Matter of Facts: Week 17 Statistical Onslaught

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Dec 26, 2013

by: Russell Baxter
Cold Hard Football Facts' Fact Producer (@BaxFootballGuru)

I can hardly stand it.

There are only 16 more regular-season games to go in the NFL season but lots to still be decided.

All four division titles in the AFC are secure while none of them have been decided in the NFC.

We could (could) have an 8-8 playoff team in the AFC while the Arizona Cardinals could (could) win 11 games and be on the outside looking in when it comes to the other conference.

And two divisions, the NFC East and NFC North, each have winner-take-all contests to see who’s moving on.

It is exciting stuff for any number of reasons.

And speaking of numbers…

Sunday, Dec. 29

Baltimore (8-7) at Cincinnati (10-5): We have yet to see a season in which head coach John Harbaugh and quarterback Joe Flacco were not in the playoffs. But that may become a reality sooner than later as the defending Super Bowl champions find themselves on the verge of not getting a chance for a Super Bowl repeat. The AFC North champion Bengals still have a shot at getting the No. 2 seed in the AFC if they beat Baltimore and the New England Patriots lose to the Buffalo Bills at Foxborough. As we know these days, anything is certainly possible…

Buffalo (6-9) at New England (11-4): Finishing last in the AFC East has become commonplace for the Bills, who could be headed that way once again. But there is definitely some promise on the roster with rookies such as quarterback EJ Manuel, middle linebacker Kiko Alonso and wideout Robert Woods. And guess which team leads the NFL with 56 sacks? But beating the Patriots has almost become a lost art for Buffalo as Bill Belichick’s team continues to dominate this series and the AFC East. A win earns at least a first-round bye for New England…

Carolina (11-4) at Atlanta (4-11): With a win at the Georgia Dome on Sunday, the Panthers will capture the NFC South and complete their amazing comeback after a 1-3 start. But Carolina has dropped five straight road games in this series and as we saw Monday night, Mike Smith’s team doesn’t plan on going down without a fight. However, the Falcons are dealing with a team that has given up a mere 19 touchdowns in 15 games this season, as well as a league-low 221 points. And let’s give Falcons’ tight end Tony Gonzalez a standing ovation for a career well done…

Cleveland (4-11) at Pittsburgh (7-8): Another year and another downer for the Browns, who have now lost at least 11 games in six straight seasons since their surprising 10-6 finish in 2007. Meanwhile, there’s still playoff life for the Black and Gold, who outlasted the Packers last Sunday in one of the season’s most entertaining games. Very quietly, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has put together a solid year, his 27 touchdown passes (12 interceptions) the second-highest total of his 10-year career. But can the Steelers actually be playoff-bound after a 0-4 start?

Denver (12-3) at Oakland (4-11): John Fox’s team is 18 points away from setting a new NFL record for scoring in a season and 28 points from reaching the 600-point mark. And now that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (5,211) now owns the all-time record for touchdown passes in a season (51), he’s kind of taking aim at Drew Brees’ record (5,476) for passing yards. We’re not sure what the Raiders are taking aim at. But head coach Dennis Allen may be squirming by year’s end as his record with the Silver and Black now stands at a very dismal 8-23…

Detroit (7-8) at Minnesota (4-10-1): It wasn’t long ago that some Lions fans were making playoff reservations as Jim Schwartz’s club appeared to be seizing control of the NFC North. But a funny thing happened on the way to the postseason forum in the form of five losses in six games. Now the Packers and Bears will battle for a division title while the Lions are headed home. But before that, there’s a little side trip to the Metrodome and a clash vs. a Minnesota team that went from 10 wins to 10 losses in a year and is giving up the most points in the league…

Green Bay (7-7-1) at Chicago (8-7): It wasn’t long ago that the Packers and Bears were both trailing the Lions in the NFC North and both teams were without their starting quarterbacks. Green Bay has gone through four different signal-callers this season and Chicago two. But it’s Jay Cutler who will get the call in this winner-take-all tilt for a division title. However, consider the strong-armed quarterback’s record vs. the Packers (1-7, including playoffs) and defensive coordinator Dom Capers since ’09. And have the Bears really allowed 445 points this season?

