AFC News and Notes
FINAL QUARTER STARTS WITH PLAYOFFS IN SIGHT
Four weeks remain in the NFL regular season and wins are increasingly tough to come by, with every game of vital importance in the race to the playoffs.
"The team that gets hot right about now is a team that gets a chance," says Baltimore running back RAY RICE on the AFC's playoff race.
New England quarterback TOM BRADY understands what's required down the stretch. Brady is 40-8 (.833) all-time in the final four games of the regular season, the highest winning percentage among quarterbacks since 1970 (minimum 20 starts).
"Right now is when we say football season starts," says Brady. "The mental toughness, the discipline, the attitude, the work ethic, this is when it starts to show up. Those are intangibles that you don't really see in September and August when things are fresh and everyone is hopeful. Now you really see where you're at and you see how you match up against other teams. We have to go out there and prove it and earn it."
The quarterbacks with the best records in the final four games of the regular season since 1970 (minimum 20 starts):
Denver wide receiver ERIC DECKER, who registered a Broncos single-game record with four touchdown receptions last week, certainly senses the urgency as the final quarter of the season approaches. The Broncos (10-2), who have the best record in the AFC, aim to clinch the AFC West title and secure home-field advantage throughout the AFC postseason.
"To get into the playoffs, and set yourself up the right way, you have to win your division," says Decker after the Broncos' 35-28 win at Kansas City last week. "We've got a full month ahead of us, and we've got to make sure we take care of business."
The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens (6-6), who have won three of their past four games, are in a position to make a postseason run. The Ravens, who are 10-1 at home against the NFC under head coach JOHN HARBAUGH, host the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14 (FOX, 1:00 PM ET).
Since Harbaugh was hired as Baltimore's head coach in 2008, the Ravens are 14-6 (.700) in the final four games of the regular season, tied for fourth-best in the NFL.
"We're in control of our destiny," says Harbaugh. "It's up to us to win games. I'm proud of our guys finding a way to win the last two games and finishing the way they have. I feel like we're a really good football team. But you need to go out and prove it, you need to prove it every week."
The team's with the best records in the final four games of the regular season since 2008:
New England Patriots
San Diego Chargers
San Francisco 49ers
NFC News and Notes
NFL ENTERS FINAL QUARTER AS TEAMS MAKE PUSH FOR PLAYOFFS
The NFL season enters the home stretch with 29 teams still in contention for a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII. The final quarter of the season kicks off this week with playoff berths on the line.
"The games in December are the most important regular-season games by far," says NFL Network analyst and former NFL head coach STEVE MARIUCCI. "It's extremely important to win in December and to make a run at the playoffs and show improvement. You want your team to peak in December. It's important to stay healthy and keep your players fresh. You remember what happens in December."
Over the past five seasons (since 2008), the New England Patriots own the best record in the month, which also includes regular-season games played in January.
"Every game counts this time of year," says Philadelphia Eagles linebacker TRENT COLE, who has four sacks in his past two games. "It's very critical. We're going to take every game one by one and see where we are at the end of the season. When December 29th comes, we'll see where we are at."
New England Patriots
San Diego Chargers
Green Bay Packers
"There's a month of football left," says Arizona Cardinals quarterback CARSON PALMER. "There's a lot of football left to be played and a lot of crazy things happen this time of year. We just have to keep our heads down, continue to work and take it one game at a time. That's all you can worry about right now."
With four games remaining, 20 teams are either in or within one game of a playoff spot. Five more teams are within two games of a postseason berth.
"We just need to keep winning games" says Dallas Cowboys quarterback TONY ROMO. "More than anything, you've got to keep stacking wins together and then see where you're at in the end."
Some of the top performers in December/January since 2008: