CLOSE GAMES, ROAD SUCCESS STAND OUT ENTERING WEEK 6
To help celebrate the NFL’s 100th season, each week will feature an NFL 100 Game of the Week. Each game is a nod to a momentous game played, a fierce rivalry that spans decades, a matchup of original teams and/or a game in which history was made . The NFL has designated Thursday’s Giants-Patriots matchup (8:20 PM ET, FOX/NFLN/AMAZON) as the Game of the Week because the contest is a rematch of two of the most exciting Super Bowls in history.
In 2007, New England completed the first undefeated regular season since the 1972 Dolphins. Entering Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz., with an 18-0 record (including playoffs), New England took a 7-3 lead into the final stanza, setting the stage for a Super Bowl-record three fourth-quarter lead changes. ELI MANNING gave the NFC Wild Card Giants their first lead with a 5-yard touchdown pass to DAVID TYREE. TOM BRADY answered with a 6-yard scoring toss to Pro Football Hall of Famer RANDY MOSS, just prior to one of the greatest plays in NFL annals. On third-and-5 from his own 44, with 1:15 on the clock, Manning managed to elude pressure and secure the ball – thanks in part to the late JARED LORENZEN, who Manning credited with emphasizing ball security during a daily practice drill. Then, Tyree made a 32-yard catch for the ages, pinning the ball against his helmet, to help set up Manning’s game-winning 13-yard touchdown pass to PLAXICO BURRESS with 35 seconds remaining, as the Giants prevailed, 17-14.
Four years later in Indianapolis, the teams met in Super Bowl XLVI. Again, Manning led the Giants from behind, this time orchestrating a pair of third-quarter field-goal drives to chip away at a 17-9 deficit. Then, as the Giants held the Patriots scoreless over their final four drives – including a clutch stop to end the game – Manning engineered a nine-play, 88-yard march ending in AHMAD BRADSHAW’s 6-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds remaining, the game-winning score and a 21-17 lead. As he did in the first Super Bowl against New England, Manning captured game MVP honors.
COMPETITIVE CONTESTS: Through Week 5, the 2019 season has tied for the most games decided by seven points or fewer in league annals. Forty-two of 78 overall games (52.6 percent) have been decided by seven-or-fewer points, including nine of 15 games in Week 5. Expect more to come in Week 6.
The seasons with the most games decided by seven-or-fewer points in NFL history:
BUSINESS TRIPS: This week, several teams are on the road with the opportunity to improve key tiebreakers, their interdivision and interconference records. Highlighting those contests on the Week 6 schedule, the HOUSTON TEXANS travel to play the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (1:00 PM ET, CBS), the PHILADELPHIA EAGLES fly to meet the MINNESOTA VIKINGS (1:00 PM ET, FOX) and the DETROIT LIONS make the short trek to play the GREEN BAY PACKERS on Monday Night Football (8:15 PM ET, ESPN).
This season, road teams are a combined 43-34-1 (.558) through five weeks, the highest road winning percentage at this point in a season in 36 years. The last time NFL teams were more successful on the road through five weeks was 1983, when they were 40-30 (.571).
THE SIX-GAME YARDSTICK: If history is any indication, emerging at .500 or better through six games has positive playoff implications.
There’s always hope, proven by the 2004 GREEN BAY PACKERS, who started 1-4 and won nine of their last 11 to capture their division title. In fact, since that season, the MIAMI DOLPHINS in both 2008 and 2016, the DENVER BRONCOS in 2011 and three teams in 2015 – the HOUSTON TEXANS, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS and WASHINGTON REDSKINS – made the playoffs after opening 2-4.
A closer look at six-game records and how they affect playoff chances:
Since 1990, when the NFL adopted the 12-team playoff format, 35 of the 37 teams (94.6 percent) to start 6-0 have qualified for the postseason.
Since 1978, when NFL teams began playing 16-game schedules, and excluding the abbreviated season of 1982, 46 of 49 teams (93.9 percent) to start 6-0 advanced to the postseason.
Opening 5-1 or 5-0-1:
Since 1990, when the NFL adopted the 12-team playoff format, 81 of 98 teams (82.7 percent) to win five of their first six games have qualified for the postseason.
Since 1978, when NFL teams began playing 16-game schedules, and excluding the abbreviated season of 1982, 107 of 131 teams (81.7 percent) to win five of their first six advanced to the postseason.
Opening 4-2 or 4-1-1:
Since 1990, when the NFL adopted the 12-team playoff format, 134 of 213 teams (62.9 percent) to win four of their first six games have qualified for the postseason.
Since 1978, when NFL teams began playing 16-game schedules, and excluding the abbreviated season of 1982, 174 of 286 teams (60.8 percent) to win four of their first six advanced to the postseason.
Opening 3-3 or 3-2-1:
Since 1990, when the NFL adopted the 12-team playoff format, 78 of 216 teams (36.1 percent) to win three of their first six games have qualified for the postseason.
Since 1978, when NFL teams began playing 16-game schedules, and excluding the abbreviated season of 1982, 108 of 297 teams (36.4 percent) to win three of their first six advanced to the postseason.
NINERS STAND ALONE IN NFC: For the first time since 1984, the SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS are the NFC’s lone undefeated team through Week 5. Behind quarterback JIMMY GAROPPOLO, who owns a 10-2 career record as the 49ers’ starting quarterback, the club is off to its best start since opening 10-0 in 1990.
NORTHERN LIGHTS: Entering Week 6 of the NFL’s 100th season, all four teams in the NFC North have winning records. That hasn’t happened in an NFL division since 2012, when the four NFC West clubs also were above .500 entering Week 6. That year, the 49ers opened 4-1, finished 11-4-1 and advanced to Super Bowl XLVII.
This year, the GREEN BAY PACKERS (4-1) sit atop the NFC North with the DETROIT LIONS (2-1-1), MINNESOTA VIKINGS (3-2) and CHICAGO BEARS (3-2) closely behind. That division has crowned three different teams as its winner over the past three seasons. No other NFL division has that distinction. And if the Lions and Vikings win this week, with the Bears on their bye, the NFC North could have four teams above .500 again next week.
METHODICAL MARCHES: Physically and mentally, a touchdown drive of 90-or-more yards can provide a substantial advantage. Last week, the OAKLAND RAIDERS engineered not one but two such drives in a London win over the Bears. The MINNESOTA VIKINGS orchestrated a 98-yard touchdown drive in a victory at the New York Giants. The Vikings and Raiders each have three touchdown drives of 90-plus yards in 2019, tied with the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS and NEW YORK GIANTS for most in the league. Overall, NFL teams this season have combined for 24 such drives, most through five weeks of play since there were also 24 touchdown drives of 90-plus yards in 2014.
SACKS ARE PILING UP: NFL clubs have combined for 396 sacks in 2019. Through Week 5, that’s the second-highest total over the last two decades. In that span, only the 2013 season (416) had more entering Week 6.
WAKE UP TO FOOTBALL: The second of five international games appears on the Week 6 slate. The CAROLINA PANTHERS meet the TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS in an important NFC South clash. The contest kicks off at 9:30 AM ET and will appear exclusively on NFL Network. It’s also the second of two games at London’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. In Week 8, the NFL plays its first of two games at London’s Wembley Stadium, when the CINCINNATI BENGALS meet the LOS ANGELES RAMS. In Week 9, also at Wembley, the HOUSTON TEXANS play the JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS. The 2019 international games conclude with a Week 11 contest in Mexico City, where the KANSAS CITY CHIEFS play the LOS ANGELES CHARGERS on Monday Night Football, November 18.