A Conference Championship Game with two divisional foes? Three chances this year to make it happen
If you are a fan of the NFC North, the NFC West or the AFC South, you may be hoping this weekend that the Conference Championship Games scheduled for Sunday January 19 feature a pair of divisional rivals who will play for a chance to advance to the Super Bowl.
Of the eight teams remaining in this year’s NFL playoffs, there are two teams each from the NFC North (Green Bay and Minnesota), two from the NFC West (San Francisco and Seattle) and two from the AFC South (Houston and Tennessee). And because these divisional foes will not meet in this week’s games, there’s a chance that both Conference Championship Games could feature teams from the same division.
(Note: Of these three potential conference title game matchups between two divisional rivals, Green Bay defeated the Vikings twice in the 2019 regular season; San Francisco and Seattle split their two regular season games; and Houston and Tennessee split their two games this season.)
Divisional rivals facing off in the Conference Championship has happened three times since the NFL went to a four-division format in each conference in 2001. The three times divisional rivals met in the conference title game since 2001:
2008: AFC, Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh
2010: NFC, Chicago vs. Green Bay
2013: NFC, San Francisco vs. Seattle (a repeat this year?)
Let’s take a quick look at these three matchups.
- Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh, 2008: Pittsburgh won the AFC North with a 12-4 record. Baltimore ended the season 11-5. Pittsburgh beat the Ravens twice in the regular season (23-20 and 13-9) and then defeated Baltimore a third time, 23-14, before advancing to the Super Bowl to beat Arizona.
- Chicago vs. Green Bay, 2010: The Bears won the NFC North with an 11-5 record, the Packers were 10-6. The teams split their two regular season games. Green Bay beat the Bears 21-14 in Chicago to advance to the Super Bowl where they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers.
- San Francisco vs. Seattle, 2013: Seattle won the NFC West with a 13-3 record, a game ahead of the 49ers. The teams split two regular season games. Seattle then won the NFC title game 23-17 before a lopsided Super Bowl win over the Denver Broncos.
If we go back to 1970, when the two leagues (AFC and NFC) merged, there were 15 times when two teams from the same division met in the conference title contest.
It’s interesting to note that on only four occasions did a team defeat a division foe twice in the regular season and then defeat them in the conference title game… Miami in 1982 over the Jets; New York Giants in 1986 over the Redskins; Tennessee in 1999 over Jacksonville; and 2008 (noted above) when Pittsburgh beat the Ravens twice in the regular season and then in the ’08 Conference Championship Game
One final note: Only once has a team defeated a divisional foe twice in the regular season and then lost to that team in the conference title game. It happened in 1983 when the Seattle Seahawks beat the Oakland Raiders twice in the ’83 regular season but lost to the Raiders 30-14 in the AFC title game. The Raiders then went on to beat the Redskins 38-9 in the Super Bowl that year.
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Five stats you may not know about the NFL playoffs since 2000
The NFL playoffs begin on Saturday with four Wild Card games. Here are five stats that you may not know about the NFL playoffs since the start of this century.
- NFL teams spend the regular season trying to not only make the playoffs, but also find a way to get the highest seed possible in the post-season… including trying to get a bye that first weekend. So, how important is it to get home games during the playoffs? And, is hosting a playoff game more important in the Wild Card round, the Divisional round or in the Conference Championship Game? Since 2000, home teams were 122-68 (.642) in playoff games. Home teams were 44-32 (.579) in Wild Card games; 53-23 (.697) in the Divisional contests; and, 25-13 (.658) in Conference Championship games.
- The 12 playoff teams this year played 32 games against each other. The Baltimore Ravens, who finished the NFL regular season with a 14-2 record, best in the league, also had the best record against the other 11 playoff teams. They were 5-1 against the other 11 playoff teams. Here are the records of each of the 12 playoff teams in games played against each other in 2019: Baltimore 5-1, New Orleans, 3-1, Green Bay 3-2, San Francisco 3-2, Houston 3-3, Kansas City 3-3, New England 3-3, Seattle 3-3, Philadelphia 2-3, Tennessee 2-3, Buffalo 1-4, Minnesota 1-4.
- The Indianapolis Colts have played in the most Wild Card weekend games since 2000 with 11. Seattle, which will be playing in a Wild Card game this weekend, is making their 10th Wild Card weekend contest since 2000, is now tied for second most in the league with Green Bay. The number of Wild Card weekend games played by each NFL team: 11-Indianapolis, 10-Green Bay, Seattle, 9-Baltimore, Philadelphia, 7-Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, 6-Houston, New Orleans, New York Giants, New York Jets, 5-Dallas, Kansas City, L.A. Chargers, Minnesota, 4-Atlanta, Carolina, Denver, Miami, New England, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Washington, 3-Arizona, Detroit, Jacksonville, L.A. Rams, San Francisco, 2-Buffalo, Oakland, 1-Chicago, Cleveland.
