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Cowboys are the NFL’s Winningest Franchise

I may be the only one who is interested in this (covered here and here recently), but the Cowboys finished 50 regular seasons with the best winning percentage of any team in the league. This was thanks to the Cowboys’ win over the Eagles and the Dolphins’ loss to Pittsburgh in the final week of the 2009 season.

The Cowboys have won a higher percentage of games than any other NFL team.

Here are the top five franchises, including the Cowboys’ opponent on Sunday:

Dallas Cowboys: 434-314-6 (.580)
Miami Dolphins: 387-281-4 (.579)
Chicago Bears: 693-507-42 (.577)
Green Bay Packers: 654-518-36 (.558)
Minnesota Vikings: 407-326-9 (.555)

With the Cowboys’ playoff berth, Dallas tied the New York Giants with the most seasons in the playoffs. This is pretty good, given that the Giants were formed in 1925 and the Cowboys were not born until 1960.

Most years in the playoffs:

1(tie). Cowboys: 30
1(tie). Giants: 30
3. Browns: 28
4. Rams: 27
5(tie). Vikings 25
5(tie). Packers 25
5(tie). Steelers 25

With their win over the Eagles, the Cowboys improved their playoff record to 33-24. Since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970, the Cowboys and Steelers have won the most games during the divisional round of the playoffs, with each team winning 14. The Cowboys improved their record in wildcard games to 5-5.

Cowboys-Eagles Highlights

Here are the highlights of the Cowboys’ playoff win over the Eagles. Great stuff.

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And an interview with Tony Romo after the game:

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Dallas 34, Philadelphia 14: A Long, Long Time Coming

The version of the Dallas Cowboys that has emerged since December 19, 2009 continues to put to rest the concerns that have followed this team for so many years now.

Of course, the team’s drought of playoff wins has come to an end after 13 years. Tony Romo has won a playoff game. Wade Phillips has won playoff game. Jerry Jones has won a playoff game without guys named Aikman, Irvin, and Emmitt.

This picture is for those of us who had to explain to 10-year-old children what the last Dallas playoff win felt like.

Beyond all of that, what is most impressive about this team is that the Cowboys aren’t falling apart when faced with adversity. “Oh, no, here we go again” just isn’t happening.

Against the Eagles on Saturday night, Philadelphia clearly needed to get some momentum to erase the effects of the Cowboys’ shutout win last week. Dallas drove the ball in the first quarter but could not punch it in. When Dallas finally got on the board, thanks a pass interference penalty called on Sheldon Brown, the Eagles responded with a 76-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick to Jeremy Maclin.

7-7. So much for the shutout string. So much for the easy blowout. So much for the momentum.

On the first play after Dallas got the ball back, Romo threw up (not as in vomit, though the thought came to mind) a duck pass that appeared to be picked off by Sean Jones, who returned the ball to the Dallas 14. It looked like the Eagles might snag a 14-7 lead.

But then the oft-maligned Phillips made the most important challenge of his coaching career, and the referees determined that the ball had touched the ground and reversed the call. With new life, the formerly maligned Romo moved the ball 85 yards in 10 plays. Players catching the ball on the drive included Patrick Crayton (18 yards on a 3rd-and-9) and Roy Williams (17 yards on a 3rd-and-7).

A Romo pass to Jason Witten moved the ball inside the Philadelphia 1. One might recall the Cowboys’ short-yardage problems from a month ago. No problem at all, as Tashard Choice ran right behind Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis to score and give the Cowboys a 14-7 lead.

From there, the rout unfolded. Dallas held the Eagles and got the ball back. A pass from Romo to Miles Austin set up a Shaun Suisham field goal. Two plays later, Vick fumbled a handoff attempt, and another oft-maligned player—Bobby Carpenter—recovered the fumble. Three plays after that, Romo hit Austin on a bubble screen, and when Austin ran it in from six yards out, the Cowboys led 24-7.

Flashback to the infamous finale of the 2008 season. The Eagles took a 24-3 lead just before the half. On the ensuing kickoff, with less than 10 seconds remaining in the half, Pacman Jones fumbled the kickoff return, setting up a 50-yard field goal by David Akers. Not that the Cowboys had a chance before that play, but the Eagles put another nail in the coffin with that play.

Flash forward to Saturday night: The Eagles tried to get some points just before the half. However, with 51 seconds left in the half, linebacker Bradie James stripped Pro Bowl fullback Leonard Weaver. Dallas moved the ball to the Philadelphia 30, setting up Suisham’s 48-yard field goal as time nearly expired.

