• Some Hits and Some Misses

    On the eve of the 2011 season, we offered 10 things to keep an eye on. Here is a look at the original piece, with a few updates. Which of the stories or trends below proved to be your favorite?

    NFL-2011 is upon us, and there’s always something interesting things to keep an eye that are worth revisiting at the end of the season. Here’s a look at some recent trends and historical notes that could make for great conversation.

    --We’ve not only not seen a team repeat as Super Bowl champions since the Patriots in 2003 and ’04, they were also the last club to make consecutive appearances in the Big Game. The 7-year gap between a team making back-to back Super Bowl appearances is the longest in the history of the game regardless if the Packers reach Indianapolis. More importantly, can Green Bay defend its NFL title (for what it’s worth, the Packers make their Super Bowl appearances in twos; I & II and XXXI & XXXII).
    2011: The jury is still out on this but the Packers did win 5 more games (15) than they did in 2010 (10) and are obviously the Super Bowl favorite. Their 560 points scored ranks as the second-highest total in NFL history…

    --The team or teams with the best win-loss record in the league has not won the Super Bowl each of the last 7 seasons and 12 of the last 14 seasons, the last club to achieve that feat being the 2003 Patriots. This latest trend seems to infer that the regular-season is meaningless and that figure is bolstered by the fact that 5 Wild Card teams have also won the Super Bowl over that span. Is this the season we have, per say, a wire-to-wire NFL champion?
    2011: See fact No. 1. Also keep in mind that of the last 3 teams to win at least 15 regular-season games, the ’98 Vikings and ’04 Steelers (both 15-1) lost their respective conference championship games and the ’07 undefeated Patriots (16-0) lost Super Bowl XLII...

    --The NFC has given us 10 different conference champions in the last 10 seasons, meaning it’s easier to name the 6 clubs that haven’t been to the Big Game (Cowboys, Redskins, Lions, Vikings, Falcons and 49ers) over that span rather than the teams that have. In the AFC, it’s been just 4 different teams over the same time frame (Patriots, Raiders, Steelers and Colts) and just New England, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis the last 8 seasons. Will we make it 11 for 11 in the NFC and will we have a breakthrough club in the other conference?
    2011: If this unusual fact holds up, San Francisco, Detroit or Atlanta is Super Bowl XLVI-bound…

    --The Indianapolis Colts saw their 7-year streak of 12 or more regular-season wins end in 2010. But they still reached the playoffs for the ninth straight season, tying the NFL record first set by Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys from 1975-83, span which saw them make 3 Super Bowl appearances (winning twice). Can the Colts, with or without QB Peyton Manning, make it 10 in a row?
    2011: From 9 straight playoff appearances to the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, it was quite the fall for the Manning-less Colts. For the record, the Baltimore Ravens now own the longest current streak in terms of playoff appearances with 4…

    --For the first time in team history, the Atlanta Falcons have strung together 3 consecutive winning seasons. But as the franchise enters its 46th year in the league, they’ve yet to reach the playoffs in back-to-back campaigns. In a division that produced three 10-win teams in 2010, a fourth straight winning season is not out of the question but a return trip to the postseason is no guarantee.
    2011: While the Falcons did make it 4 straight winning seasons, their 10-6 finish put them 3 games out of first place as the Saints won the NFC South for the second time in 3 years. Now the Falcons look to win their first playoff game since 2004 when they travel to meet the Giants this weekend…

    --We haven’t seen the Detroit Lions in the playoffs since 1999 (tying the Bills for the longest-active postseason drought) and they haven’t enjoyed a winning season since finishing 9-7 in 2000. Will one or both happen in 2011 for one of the oldest franchises in league annals? It won’t be easy with the defending Super Bowl champion Packers and 2010 NFC North champion Chicago to vault over.
    2011: Unfortunately for Buffalo fans, they now own the league’s current longest postseason drought as the Lions parlayed a 5-0 start (the franchise’s best since 1956) into a playoff appearance. Now Jim Schwartz and company look to end a few more bugaboos as Detroit’s last playoff win came in 1991, a total of 6 straight postseason losses--1 short of the dubious NFL record…