Houston (2-13) at Tennessee (6-9): Anyone out there actually remember who the Texans beat the last time they won a football game? It was Week 2 and it was a 30-24 overtime victory over the Titans at Houston. But it’s been all downhill since as the Texans have dropped 13 straight and a head coach since. Mike Munchak’s club also started out 2013 with a little promised. But after winning three of their first four contests, the Titans haven’t remembered a lot of what got them there and have gone 3-8 in their last 11 tilts. Don’t worry, gang, it’s almost over…

Jacksonville (4-11) at Indianapolis (10-5): Here’s something that may surprise you a bit. Dating back to the start of the 2011 season, the Jaguars are a paltry 11-36. But that includes a 3-2 vs. the Colts compared to an 8-34 marks when facing the rest of the NFL. In any case, Gus Bradley’s team has played better football since Jacksonville got off to that 0-8 start. After flopping around the last month or so Chuck Pagano’s club comes off an impressive 23-7 victory at Kansas City. And guess which NFL team has now committed the fewest turnovers (14) this season?

Kansas City (11-4) at San Diego (8-7): Although the Chiefs have lost four of their last six games following that 9-0 start, last week’s 23-7 home setback to the Indianapolis Colts had to be the most disappointing effort of the season for Andy Reid’s team. Now the team heads to San Diego knowing they can’t improve their playoff position but could spoil things for the Chargers, who have won three straight games and could be postseason bound with a win and some help. After being dropped 49 times a year ago, Philip Rivers has been sacked only 27 times in 15 games…

N.Y. Jets (7-8) at Miami (8-7): Are the Jets really going to pull the plug on head coach Rex Ryan after five seasons? Yes, the quarterback situation has been less than ideal since his arrival but you figure he’s earned another try since the team has won one more game than last season. And wouldn’t it be something if New York spoiled the playoff plans of the Dolphins, who are postseason-bound with a victory and some assistance. But can Miami’s offensive line protect quarterback Ryan Tannehill with any kind of consistency. He’s now been sacked 58 times in 2013…

St. Louis (7-8) at Seattle (12-3): Rams’ defensive end Robert Quinn now leads the NFL with 18.0 sacks and has five sacks in his last two games. And it’s also worth noting that St. Louis has 13 sacks in their last two meetings with Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. The only problem is that Seattle managed to win those games. But Pete Carroll’s club didn’t manage a victory last week as the Cardinals came to the Pacific Northwest and ended his team’s 14-game home winning streak. Could the Seahawks actually let the NFC West slip through their fingers?

San Francisco (11-4) at Arizona (10-5): For the third time in as many seasons, Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers have won at least 11 games and are headed back to the playoffs. And now San Francisco has a shot of becoming the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to win a Super Bowl (VII) the season after losing one (VI). The Cardinals may not get a shot at the postseason even if they win 11 games this year. But Bruce Arians has done a fantastic job with a club that dropped 11-of-12 in 2012 after a 4-0 start. That Arizona defense could give Colin Kaepernick fits all day…

Tampa Bay (4-11) at New Orleans (10-5): We all know that no team has ever won the NFC South two years in a row since its inception in 2002. But did you know that the Buccaneers are the only team in the division to finish last in consecutive years? And Greg Schiano’s team has a shot at a dubious three-peat due to their disappointing season. Elsewhere, the Saints still haven’t secured a playoff berth, losers of three of their last four games. And Sean Payton’s team has totaled just 29 points the last two weeks while Drew Brees has committed five turnovers…

Washington (3-12) at N.Y. Giants (6-9): For the fifth time in six seasons, the Redskins will be taking up residence in the NFC East basement, quite the finish for a club that was 10-6 a year ago and division champions. And could this be head coach Mike Shanahan’s final game at the helm of the team. There’s probably some discussion about changes at the top going on with Big Blue as well as Tom Coughlin’s wraps up his 10th season in disappointing fashion. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has committed 28 turnovers in 2013, two fewer than the Redskins (30)…

Sunday Night

Philadelphia (9-6) at Dallas (8-7): What to make of the improved Eagles, who rolled the Bears, 54-11, last Sunday night just one week after being flattened, 48-30, at Minnesota? In any case, Chip Kelly has led the team to five more wins than a year ago and the possibility of winning the NFC East. In the case of Jason Garrett, he’s hoping to have a different view of this déjà vu this time around. After losing out on a division title on the final Sunday night of the previous two seasons, he’s hoping a little home cooking works this time around for the Cowboys. Poultry?

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