quantify the importance of situational football, if possible, in separating winners from losers in the NFL.
TWO – Find a new way to break the statistical containment of the Vegas point spread and outrun the betting public.
It proved a rousing success: smart teams consistently won and won big; dumb teams consistently lost and lost big.
In the meantime, here are the year-end results.
Final 2013 Intelligence Index
Following his collapse in the AFC WildCard loss to San Diego, Andy Dalton enters the final year of his rookie contract 0-3 in the postseason with one touchdown, six interceptions and a lost fumble in those three games.
The CHFF's warned of the turnover issue following Week 12, when the Bengals were 7-4 and Dalton was unphased, coming off a span of nine picks in four games.
"I'm a lot better than I was the last two years. There's some things that I've done this year that I didn't do the last couple of years. For me, I've got to keep improving and keep trying to get better."
To be fair, Dalton is on pace to break his career high 27 touchdown passes and the Bengals are 7-4, comfortably atop the AFC North.
For the Bengals to thrive in the last leg of the season and postseason, Dalton will have to cut back on the turnovers.
Dalton did indeed break his career high in touchdown passes, setting the franchise mark with 33. But Bengals fans are looking long and hard at Dalton and head coach Marvin Lewis.
Such is life for the team that hasn't won a playoff game since Home Alone was the No. 1 movie at the box office.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is one of the most dominant players in NFL history, and about to win his record fifth NFL Most Valuable Player award.
As you might imagine, few teams have had enjoyed much success against him.
But as we noted today in our look at the Ghosts That Haunt Manning's Postseason Soul, he's had little success against the remaining AFC playoff field.
In fact, Manning is 14-21 in his career against the Patriots, Chargers and Colts. Interestingly, he was nearly perfect, at 19-1, against the two teams, the Chiefs and Bengals, bounced from the AFC playoffs in the wildcard round.
The Patriots have bested Manning 14 times, easily the most losses he's suffered against any NFL team.
The Chargers are a respectable 6-7 vs. Manning, and are the only team that's a perfect 2-0 against his teams in the playoffs.
The Colts, meanwhile, have faced their former face-of-the-franchise QB only once. But Indy won that game, 39-33, back in Week 7. It was Denver's first loss of the 2013 regular season after a 6-0 start.
Manning's 13-3 Broncos went 1-3 against the three other remaining AFC playoff contenders during the 2013 regular season.
We look at his record vs. every NFL team below. We break it out by conference, because the number of games against the AFC is so much greater than the number of games against the NFC. Records include postseason, too. We also break out postseason record separately.
Manning Career Record vs. AFC (includes playoffs)
|Total vs. AFC||133||63||0.679|
Manning Career Record vs. NFC (includes playoffs)
|Total vs. NFC||43||21||0.672|
Manning Career Postseason Record
By: Michael Quinn
Cold, Hard Football Facts Eagles Expert (@PJbleedsgreen)
Two numbers that are burned into the heads of Eagles fans for months to come. It was a close game, surprisingly, even after the Saints took a commanding 13 point lead.
The game went a little different than the normal 2013 script. Nick Foles (105.0 QBR) was automatic as usual, but LeSean McCoy struggled early and often. On 21 carries (averaged 19 during 2013) McCoy only managed 77 yards. The lack of production could be due to the offensive line, which was no match for New Orleans' lackluster defensive line.
DeSean Jackson was a non-factor until the second half, and even then, his biggest contribution was drawing a pass-interfence late in the game.
Riley Cooper, who was one of the regular season heroes, was the team's leading receiver on the night despite a bad (I mean BAD) drop on 3rd-and-2.
The defense played pretty well in the first half, intercepting Drew Brees twice. Unfortunately, the offense wasn't able to score any points off of the only turnovers of the game.
In terms of coaching, Chip Kelly, as he has all year, made a couple questionable calls. There was a bad timeout taken, and of course his knack to go for it on fourth down. Though one fourth down resulted in a touchdown, another fourth down conversion later turned into a intentional grounding followed up by a huge sack by Foles. Instead of kicking it at the 20 or 25, Alex Henery (82% on the year, tied for 22nd) was forced to kick from 47-yards out. By now, we all know how that went.
Had Kelly not gone for it on fourth down, it would have been a chip shot. Instead, the trouble kicker missed yet another field goal, and likely lost his job in the process.
With all the rocky play from Saturday night, the Eagles have a lot of good to take out of it. First of all, being down 13 points in the second half of his first playoff game, Nick Foles kept his head cool and brought his team back into control and actually had the lead, 21-20 (their first lead in a Playoff game since 2008). That's not something you can always find in even a Pro Bowl quarterback, much less a second-year former third-rounder.
Second, the defense is clearly on the rise. Despite seemingly collapsing in the second half, players like Brandon Boykin, Fletcher Cox and Mychal Kendricks are clearly mainstays on the unit.
