Few winning teams leads to 1 Week 17 matchup of winners

This is not exactly a winning weekend upcoming of NFL football.

The Monday night matchup between Buffalo (12-3) and Cincinnati (11-4) is the only one in Week 17 that features two teams with winning records.

That marks just the seventh time since the merger that one of the final two weeks of the season featured one or fewer matchup with winning teams, according to Sportradar.

The last time it happened was in Week 16 of the 2011 season when Atlanta (9-5) faced New Orleans (11-3). There was also only one matchup of winning teams in Week 16 of the 2009 season, Week 17 of 2003, Week 16 of 2001 and Week 16 of 1990.

There was also one week this late in the season that had no matchups of winning teams, coming in Week 16 of the 2007 season.

In all, only 11 teams have winning records with two weeks to go. This is the fewest winning teams after 16 weeks since 1985, when 11 of the 28 teams finished with winning records.

The previous low of winning teams through 16 weeks since the league expanded to 32 teams in 2002 was 14, happening in 2004, 2007 and 2015.

LESS THAN ONE AND DONE

Nathaniel Hackett joined a short list of coaches who failed even to finish their first season.

Hackett was fired by Denver with two weeks to go in the season. This marks the second straight season a first-year coach was fired before the end of the season, with Jacksonville doing it to Urban Meyer in 2021.

The other coaches since the merger who didn’t finish their first season were Bobby Petrino (2007 Falcons), Pete McCulley (1978 49ers) and Lou Holtz (1976 Jets). Petrino and Holtz left on their own for college jobs, with McCulley joining Hackett and Meyer as the only ones to be fired.

The Broncos are also assured of missing the playoffs for a seventh straight season since winning the Super Bowl following the 2015 campaign — the longest playoff drought ever following a Super Bowl win.

COMEBACKS

The 2022 season has already been a record-setting one for big comebacks.

The Saints, Cowboys, Packers and Buccaneers all rallied from at least 10 points down to win this week, giving the NFL a record-setting 46 double-digit comebacks this season.

The previous mark for most wins in a season after trailing by at least 10 points was 43, done in 2013, 2014 and 2020.

The Vikings and Chargers lead the way with four double-digit comebacks apiece, while the Raiders have blown the most with four.

JUST FOR KICKS

Minnesota only needed a smaller comeback this week, overcoming a three-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Giants 27-24 for its record-tying eighth fourth-quarter comeback of the season.

The game ended on Greg Joseph’s 61-yard field goal, giving Minnesota its record-setting 11th win this season by eight points or fewer.

That was the fifth lead-changing field goal of at least 60 yards in the final two minutes of a game since 2016, with three of those coming against the Giants. Jake Elliott did it for Philadelphia in 2017 and Graham Gano for Carolina in 2018.

The only others were by New Orleans’ Wil Lutz against Minnesota earlier this season and Justin Tucker last year for Baltimore against Detroit.

Kickers trying lead-changing field goals of at least 60 yards are 3 for 3 against the Giants and 2 for 15 against all other teams since 2016.

In all, there have been 16 field goals made from at least 60 yards since the start of the 2017 season — matching the total in NFL history before that.

WEARING DOWN

Watch out, Washington. Playing the 49ers seems to have a lasting negative impact.

Teams that played the 49ers this season are 0-13 when they play a game the following week, as it appears their physical style might wear down opponents. The only team to win its next game after playing San Francisco was the Chiefs, who had a bye in between.

According to Sportradar, the last team whose opponents lost the following week every time was the 1934 St. Louis Gunners, who played only three games that season.

Three other teams had their opponents lose 13 times the following week: the 1997 Packers (1-13), 1989 Dolphins (2-13) and 1984 Rams (2-13).

MARVELOUS MARCUS

Patriots rookie Marcus Jones has a knack for big plays.

He returned an interception 69 yards for a touchdown in a loss to Cincinnati for his third TD of the season. He also caught a 48-yard TD pass against Buffalo in Week 13 and had a game-winning 84-yard punt return to beat the Jets in Week 11.

Jones joined Frank Bacon (1920), Bill Dudley (1947) and Tommy Harmon (1947) as the only players with a TD on a catch, punt return and interception return in the same season.

The only other player in the Super Bowl era to score TDs of at least 40 yards those three ways in his entire career was Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.

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