Monday, January 4, 2010

NFL Wildcard Weekend: History On Bengals Side for Playoff Opener

By the time 10:30 p.m. rolled around Sunday night, most Bengals fans were stuck with three choices: overdose on Ambien and hope for death, watch Battlefield Earth (which is almost the same as overdosing on Ambien) or keep the game on.

We at INSIC gave this decision much consideration, but since we were out of Ambien, we decided to watch the rest of the game.

So what does Sunday's 37-0 loss to the Jets mean? Good question, glad you asked.

Since 1990, when the NFL expanded the playoffs to its current 12-team format, there have been nine occasions where two teams matched up in the final game of the season went on to meet again in the first round of the playoffs.

The good news for the Bengals: The team that loses the regular season game has a 5-4 record in the playoff game.

Even better, there have only been two teams since 1990 involved in the exact same scenario as the Bengals, that being, you go on the road to face an opponent in the regular season finale and then turn around and host that same opponent in the first round of the playoffs. So lets take a closer look at those two teams.

Regular Season

December 27, 1992: Buffalo at Houston

In the final week of the 1992 season, the Bills had everything to play for. With a win, they would clinch the AFC East and a first round bye in the playoffs. With a loss, they would be stuck playing Houston in the Wildcard game the following week.

For the Oilers it was simple: win and you're in (Sound familiar Jets fans). Even though they were playing to win and AFC East title, the Bills, playing all of their starters, came out and laid an egg. Quarterback Frank Reich threw for only 99 yards to go along with two interceptions. The Bills were down 20-3 at halftime.

Houston would clinch a playoff berth with a 27-3 win over Buffalo.

The Rematch in the Playoffs

January 3, 1993 Houston at Buffalo (The Famous Bills Comeback)

After treating the Bills like Charlie Sheen treats his ex-wives, the Oilers were cocky and confident going into the rematch. Even with Buffalo's starters playing, Houston had dominated the week before. The first 33 minutes of the playoff game looked to be the same as Houston jumped out to a 35-3 lead. Yes, you read that correctly, it was 35-3 in the third quarter.

So how is this good for Bengals fans, weren't the Bengals and Bills in the same position? Lets cue, Frank Reich, the Buffalo offense and the best comeback in NFL history. Over the next nine minutes, Reich throws four touchdown passes (three of them to Andre Reed) and combined with a 1-yard Kenneth Davis TD run, Buffalo actually took the lead in the fourth quarter. The game would go to overtime, but we wouldn't be telling this story if the Bills lost.

Bills kicker Steve Christie hits a 32-yard field goal in the extra period and Buffalo rides the unbelievable 41-38 win all the way to the Super Bowl.

Example Two

Regular Season

January 2, 2005 Indianapolis at Denver

For Denver it was simple: win and you're in (Sound familiar Jets fans). For the Colts it was also simple: do whatever the hell you want. The Colts knew that if they lost, they would definitely play Denver. They also knew that if they won, Denver would be eliminated and they would face a Jaguars team that had already beat them this season. (The Bengals knew if they won, they would play a Texans team that had already beaten them handily, when they were actually TRYING).

Lets make a long story short, Peyton Manning sat, all other starters played at least a half, but the Broncos qualified for the playoffs by beating the Colts 33-14.

The Rematch in the Playoffs

January 9, 2005, Denver at Indianapolis

In the first round of the playoffs the Broncos got an unhealthy dose of Peyton Manning. Everyone's favorite commercial star threw four touchdown passes and it was 35-3 Colts by halftime. After trashing Indy one week earlier, the Broncos all of the sudden looked like a blind kid trying to take a written version of the SAT, they had no answers as the Colts rolled to a 49-24 win.

So what does of all of this mean? Well, on one hand it means absolutely nothing.

However, on the other hand, we're merely pointing out that no team has ever won a playoff rematch on the road after winning the regular season game at home a week earlier.

For your reading pleasure, here are the results of all nine match-ups involving teams playing in consecutive weeks since 1990. Regular season game in orange, playoff game in black.

Chiefs 27, Raiders 21
Chiefs 10, Raiders 6

Oilers 27, Bills 3
Bills 41, Oilers 38 Overtime

1993 (Two Examples)
Lions 30, Packers 20
Packers 28, Lions 24

Raiders 33, Broncos 30 Overtime

Raiders 42, Broncos 24

Patriots 14, Dolphins 12 Patriots 17, Dolphins 3

Rams 26, Saints 21 Saints 31, Rams 28

2001 (Two Examples)
Jets 24, Raiders 22
Raiders 38, Jets 24

Eagles 17, Buccaneers 13

Eagles 31, Buccaneers 9

Broncos 33, Colts 14 Colts 49, Broncos 24

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