Item #1 - The 4,000 Yard Club.
Those of us who love the NFL and dabble in stats could not help take note of the new trend in the NFL that has been slowly moving like an iceberg for years, but has taken to a new extreme: Prolific Passing is at an all-time high. In fact, the guys at the NFL office tweeted this yesterday:
NFL QBs set record for most 4,000-yard passing seasons (10) & most 25 TD pass seasons (12). Previous bests were 7 & 10 in '07.
A decade or two ago, when someone would have a silly yardage season (and 4,000 yards used to be silly) it was always justified as that QB played on a team that was coming from behind and passing the ball because his team was lousy. Put another way, the only teams with gaudy passing stats were not good teams.
Times have changed. I wonder if the NFL has gone too far with its further evolution of the passing rules that now make it almost impossible for the defense to have a fair chance.
Regardless, football coaches and strategists figure out how to use the new rules to their advantage, and the sport has evolved to a point where passing for huge numbers is no longer a means to come from behind - rather it has become almost the exclusive way to win in this era.
As you saw above, there have never been as many 4,000 yard passers. And, 7 of those 10 made the playoffs, with 2 more (Schaub and Roethlisberger) in the mix until the final day, and the 10th was Eli Manning, who was part of an amazing collapse in the last 2 weeks of the season by the Giants.
All of the top 6 seeds in the NFL playoffs had 4,000/25 TD QBs, and Kurt Warner and Donovan McNabb would both be added to this stack if they had been healthy for the entire season.
Only 3 teams made the playoffs with out a member of this 4,000/25 TD club, really. And they were all in the AFC. The Bengals with Carson Palmer, the Ravens with Joe Flacco, and the Jets with the rookie Mark Sanchez. None of these 3 are any more than a longshot to win multiple playoff games this year. And, if rated in a power poll, these might be teams #10, #11, and #12 in the tournament.
(* = playoff team)
Item #2 - 6 New teams in the playoffs in 2009.
This chart below shows you that predicting the playoffs is next to impossible every year. My picks in preseason?
Eagles, Cowboys, Packers, Saints, Seahawks, and Falcons would make the NFC Playoffs, and the Patriots, Colts, Bengals, Steelers, Chargers, and Titans would make the AFC Playoffs. I had the Saints-Chargers in the Super Bowl, with the Saints winning it all.
Anyway, the chart below demonstrates that picking the teams requires that you insert about 6 teams in this year's playoffs who were not in last year's edition. For whatever reason, the NFL features 50% turnover in the tournament every year. Below is proof:
|Year||# New||New Teams making Playoffs|
|1992||6||Min, SF, Phi, Mia, Pit, KC|
|1993||5||Det, GB, NYG, Oak, Den|
|1994||5||Chi, Mia, Clev, NE, SD|
|1995||4||Phi, Atl, Ind, Buf|
|1996||5||Min, Car, Jac, Den, NE|
|1997||5||NYG, Det, TB, KC, Mia|
|1998||5||Arz, Dal, Atl, NYJ, Buf|
|1999||7||Det, TB, StL, Was, Sea, Ten, Ind|
|2000||6||Phi, NYG, NO, Den, Bal, Oak|
|2001||6||SF, GB, Chi, Pit, NE, NYJ|
|2002||5||NYG, Atl, Ten, Cle, Ind|
|2003||8||Stl, Car, Dal, Sea, NE, KC, Bal, Den|
|2004||5||Min, Atl, SD, Pit, NYJ|
|2005||7||Was, Car, TB, NYG, Chi, Cin, Jac|
|2006||7||Phi. Dal, NO, SD, Bal, NYJ, KC|
|2007||6||Was, TB, GB, Pit, Ten, Jac|
|2008||7||Phi, Atl, Car, Min, Arz, Mia, Bal|
|2009||6||GB, Dal, NO, NE, NYJ, Cin|
And, Item #3 - Home Field Advantage?
This table simply tracks the success or lack thereof of higher seeds and home teams in the NFL Playoffs. Note that in the last 2 seasons, the home teams are 10-10. The AFC and NFC Seeds columns show which teams advanced to the AFC and NFC Championship Games. Then the "*" shows who made the Super Bowl from each conference.
|Year||Home Record||AFC Seeds||NFC Seeds|
|1990||8-2||1* vs 2||1 vs 2*|
|1991||8-2||1* vs 2||1* vs 2|
|1992||5-5||2 vs 4*||1 vs 2*|
|1993||8-2||1* vs 3||1* vs 2|
|1994||8-2||1 vs 2*||1* vs 2|
|1995||7-3||2* vs 5||1* vs 3|
|1996||8-2||2* vs 5||1* vs 2|
|1997||6-4||2 vs 4*||1 vs 2*|
|1998||8-2||1* vs 2||1 vs 2*|
|1999||7-3||1 vs 4*||1* vs 2|
|2000||8-2||2 vs 4*||1* vs 2|
|2001||7-3||1 vs 2*||1* vs 3|
|2002||8-2||1* vs 2||1 vs 2*|
|2003||6-4||1* vs 3||1 vs 3*|
|2004||6-4||1 vs 2*||1* vs 2|
|2005||4-6||2 vs 6*||1* vs 5|
|2006||8-2||3* vs 4||1* vs 2|
|2007||5-5||1* vs 3||2 vs 5*|
|2008||5-5||2* vs 6||4* vs 6|
(* = Super Bowl Team)
Most compelling piece of information I found here? 13 of 19 years (68%), in the NFC, the championship game has been the #1 seed vs the #2 seed - proving the bye week and home field mean something.
In the AFC, it has happened only 7 times (37%). Not sure what that means other than the fact that maybe the NFC has had better top seeds that make it less likely to have upsets - like the Cowboys and 49ers. On the other hand, maybe the AFC has had many playoffs where top to bottom the margin is very close.
And, in 19 years, #1 NFC has played #1 AFC only twice. 1991 and 1993.