December is here!!! Time for some teams to get hot and go on a run to the Super Bowl! Right?
Eh. Maybe. It’s important to win games, obviously. But let’s not go overboard on the whole “win out” narrative in December, at least in terms of what that may mean for a potential Super Bowl win.
The last time a team swept the month of December and won the Super Bowl in the same season was in 2003, when the New England Patriots won their last 14 regular season games and won Super Bowl XLVIII in Houston. Yes, the Super Bowl is in Houston this year, but do you need to win out to get there and win it?
There have been 25 teams since the start of the 2004 season to go undefeated in the month of December. All but two of those 25 teams made the postseason. 1 NONE of them wound up winning the Super Bowl.
In fact, 3 of the last 12 Super Bowl teams had losing records in December before winning the Super Bowl: the 2006 Indianapolis Colts, the 2009 New Orleans Saints, and the 2012 Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens even fired their offensive coordinator in December!
So yeah, you want to make the playoffs, obviously. But the deck resets from there. A dozen years of champions is a decent enough sample size to say that losing isn’t the end of the world – in fact, it may be the start of something special?
Speaking of losing, I took so many Ls on Thanksgiving week, going 7-9, the most dropped games of the season. I even did well in primetime! I’ll hang my hat on that, but let me face the music with the games I missed:
– The Lions got another 4th quarter comeback, their 7th of the season, defeating the Vikings 16-13 after another clutch FG by Detroit K Matt Prater. Detroit’s run defense held Minnesota to only 82 rushing yards. Detroit will be fighting history as they go on the road after Thanksgiving:
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) November 29, 2016
– The Cowboys keep winning, outlasting Washington 31-26. Dallas rookie QB Dak Prescott was only sacked once while adding a pass TD and a rush TD.
– The Falcons blew out the Cardinals 38-19, adding yet another win at home vs Arizona. Atlanta RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 3 rushing TD.
– The Ravens defense sacked Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton three times and recovered two of his fumbles in a 19-14 home win.
– The Titans went to Chicago and held on for a 27-21 win over the Bears, marking the 4th time this season that QB Marcus Mariota wasn’t sacked.
– The Chargers went to Houston and knocked off the Texans 21-13, intercepting Houston QB Brock Osweiler a career-worst three times.
– New Orleans dropped a league season-high 49 points on the Rams in a 49-21 win that saw Saints rookie WR Michael Thomas score 2 TD to go with 108 receiving yards.
– Tampa Bay held the Seahawks to 118 pass yards and no TD in a 14-5 win.
– The Patriots went on the road and ensured that the Jets would not have a winning season, holding New York to 64 rushing yards in a 22-17 victory.
The last two teams are on byes for the 2016 regular season – and it happens to be the two worst teams of the 2015 season:
- As bad as the Cleveland Browns have been, they’ve never started 0-12 untl now. This is just sad. The Browns have allowed a league-high 28 TD passes, and their 103.6 opposing passer rating would be the worst in franchise history.
- The Tennessee Titans, on the other hand, are right in the middle of the AFC playoff race at 6-6. Tennessee was last 6-6 under Jeff Fisher in 1998; now, 8-8 would be an accomplishment for Jeff Fisher. QB Marcus Mariota has been a top-5 player this season, putting up a passer rating of 101.9 with a TD-INT ratio of 25-8.
The Buffalo Bills visit Oakland as they look to stay over .500. The last time the Bills won a road game against the Raiders was in 1991 – but that was in Los Angeles. It’s been 50 years since the Bills won in Oakland, back when both teams were in the AFL. With the Raiders possibly moving to Las Vegas as soon as next season, the Bills may never win there again
— Law Murray ? (@LawMurrayTheNU) November 30, 2016
Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings: Could you be in a tougher spot than the Vikings?! Head coach Mike Zimmer had a terrible November with his eyes, and now he can’t even watch his team play the Cowboys, let alone coach. Minnesota’s only chance to beat the Cowboys is to let QB Sam Bradford air it out against a soft Dallas pass rush and pass defense. Dallas has only one game this season where they have multiple turnovers, but Minnesota has to generate a pass rush and make rookie QB Dak Prescott look like he’s a 4th rounder, not the MVP candidate that he’s been all year. This is the game that the Vikings traded a 1st rounder to get Bradford for.
Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons: The Scott Pioli Bowl! This isn’t quite the Game of the Week, not with the Cowboys playing on the road on Thursday night. But it does match an opportunistic Kansas City defense against the top scoring offense in the league in Atlanta. Naturally, I’m looking the other way. The Chiefs are expected to get WR Jeremy Maclin back after a multi-week absence due to a groin injury, while the Falcons are adjusting to life without CB Desmond Trufant.
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks: Payback? Revenge? These two teams ended each other’s seasons the last two years, and one of the two has represented the NFC in the Super Bowl each of the last three seasons. The Panthers are on life support at 4-7, but it’s worst than that, as the offensive line that didn’t improve in the offseason is now without C Ryan Kalil for the remainder of the season due to a shoulder injury. The Seahawks are expected to get DE Michael Bennett back after a multi-week absence, but they need to show they can protect QB Russell Wilson.
Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets: The Colts were held to only 7 points on Thanksgiving with QB Scott Tolzien starting. The last time they scored only 7 points in a game? Monday Night Football, Week 2, 2015 – at home against the Jets. The Jets still think they’re alive, so QB Ryan Fitzpatrick is starting against an Indianapolis defense that was lit up by Pittsburgh WR Antonio Brown for 3 TD. Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck is expected to return from his concussion, but New York head coach Todd Bowles has had his number in the past, and will again if Bowles can protect CB Darrelle Revis from getting torched.
- Nick Saban’s 2005 Miami Dolphins missed the playoffs at 9-7, while the 2008 New England Patriots with QB Matt Cassel missed the playoffs at 11-5. ↩