As the NFL kicks off its divisional playoff round, four bye teams return to action, but they don't hold a distinct advantage, at least not according to recent history.
For most avid football fans, there is no better weekend that what is upon us. The four of 32 NFL teams that earned the right to rest a week in their preparation for a Super Bowl run are returning to action and the conventional wisdom has it that the teams that earned their week of rest are automatically going to roll into the conference championship games rested at home.
As they say in the pubs on Chicago's North Side, "Not so fast, my friend." Being a bye-week team isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Last year, the Vikings did their part, dismissing the flavor of the week Dallas Cowboys – a team the 24-hour NFL news talking heads anointed as the team most likely to make a four-game run (a mantle currently held by the Packers and Ravens). Three of the four bye-week teams made it through last year, but that has been anything but normal.
Despite being given every advantage possible, the teams coming out of bye weeks have won just half of their games over the last five years – winning 10 times and losing 10 times. The last time all four favored teams coming out of bye weeks have won was in 2004. Back then, having the home field was truly an advantage. Unlike the last five years when home teams with a bye have just a .500 record, from 2000-04 the team with a bye had a record of 16-4.
It would seem that being the rested team isn't all it's cracked up to be. The teams like Atlanta, Chicago, New England and Pittsburgh earned the right to be rested and healed up. But, if recent history has taught us anything, it might be just as advantageous to be the Packers, Jets or Ravens heading into this weekend instead of being the favorites.
You can add the Rams to the potential landing spot for Brad Childress. Chilly is expected to interview this weekend with Miami and is scheduled to visit St. Louis early next week to interview for the vacant offensive coordinator position. Rams O.C. Pat Shurmur was named head coach of Browns this week.
Ted Mondale, the son of former Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale, was named the chairman of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission Friday by Gov. Mark Dayton. Not only is Mondale viewed as pro-stadium for the effort to get the Vikings a new place to play, but was also childhood friends with Commissioner Roger Goodell, both of whom grew up in Washington D.C.
An employee at a Twin Cities McDonalds restaurant was fired for allowing Adrian Peterson into the store at 3 a.m., long after the inside of the restaurant had been closed. However, bowing to pressure after it was learned that the violation of the rules came for Peterson, the employee was re-hired.
PACKERS-FALCONS BY THE NUMBERS
The oddsmakers don't like the Falcons' chances, despite owning the best record in the NFC. The Falcons are just 2½-point favorites, incredibly low for a No. 1 seed at home. Typically, a home team is given an automatic three-point edge. For a rested team playing against an injury-depleted team at home and being less than three points, perhaps "da boys in Vegas" know something everyone other than Packers fans do.
Don't expect the Packers to get blown out. In the 2010 season, they lost six games – all by four points or less. Four of them were by three points, including losses in both of their overtime games.
Of their 10 wins, Green Bay's average margin of victory is 16 points, which helped explain why the Packers were 10th in scoring with 388 points and second in points allowed with 240.
Atlanta has allowed opponents to score more than 18 points just six times all season, while scoring 27 or more points nine times.
Don't look for the Falcons to have a big first quarter. Few teams come into games and make adjustments at halftime more than the Packers. Through 17 games, the Packers have allowed 33 points – three touchdowns and four field goals – while scoring 81 points. Even more pronounced is their advantage in the third quarter, where the Packers have outscored their opponents 117-43.
The Falcons are a complete contrast to that. They have been outscored 158-152 in the first and third quarters, but have made their stake in the second and fourth quarters – outscoring their opponents 259-124 – helping to make them both the fifth-rated scoring team (414 points) and fifth in points allowed (288).
Green Bay had almost twice as many touchdowns as their opponents in 2010 – scoring 46 touchdowns and allowing just 24.
The Packers were in the top 10 in both total offense (ninth) and total defense (fifth). Atlanta, despite having the best record in the NFC, were 16th in both offense and defense.
Sixteen different Packers have at least one sack, including 13.5 from
Clay Matthews, who finished fourth in the league.
No running back in the league had more carries than Michael Turner (334), who finished third in rushing yards with 1,371 and tied for fourth with 12 rushing touchdowns. That could bode well for Atlanta, since the Packers were 28th in the league in rushing, allowing 4.7 yards per carry. The Falcons aren't much better, ranking 26th at 4.6 yards per carry.
Atlanta's offense is centered around two great players. Not only did Turner lead the league in rushing attempts, nobody caught more passes than the 115 Roddy White caught. White also finished second in receiving yards with 1,389.
Aaron Rodgers finished third in the league in passer rating (101.2). Matt Ryan finished 11th with a rating of 92.0.
The Packers returned three interceptions for touchdowns this season.
Atlanta had 13 different defensive players register at least one interception.
The Packers had five players catch 40 or more passes.
The Falcons had four players catch 40 or more passes, but had nine different players score touchdowns.
The Falcons offense is third in third-down conversions, making good on 46.7 percent – the third-best total in the league. They were also first in fourth-down conversions, making good on a whopping 73.3 percent (11 of 15).
No team is better in kickoff returns than the Falcons, who averaged 26.5 yards per return.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.