STILL IN THE MIX:History shows that a losing record at this point in the season does not negate a team's chances of making the playoffs. Since 2000, 29 teams have reached the halfway point of their season with a .500 or below winning percentage and proceeded to the playoffs, including at least one in each season.
Of those 29 clubs, five have advanced to the Conference Championship Game, including the 2001 New England Patriots, who won Super Bowl XXXVI.
The five teams since 2000 to start .500 or worse halfway through the season and advance to the Conference Championship Game:
Won Super Bowl XXXVI
Lost Super Bowl XXXVII
New York Jets
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SUNDAY ENDS:On Sunday Night Football, two prolific tight ends will face off as TONY GONZALEZand the undefeated Atlanta Falcons (7-0) play host to JASON WITTENand the Dallas Cowboys (3-4). Gonzalez and Witten rank among the top three tight ends in all-time receptions and receiving yards:
Kansas City, Atlanta
- Pro Football Hall of Famer
Gonzalez has 46 receptions this season and 1,195 for his career, second all-time behind Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (1,549). He is the only player in NFL history with 14 consecutive 50-reception seasons and has 99 career touchdown catches. The following are the milestones that Gonzalez can reach on Sunday night against Dallas:
- With four catches, Gonzalez (14) will join Rice (17) as the only players in NFL history with 15 50-reception seasons.
- With five receptions, Gonzalez (1,195) will join Rice as the only players with 1,200 career receptions.
- With a touchdown catch, Gonzalez (99) can become the first tight end and the eighth player in league history to amass 100 touchdown receptions.
Last Sunday, Witten (18) became only the third player in NFL history to record two games with at least 15 receptions (BRANDON MARSHALLand WES WELKER). His 18 receptions are tied for the third-most by any player in a single game and the most by a tight end in a single game in NFL history.
Witten has 51 receptions in 2012, marking his ninth consecutive 50-catch season, the second-most by a tight end behind Gonzalez. With four receptions on Sunday night, Witten (747) can surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer MICHAEL IRVIN (750) for the most receptions in franchise history.
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MANNING WAY:Last week, Denver quarterback PEYTON MANNINGcompleted 22 of 30 passes (73.3 percent) for 305 yards and three touchdowns in the Broncos' 34-14 win over New Orleans. It marked Manning's fourth consecutive game with at least 300 yards and three touchdowns, the second-longest such streak in one season in NFL history.
Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback STEVE YOUNGopened the 1998 season with five consecutive games of at least 300 yards passing and three touchdowns. If Manning passes for at least 300 yards and three touchdowns on Sunday against Cincinnati, he will tie Young for the longest such streak in a season in NFL history.
A look at Young's and Manning's streaks with at least 300 yards passing and three touchdowns in consecutive games:
STEVE YOUNG'S STREAK
PEYTON MANNING'S STREAK
vs. NY Jets
at New England
at San Diego
vs. New Orleans
at New Orleans
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10,000 CLUB:Detroit quarterbackMATTHEW STAFFORD (9,948) needs 52 passing yards on Sunday at Jacksonville to reach 10,000 career passing yards. Stafford will play in his 37th career game Sunday and can become the second-fastest player to reach 10,000 career passing yards (KURT WARNER, 36).
The fewest games to reach 10,000 career passing yards in NFL history:
* Needs 52 pass yards
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ROOKIE SHOWDOWN:In Week 9, Miami rookie quarterback RYAN TANNEHILL will lead the Dolphins (4-3) to Indianapolis to face 2012 NFL Draft No. 1 overall selection ANDREW LUCKand the Colts (4-3). The matchup will mark the first time since the merger that two rookie quarterbacks, each with at least three wins, faced each other in a game.
The Dolphins have won three consecutive games, while the Colts have won back-to-back games and three out of their past four games. Luck has the highest winning percentage (.571) through Week 8 in NFL history by a rookie quarterback who was the No. 1 overall pick. Tannehill passed for 431 yards in Week 4 at Arizona, the second-most by a rookie quarterback in NFL history (CAM NEWTON, 432 in 2011).
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ZERO TO 60:Pittsburgh head coach MIKE TOMLINhas a 59-28 (.678) record in six seasons. With a win on Sunday at the New York Giants, Tomlin (88) can tie CHUCK KNOX(88) for the fourth-fewest games to reach 60 career victories among coaches who began their career since 1970.
GEORGE SEIFERT(75) reached 60 wins in the fewest games in NFL history.
The coaches who began their career since 1970 to win 60 games in the fewest games: * *
NO. OF GAMES
LA Rams, Buffalo
- 59 career victories
^ Through first 60 wins