November 9, 2012
Welcome back to the NFL Pregame Flyover, which Rick Reilly had first on Twitter.
Before we slap the NFL injury report on this week’s schedule of games – and tell you which games are Probably worth watching, which games are of Questionable worth, Doubtful worth, and no worth – let’s come clean about something: I am Nate Silver’s ghostwriter, and I am about to blow your freaking mind with NFL predictions.
No playoffs last year = conference championship this year
In 2010 I penned a column for the now-defunct Page 2 at ESPN.com that described a 13-year streak in the parity-laden NFL. Allow me to quote myself: “The most recent time the four teams in the conference title games had all made the playoffs the year before was after the 1997 season, with Denver, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and San Francisco. That's right, 1997 - when high school freshmen were learning how to walk. Here are the teams, year by year, who made their conference title games (and sometimes advanced to and won the Super Bowl), but who had missed the playoffs the year previously:
• 2009: New Orleans Saints, New York Jets.
• 2008: Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals.
• 2007: Green Bay Packers.
• 2006: New Orleans Saints.
• 2005: Carolina Panthers.
• 2004: Atlanta Falcons and Pittsburgh Steelers.
• 2003: New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers.
• 2002: Tennessee Titans.
• 2001: Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots.
• 2000: Baltimore Ravens, Oakland Raiders and New York Giants.
• 1999: Tennessee Oilers, Tampa Bay Bucs and St. Louis Rams.
• 1998: Atlanta Falcons and the New York Jets.”
Two years later, we might as well revisit this phenomenon, because the streak remains intact. In both 2011 and 2010, two teams reached their conference title games one year removed from missing the playoffs. Here they are:
2011: San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants.
2010: Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Bears.
That makes 15 straight years that this has happened. Is this streak merely a curious fluke? Is it reflective of the premium placed on parity in the modern NFL? I’d say it’s a little bit of both.
Will this streak continue this year? I, for one, would not bet against it. Consequently I think it’d be interesting to look at the teams that might keep it going. The best way to do that is to look at the teams thatwould qualify for the postseason if the playoffs started today. As Don Banks at Sports Illustrated and Jason Lisk at The Big Lead have pointed out, the field won’t likely change in the coming weeks - even if the 4-5 Cowboys are rounding into shape and they have several games left against the Sisters of the Blind. They’re out!
AFC: Texans, Ravens, Steelers, Patriots, Colts, Broncos.
NFC: Falcons, Bears, Seahawks, Packers, Niners, Giants.
So, which of these teams did not make the playoffs last year?
“The Colts!” – random Colts fan.
“The Bears! – random Bears fan.
“The team that stole our victory with a BS simultaneous catch!” – every Packers fan.
Yup, it’s the Colts, Bears and Seahawks. A betting man would say that one of those three teams will be playing in their conference title game this year, one year removed from missing the playoffs.
The Bears, who are currently the No. 2 seed in the NFC, would have to be the odds-on favorite among those three. Then again, this is the year of the amazing rookie quarterback, so would you really be surprised if Andrew Luck led the Colts to the AFC title game? And would you really be surprised if Russell Wilson stayed out of the way long enough for the Seahawks’ defense to carry them to the NFC title game?
One of the teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year will be playing in a conference title game this season, of that I am rather sure. And to be fair, yeah, it might even be the Cowboys.
The NFL Network is whitewashing history
I’m a regular patron of the NFL Network, and I enjoy their game day crew led by Rich Eisen. Each time they introduce Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, or Michael Irvin, they post a bio box outlining their bonafides, mentioning that Sanders, Faulk, and Irvin are all Hall of Famers and that Warner was a Super Bowl winner and two-time NFL MVP.
This all makes sense. You want to highlight the achievements of your commentators, justifying their role as a so-called expert. So why does it always irk me that Steve Mariucci’s bio box only makes reference to his 57-39 record as a 49ers head coach? And why does it underwhelm me that his San Francisco teams made four playoff appearances in his six seasons as coach? Because it’s willful deception, and it will not stand!
Mariucci also coached the Lions for three years, where he was 15-28 and the Lions missed the playoffs every year. You may choose to omit that blotch on Mariucci’s resume, NFL Network, but my mind subconsciously accounts for your willful omission – just as it adds, “Plus that whole hooker-and-cocaine incident,” to Michael Irvin’s bio box.
The Jets will persist for some reason
As a means of boosting team morale, some members of the New York Jets are wearing T-shirts that read “We will persist.”
Mark Sanchez sucks? We will persist. Anonymous players are taking cowardly shots at our backup quarterback? We will persist. Rex Ryan has been staring at my feet when I get out of the shower? Get thee to a silkscreen shop, it’s time to make new shirts.
It’s endearing that certain members of the Jets have banded together in the face of adversity. Other squads might take a cue from the Jets and have some team T-shirts made, too.
Chargers: “T-minus seven games, Norv.”
Lions: “Madden Curse? No, it’s just Lions football.”
Giants: “We want David Carr.”
Bucs: “Kneel downs are for (bleeps).”
Packers: “Volunteer wambulance driver.”
Redskins: “Black skin? White skin? Nope, we’re all red skin.”
Falcons: “We’re for masturbation ‘cause we beat ourselves.”
Steelers: “I donated $1000 to the James Harrison fund and all I got was this piss yellow T-shirt.”
The Weekly Best
Pull up a high-back chair, you’re about to peruse the Weekly Best.
Best team in the AFC: Maybe not the Steelers anymore.
Best team in the NFC: Maybe not the Niners anymore.
Best candidates to replace them: Houston and some NFC team other than Chicago.
Best to remember: Jason Campbell is now starting for the Bears.
Best move by Cam Newton this week: Donating $150k to three Charlotte schools.
Best reminder that the NFL is dangerous to your health: Niners coach Jim Harbaugh just had surgery to fix an irregular heartbeat, which doctors said was caused by stress.