Back in 2002, the NFL adopted a structure whereby there were four four-team divisions in each league (AFC and NFC). The playoff format established that same year was the four division winners in each league and two Wild Card teams in each league would advance to the 12-team NFL playoffs. That system has been in place every year since.
Going back to 2002, there has been six times when three teams from one division made it to the playoffs in the same season. The last time was in 2014 when three teams from the AFC North (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore) each made the playoffs that campaign.
This year, three teams from the NFC South are hoping to repeat what last happened in ‘14. The New Orleans Saints (9-4), Carolina Panthers (9-4) and the Atlanta Falcons (8-5), each from the NFC South, could all make the playoffs this season. At this point, the Saints hold the NFC South lead, the Panthers have the first Wild Card, and although they are tied with Seattle at 8-5, the Falcons currently have the tie-breaker in the second Wild Card spot.
Here are the six times when three teams from one division made the playoffs since 2002.
2006: NFC East (Philadelphia, Dallas, N.Y. Giants)
2007: NFC East (Dallas, N.Y. Giants, Washington)
2007: AFC South (Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee)
2011: AFC North (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati)
2013: AFC West (Denver, Kansas City, San Diego)
2014: AFC North (Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Baltimore)
Only one of the above teams went on to win the Super Bowl… the 2007 Giants. The 2013 Broncos also made it to the Super Bowl, but lost. Fifteen of the above 18 teams either lost in a Wild Card game or in a division playoff game. The 2011 Ravens were the only other team to make it to a conference championship game in that season.
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The NFL had a pair of high-scoring games last weekend; Pittsburgh defeated Baltimore, 39-38, and the Eagles got past the Rams, 43-35. It was the fourth and fifth games this season where both teams scored 35 or more points in the contest.
The last game played where both teams scored 40 or more points in an NFL regular season contest was December 18, 2016 when the Saints defeated the Cardinals, 48-41. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, there have been 25 NFL regular season games where both teams scored 40 or more points.
Of those 25 games, the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers have each played in five of those games, tied for most in the league. San Diego with four and the Lions, Seahawks and Redskins with three follow the Bengals and Packers. Green Bay and San Diego top the list with most games won when both teams score 40 points (since 1970) with three each; the Bengals with four top the list with most losses.
Eight current teams have never played in a regular season game where both teams scored 40 or more points: Carolina, Houston, Indianapolis, New England, Raiders, Rams, San Francisco, Tampa Bay.
Although the Colts have not played in a regular season game where both teams topped the 40-point mark, they did play in one of the two playoff games since 1970 that had both teams tally 40. In 2009, Arizona defeated Green Bay, 51-45, in a playoff contest, while in 2013, the Colts topped Kansas City 45-44 in a post-season game.
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Is it possible that the reason the New England Patriots have been so successful over the past several years is because opposing team kickers have found Gillett Stadium tough to kick in? Before you answer that, consider this:
From the 2010 NFL season until Week #13 of this year, opposing field goal kickers have made 76.1 percent of field goal attempts at the Patriots’ Gillett Stadium, lowest percentage of any opposing field goal kickers in an NFL stadium.
Here’s a look at the opposing team field goal percentages at each NFL team’s home field from 2010 until Week #13 of this season.
New England 76.1
San Francisco 80.2
Tampa Bay 80.3
Green Bay 81.5
Kansas City 83.9
New Orleans 85.7
New York Jets 86.3
New York Giants 90.5
There could be a lot of factors involved in why the Patriots’ opponents have the worst field goal percentage on New England’s home field… it could be the weather conditions, it could be the way the Pats’ special teams defend the attempted field goals of the opposition. It could be that Patriot opponents attempts more “longer” field goals.
In any case, I’ll just let the numbers speak for themselves. Any thoughts?
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In the 16 NFL games in last week’s Week #13, the home team had the lead at halftime in 12 of those games. The home teams eventually won 10 of those 12 games, with the Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals the only two home teams to lose after having the lead at halftime.
Since 2010, NFL home teams are 818-203-2 (.801 winning percentage) in games when they have the lead at halftime. Six teams have won over 90 percent of such games in that time frame… The New England Patriots are 45-1 (.978) since 2010 in home games when they have led their opponents at halftime. They are followed by Green Bay (.953), Seattle (.944), Denver (.938), Pittsburgh (.902) and Arizona (.900).
As you might expect, the Cleveland Browns are last in this stat category. The Brownies have a .556 winning percentage in home games when they lead the opposition at halftime.
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Tomorrow begins the last full month of the 2017 NFL regular season. Thirty of the NFL’s 32 teams will each play five games in December this year (the Cowboys and Redskins played Thursday night kicking off Week #13 and will each play four December games this season).
Looking back over the past seven seasons, it’s not surprising to see that the New England Patriots have been the NFL’s best December team since 2010. They have a 25-5 record in the last seven seasons in December, a .833 winning percentage. The woeful Cleveland Browns have the worst December winning percentage at .172 (a 5-24 win-loss record).
Following are the December winning percentages for each of the 32 NFL teams from 2010-16.
.833: New England
.759: Green Bay, Pittsburgh
.700: Carolina, Seattle
.600: Cincinnati, Denver
.586: New Orleans
.567: Arizona, Kansas City
.517: Atlanta, Dallas, Baltimore
.500: Minnesota, N.Y. Giants, Philadelphia, San Francisco
.484: N.Y. Jets
.400: Buffalo, Houston
.233: Tampa Bay
If we shorten the years to the past three seasons (2014-16) a different team holds the top spot. The Steelers have been the NFL’s best December team the past three seasons with an 11-1 record (.917 winning percentage). They are followed by Green Bay at .833, and Carolina, Kansas City, New England and Seattle, each at .750. The worst December teams over the past three seasons? The Chargers and Bears, each at 2-10 (.167).
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