Last, and maybe most importantly, Chip's gameplan worked. Before the season got started, analysts and experts were split -- it would be hit or miss. After the first thirty minutes, we all knew it was a hit. Kelly's offense not only came as advertised, it broke just about every franchise record that previously stood. Sure Kelly is 0-1 in the postseason, but at least he made it there his first year.
You can blame the Eagles Wildcard loss to the Saints on a variety of things. But in the end, they surprised the entire nation this year. The team, coaches, and fans for that matter, have a whole lot to be proud of.
Between finding your franchise quarterback, and of course beating out the Cowboys for the NFC East title, this year wasn't that bad at all. As long as Nick Foles and Chip Kelly stay on the same page headed into the 2014 season, they can and likely will find all the success in the world.
The Philadelphia Eagles are flying high and will be ready for 2014.
Dallas owner and general manager of the 8-8 Cowboys (three years running) thinks the NFL should add four more playoff teams so that .500 teams and their cities can benefit from the playoffs. Okay then.
"From the standpoint of looking at how exciting it is for a city or a community to be involved in the playoffs and the fact that you can have a team that might have literally operated at .500 or in that area ... you can have that team win the Super Bowl. That makes a big case for adding a couple of more cities or communities that have NFL teams to the playoffs.
"It just creates that much more excitement and that much more interest for people in those communities. So I fall on the side of the ledger that would increase the playoffs."
Even if the NFL added four more playoff teams (two in each conference), Dallas would be on the outside looking in.
Kind of like the view from the AT&T owner's box where torment and disappointment reign every season in Big D.
At this point, Jerry is closing in on Al Davis' late years on the NFL senility scale.
It's Wild Card Weekend and three of the four host teams are facing blackouts.
The NFL extended the Thursday afternoon deadlines by which all tickets must be sold to Friday afternoon. As of this typing, the Bengals, Colts and Packers still haven't sold out their stadium.
As accurately pointed out by Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, this is a black eye for the league, not the host teams and cities.
No, the possibility of a blackout is not an embarrassment for the city of Indianapolis, any more than it's an embarrassment for Cincinnati or Green Bay (which has sold out every game since 1959, except for a 1983 playoff game during the strike-shortened year).
It's an embarrassment for the NFL, which continues to handle postseason tickets in a way that makes it too difficult to sell out stadiums for the country's most beloved and popular sport.
It's an embarrassment for a league that only had two blackouts all season, and hasn't had a playoff blackout since 2002.
It's an embarrassment, a black eye, for the NFL, which overprices playoff tickets.
Factor in the HD TV experience, the holidays and the fact that host teams didn't have an opponent until the final week of the season. Colts Vice President of Ticket Operations/Guest Services Larry Hall has more input:
"This is what the league wanted: a 17th week that meant so much to so many teams. The problem is, we didn't know until halftime of the Sunday night game who we were playing and what date and time."
If the host venues don't sell out for this weekend's Wild Card round, it will be a slap in the face to the fans of the host cities. Taxpayers subsidized the stadiums in Indianapolis and Cincinnati and paid for the renovations to Lambeau Field.
So the Average Joe Taxpayer who helped fund stadiums in his home city won't get to watch the game unless he spends hundreds more dollars on a ticket. What a crock of manure.
In the summer of 2012, we wrote about the NFL's attendance problem.
Here's the problem, folks: Television ratings are better than ever and overall NFL revenue is the envy of the sports world. But the league is facing big trouble at the ticket window. NFL attendance has steadily declined since peaking in 2007. It hit bottom in 2011.
The NFL must do something dramatic to bring the Great American Couch Potato back into the arena. After all, that home experience, which generates such great ratings and great revenue for the league, will lose quite a bit of its appeal if fans suddenly find themselves watching games played in silent, half-empty mausoleums.
The question is: what can the NFL do, other than lower ticket prices?
On its current path, NFL home games will be played in stadiums with simulated crowd noise and fans. At that point, what will The League do to make up for the lost revenue?
My guess: make TV viewers pay subscription fees to offset the losses.
Maybe the NFL will try to regulate fantasy football.
Whatever the case, the bad news for the league will in turn be worse news for fans. At least, that's the precedent the league has already set by threatening to black out home playoff games.
UPDATE: 12:50 PM ET - The Green Bay Packers have avoided the blackout and sold out Lambeau Field.
The Chicago Bears signed Jay Cutler to a seven year contract extension. This Bears fan photo sums up the collective reaction.
To Cutler's credit, he's saying and doing the right things off the field. From the Chicago Tribune:
Asked about the size of the deal and whether he could have pursued more money elsewhere, Cutler said, "You get to the point where it's, 'What's the most important part of your career? ... Dollars? ... Championships?' We're here to win.
"We reached the amount of money that we're going to be taken care of. ... Whether it’s $15 million or it’s $22 million, it’s hard to spend all that in your lifetime."
Now it's a matter of doing the right things on the field for Cutler.
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