    --Since the division was formed in 2002, the last-place team in the NFC South always rebounds with a strong showing. In 6 of the 8 instances, the fourth-place club rallied to win the division the following season, another season saw the Falcons finish 11-5 and capture a wild card berth in ’08 and a year ago, the Buccaneers bounced back from 3-13 to win 10 games. Can new head coach Ron Rivera, rookie QB Cam Newton and the Panthers make some noise after a 2-14 campaign?
    2011: It’s safe to say that Newton and Panthers made some noise but they fell well short of contending in the NFC South. Still, Carolina tripled its wins (6) from their 2-14 finish in 2010, more than doubled their point production (406) from the previous season and escaped the divisional basement as the Buccaneers lost their last 10 games to finish 4-12…

    --Under head coach John Harbaugh and QB Joe Flacco, the Ravens are 3-for-3 making the playoffs. And with head coach Rex Ryan and QB Mark Sanchez, the J-E-T-S have made consecutive appearances in the AFC Championship Game. But while both groups have racked up road wins in the postseason, neither franchise has managed to win a division title over that short span. Is this the breakthrough year for Baltimore, who last won the AFC North in 2006, and the Jets, who haven’t captured the AFC East since ’02?
    2011: Well, 1 out of 2 isn’t bad. Thanks to Baltimore’s sweep of the Steelers, Harbaugh’s team captured the AFC North title and the number-2 seed in the conference, meaning the Ravens will play their first home playoff game since 2006. The rollercoaster Jets lost their last 3 games to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs, meaning the franchise still hasn’t gone to the postseason in 3 consecutive seasons...

    --Be it when the division housed 5 teams (including the Cardinals) or its current membership of the Cowboys, Giants, Eagles and Redskins, the NFC East has never been won by a team with less than 10 wins. Theoretically, that streak figures to stay intact as Philadelphia appears loaded for a Super Bowl run. But it was hit or miss in the East last season, with the Birds and G-Men winning 10 games and the Pokes and ‘Skins losing 10. It’s safe to say anything could happen in this always-interesting division.
    2011: Thanks to a showdown in the final game of the season, the NFC East did indeed have a sub 10-win team this season as the 9-7 Giants handled the Cowboys in 2 meetings during the season, scoring 37 and 31 points, respectively, in the sweep of Dallas. Now let’s see if QB Eli Manning, whose 4 postseason wins all came in 2007, can continue his mostly-hot play of 2011…

    --Dating back to realignment in ’02, 26 of the 32 teams have captured at least 1 division title. That means the Bills, Browns, Texans, Jaguars, Redskins and Lions have yet to wear the crown in their current homes, but could that change this season? While all of these teams have their work cut out for them just reaching the playoffs, is 1 or more capable of walking away with their respective top spot?
    2011: You can now take the Texans off this list as they grabbed their first AFC South title, first playoff berth and first 10-win season in the franchise’s 10-year history. Even more impressive was the fact that Gary Kubiak’s team did it with 3 different quarterbacks and minus former Pro Bowlers WR Andre Johnson and OLB Mario Williams for the majority of the season. Sometimes a little adversity brings out the best in all of us…

    Comments 3 Comments
    1. vancemeek's Avatar
      Well, the jury is still out on the 1st two. I don't know if anybody expected the Colts to lose as many as they did, even without Manning. I would have though around 6 or 7 wins at the worst.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Are there any more Harbaugh brothers around? The Skins could use one.

      I think the rotating NFC champs is a sign of the conference's weakeness. Likewise, the lack of variety in the AFC is a sign of conference strength. Used to be the other way around. Will be again. The only constant is change.

      It's sad to see what the NFC East has become. Used to be so good.
    1. BuckeyeRidley's Avatar
      The Man is a Machine!! Love the facts on the NFC having different Champions. What hurts? My Eagles were one of them after numerous appearances AND DID NOT WIN! *Sobs Uncontrollably*

      Also, the stats on the Colts is Crazy Good then Crazy Bad!! I sense Irsay will find there are other problems there than Polian. 2012 will be a critical year and a moment of truth in various decisions.