- This is the first year since 2009 that the New England Patriots have not been either a #1 or #2 seed in the playoffs. They have been either a #1 or #2 seed in the playoffs 13 times since 2000, by far the most in the league. By conference, here are the number of times each team has been the #1 or #2 seed in the playoffs since 2000: AFC: 13-Patriots, 5-Broncos, Steelers, 4-Chiefs, 3-Colts,Ravens, Titans, 2-Chargers, Raiders, 0-Bengals, Bills, Browns, Dolphins, Jaguars, Jets, Texans. NFC: 4-Bears, Eagles, Falcons, Packers, 3-Forty-Niners, Panthers, Rams, Saints, Seahawks, Vikings, 2-Cowboys, Giants, 1-Bucs, Cardinals, 0-Lions, Redskins.
- As you might expect, the New England Patriots have won the most post-season games since 2000 with 30. That is twice as many as the two teams second on the list, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, who have each won 15 playoff games since 2000. Here is the number of playoff games won by each franchise since 2000. 30-New England, 15: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, 14-Philadelphia, 13-Indianapolis, Seattle, 12-Green Bay, 10-NY Giants, 9-New Orleans, 8-Carolina, 7-Denver, 6-Atlanta, NY Jets, San Francisco, 5-Arizona, LA Chargers, LA Rams, 4-Miami, Oakland, 3-Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, 2-Kansas City, 1-Miami, Washington, 0-Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit.
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Here’s a quick trivia question: The New England Patriots on Sunday January 21 will appear in their seventh consecutive AFC Championship Game. That means they have appeared in seven championship games since 2011. Which NFL team has appeared in the second most championship games since 2011? (Answer at the end of this column.)
Following are a few “leftover” stats from last week’s NFL playoff games.
- The Pittsburgh Steelers last week became seventh team to lose two playoff games in their history when they scored 30 or more points (the Steelers lost to Jacksonville 45-42 last Sunday). The other teams on this list: Cleveland, Dallas, Green Bay, Kansas City, Miami and New Orleans.
- The Steelers also have now lost 10 home playoff games in their history (since the start of the Super Bowl era in 1966), most in the NFL. Dallas is second with nine home playoff losses followed by Minnesota and San Francisco with eight.
- Teams that are scoreless at halftime in a playoff game have not had much success. Teams that are scoreless at half in a playoff game are 17-88 (.162 winning percentage) since 1966.
- Turnovers are another important part of the NFL’s post-season. Since the 2010 post-season, NFL teams that do not commit a turnover in a playoff game are 29-12 (.707 winning percentage). Teams that have turned the ball over three or more times in a playoff game since 2010 are 5-28 (.152).
- Tom Brady had another playoff game (in the Pats win over Tennessee) where he had three or more TD passes and more than 300 yards passing. That was the seventh time Brady reached those stats in a playoff game in his career, most in league history. Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers have had three or more TD passes and 300 or more yards passing in five different playoff games, tied for second on this list.
- Jacksonville rookie running back Leonard Fournette had three TDs in his team’s big win over Pittsburgh, making him only the fourth rookie in history to score three or more TDs in a playoff game. The others: Craig Baynham (Dallas, 12-24-1967), William Floyd (San Francisco, 1-7-1995) and Ryan Grant (Green Bay, 1-12-2008).
- Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski had a TD reception in New England’s win last week over the Titans. That was his 10th playoff TD in his career. Those 10 playoff TDs since 2010 are the most of any player; Gronkowski also became the 18th player in NFL history to score 10 or more TDs in the post-season. Jerry Rice tops the list with 22 playoff TDs.
- With their 10-3 win over Buffalo in the Wild Card Game and their 45-42 win over Pittsburgh in the divisional round, the Jacksonville Jaguars became the first team in NFL history to win two playoff games in one season…one with 10 or fewer points scored and one with 40 or more points scored.
- With their game tomorrow against the Jacksonville Jags, the Patriots will have appeared in seven championship games since 2011. They are followed by the San Francisco 49ers with three title game appearances since 2011. The Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks have each appeared in two conference title games since 2011. Eight teams will have appeared in one conference championship game from 2011-17 (Arizona, Carolina, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Minnesota, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh). Did you get the San Francisco 49ers right in the answer to the trivia question?
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The total of 87 combined points was nine short of the record of 96 scored by Arizona and Green Bay on January 10, 2010 when the Cardinals defeated the Packers 51-45.
Here are the five highest scoring playoff games in league history:
96: Arizona 51, Green Bay 45, January 10, 2010
95: Philadelphia 58, Detroit 37, December 30, 1995
89: Indianapolis 45, Kansas City 44, January 4, 2014
87: Jacksonville 45, Pittsburgh 42, January 14, 2018
86: St. Louis Rams 49, Minnesota 37, January 16, 2000
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The Jacksonville Jaguars have advanced to the AFC Championship Game with two very different wins: A 10-3 win over the Buffalo Bills in their Wild Card contest; and a 45-42 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in their Divisional Round game.
In looking at the playoff games played in the NFL since the start of the Super Bowl era (since 1966), teams have a 90% chance of winning a post-season game if they can score 30 or more points. Playoff teams are 208-24 (a .897 winning percentage) when they scored 30 or points in a playoff games since 1966.
Here’s a look at the combined records of playoff teams from 1966 through the first two rounds of the playoffs this season based on how many points they scored.
0-9 points 3-113 .026
10-19 points 68-231 .227
20-29 points 217-128 .629
30-39 points 149-21 .876
40 or more points 59-3 .952
Note: Teams that score under 20 points in a playoff game since 1966 are 71-344 (.171 winning percentage).
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