So the 2007 NFL Regular Season has come to an end--a regular season full of games and moments we will never forget.
But for now, let's forget them. It's playoff time!
I was looking at the final standings on NFL.com, and I noticed some interesting trends and numbers that aren't being discussed by the newspapers and pregame shows, and I wanted to just write them out. Now understand, I am an Indianapolis Colts fan, so if this blog seems slanted or biased in any way, it was deliberate and I remain unapologetic...
Anyway, here are some of the things I noticed...
- The Patriots scored 75 touchdowns (589 points total) this season... wow... that means that if you ONLY added up their points on touchdowns, they would still have won the scoring title by 70 points over the runner-up Cowboys (who tied for second with the Colts in touchdowns...with a measly 54).
- Home crowds clearly affect games a lot more than we give them credit for. This is evidenced by the teams that SUCKED at home this year. The Giants, a 10-6 team, were somehow 3-5 at home, despite beating everyone but the Cowboys on the road...I guess this means that the Giants are hoping to play the Cowboys or Packers (and get them in one of their stadiums). Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, and the Carolina Panthers all fared better on the road than at home. I did some research (okay, I just went to NBA.com, that's all) to see if these numbers might bleed over into another sport. The New Orleans Hornets and Charlotte Bobcats are both better at home than on the road, but the Sixer's record doesn't seem to show much of a home court advantage at all... I say we do Donovan McNabb, Andre Iguodala and Ryan Howard a favor and relocate all the Philly franchises...
- The Chargers and Redskins enter the playoffs with win streaks of 6 and 4 games, respectively...although of course the 16-game streak by the Pats is far superior, they are two hot teams entering the playoffs who no one should want to mess with on opening weekend...Oh wait, their matchups are Chargers-Titans and Redskins-Seahawks??? Yeah, they both should make the 2nd round.
- Shockingly, here are the leaders in scoring defense this year:
- 5th: San Diego Chargers... they're sooooo sneaking up on everyone
- 4th: New England Patriots...sneaking up on NO one; we all know what's coming
- 3rd: Tampa Bay Buccaneers...tied as second-lowest scoring team in the playoffs; will defense be enough?
- 2nd: Pittsburgh Steelers...without their star running back, they'd better play like #1
- 1st: Indianapolis Colts... it's amazing that they've played this well and flown under the radar... this spells no pressure for Peyton Manning, which is crucial
- (This is a random sidebar, but has there ever been a more interesting reversal of fortunes in recent football history than the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts? Who was the better offensive team last year? Who was the better defensive team last year? Who scored the most points? Who had the better regular season record? And most importantly, who entered last post season under the most pressure? ALL of those answers have reversed this season, and I feel alarmingly relaxed about the Colts chances against the Patriots juggernaut. Why? Well, in a sick sense, I feel like I'm looking at an image of my old team! Clearly they want to get out and gun it, but teams are trying to slow them down, and the end-of-season pressure to be perfect finally starts to take its toll...well now the shoe's on the other foot, and I'm rooting for a 13-3 team with the #1 scoring defense, the #3 scoring offense, and no pressure on a quarterback who SUFFERS when there is any pressure and is near PERFECT when there's none. If the Pats had lost a game, they'd have something to prove in the playoffs, and they could be angry. Now? They stand alone at the top, allowing any team that plays them to find shade in the ominous mountain of their lofty expectations. I'm not saying the Colts will beat them, but they--and the Jags, Chargers, and Cowboys, for that matter--do have a chance...and hey, that's all they used to need to beat us.)
- The "Best Team to Not Make the Playoffs" 2007 recipient is the Cleveland Browns, who posted a 10-6 record for nothing. And for the first time in a long time, no one in the NFC made it to the playoffs with an 8-8 record, so we will honor them by not awarding the "Team Basically Wasting a Week of Offseason Activities on a Game Plan" trophy this year.
- The "Game That Will Haunt Us All Offseason and Inevitably Spark a Few Retirements" Award should definitely go to the Baltimore Ravens for their interruption of history in giving a win to the 0-13 Miami Dolphins. Miami had all the pieces to a horrendous season--a quarterback controversy between three less-than-average candidates, a slew of injuries, a moronic trade of its best offensive player, a "veteran" defense that looked much more old than wise, and an owner openly lobbying to sell the team during the season... yet the Ravens found the strength to overcome all that and make history, or un-make it, at least. Ravens, I salute you!
- Lastly (and I do realize now that this blog has somehow gotten long...), one thing no one ever talks about--which seems to be at least of interest, if not important--is the strength of each division. Which division won the most? Lost the most? It doesn't tell the whole story of a team's season, but it does offer some interesting insight on a few teams.
- First off, let's look at some of the records (4 teams per division times 16 games = 64 games):
- Best: AFC South (42-22) --The AFC South boasts three playoff teams, but most impressively, four teams at or above .500. Even the last-place Texans are respectable! And ALL of them did well outside of the division--the Jaguars were 8-0 against the rest of the Conference, and the Texans were 4-2. What does all this mean? I think it means a lot for the 3 playoff teams. They have faced the best competition in the NFL this year, and still made the post season.
- 2nd place: NFC East (40-24) --The Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, and Eagles are competitive year after year, but this season was one of the most interesting. They finished with 4-2, 3-3, 3-3, and 2-4 divisional records, respectively. The last place Eagles finished 8-8 and were out of a .500 conference record by one game, which is what kept them out of the playoffs. Again, I think all three of the playoff teams are good enough to win their first games, which could lead to some interesting matchups in the second round--especially considering the blood-boiling competitiveness in the division.
- Middle-of-the-pack: NFC North (35-29), AFC North (32-32), AFC East (28-36) --NFC North featured the Packers and 3 mediocre teams (if you think the Packers are legit at 13-3, please look at their schedule and convince me which game showed you this; their schedule is beyond easy). The AFC North had two huuuuge underachievers (Ravens & Bengals) and one overachiever (Cleveland). Finally, the AFC East... how do I put this... AFC East-Pats= 12-win division. 12 games out of 48... I wouldn't say this affects the Pats, though. The way they've won negates the quality of the teams they've beaten.
- 2nd-to-last place: NFC South (27-37) --It's really just "The Best of the Bad" Division...Tampa Bay had to DOMINATE this division with a 5-1 record just to get to 9-7...so they don't seem to be a playoff contender in any way...and nobody saw this stinker coming from the Saints either. All in all, a division to forget. That is, until you compare them to...
- The Crappers: NFC & AFC West ( 26-38)--The Seahawks AND Chargers pulled a Tampa Bay on their horrific divisions, going 5-1 and barely beating anyone else to scrape into the playoffs. Other than them, you've got Oakland, Kansas City, San Francisco, and St. Louis to talk about... alright my stomach hurts...the Wests are terrible
- So what was the point? Well for starters, I think that some of the division champs are going down quicker than people expect. Tampa AND Seattle match up unfavorably even with the Redskins, and Pittsburgh and San Diego may not want to mess with the Jags. And the results of those first-round matchups could definitely shake things up in the latter rounds of the playoffs, causing unexpected matchups that might secretly favor lower-seeded teams.