From that point, it was just a matter of watching the clock and hoping the Eagles didn’t come up with some sort of miracle. The Eagles moved the ball into Dallas territory midway through the third quarter, but an Anthony Spencer sack on a 3rd-and-7 play ended the drive. After the Eagles punted, Felix Jones put the Eagles out of their misery by darting right and breaking away for a 73-yard touchdown (video).

From there, the celebration was on. Given that the Cowboys beat the Eagles by scores of 34-10 (1992) and 30-11 (1995) in two previous playoff wins, it was hard not to think back what wins over Philadelphia led to in previous seasons.

Jones finished with 148 yards on 16 carries, while Tashard Choice added another 42. Marion Barber barely played.

Romo continued his red hot play. He completed 23 of 35 passes for 244 yards and 2 TD.

The Dallas defense gave up 340 yards, which was more than normal, but a big chunk of that came on the Maclin touchdown and after the game was out of hand. McNabb had a passer rating of just 68.5, and that was thanks to some stat-padding late in the game.

The Cowboys travel to Minnesota next week to face the Vikings. Dallas lost at Minnesota in the 1999 playoffs but beat the Vikings at home in 1996. This was also a great series during the 1970s. Keep this in mind: in both of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl championship seasons of the 1970s, Dallas beat Minnesota to do so.

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Cowboys Predicted to Secure Playoff Win Over Eagles

When the Cowboys prepared to face the Giants two seasons ago in the playoffs, nearly everyone who followed the Cowboys picked Dallas to pull out the win. The Cowboys had beaten the Giants handily on the road several weeks before, so there were reasons to think that Dallas would come out and end the franchise playoff drought.

Many Cowboy fans will react the same way should Dallas end its playoff drought on Saturday night.

The difference then was that the Cowboys had completely lost momentum between the Giant games, while the Giants had started building momentum by nearly knocking off the Patriots in the final week of the season and by routing Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs. The Cowboys came into the game hoping they would put everything back together, but they didn’t.

Unlike the circumstances surrounding the 2007 season, the 2009 Cowboys are peaking at just the right time. Most are picking the Cowboys to beat the Eagles on Saturday night, and these predictions can be based on how this team is playing right now, not how it was playing when the teams faced each other in November.

At ESPN, only Ron Jaworski picked the Eagles to win. Hardly a surprise, given that he was the QB of the 1980 Philadelphia team that beat Dallas in the NFC Championship Game. At the Dallas Morning News, only Kevin Sherrington predicted a Dallas loss.

As for the simulations, two predicted a Dallas win, but the video game simulation once again predicted a Dallas loss. Of course, the Madden simulation predicted losses to the Redskins and Saints, and neither of those turned out to be accurate.

AccuScore: Dallas 28, Philadelphia 22

The Cowboys won 66% of the simulations against the Eagles by an average score of 27.5 to 21.6.

The Cowboys pass rush has sacked the opposing QB at least 3 times during their hot 3 game streak. If they can harass McNabb again this week and limit the big down field pass completions the Cowboys should win. If the Cowboys have 3 or more sacks they have a 74 percent chance of winning, but if they 2 or less the game is a virtual coin flip with Dallas having a 51 percent chance. Tony Romo has thrown just 2 INTs in his past 3 games and there is a high 45 percent chance that he throws no INTs this week. However, if Romo throws 1 or more INTs the Eagles chances increase to 42 percent. If the Eagles can also hold Marion Barber and Felix Jones to under 4.5 yards per carry while also forcing at least 1 Romo INT then Philadelphia has a 57 percent chance of winning by an average score of PHI 25, DAL 22.

What If Sports: Dallas 23, Philadelphia 17

According to What If Sports, the Cowboys have a 13.7% chance to win Super Bowl XLIV. This ranks fourth behind the Jets (!), Saints, and Vikings.

Dallas won 63% of the simulations in the wildcard round by an average score of 23-17.

Quarterback Tony Romo threw for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns, Dallas’ defense allowed less than 40 yards rushing and the Cowboys clinched a home-field rematch against the Eagles with a 24-0 victory in Week 17. Now they’ll try to beat Philadelphia for the third time this season and a second time in as many weeks in the first round of the playoffs.

Philadelphia boasts the fifth-best scoring offense in the league at 26.8 points per game, but has scored a total of 16 against the Cowboys this season as Dallas’ defense has stymied Donovan McNabb and big-play wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

Dallas’ offense, on the other hand, ranks in the top 10 in nearly every major statistic except for points, but had two of its best games against the Eagles. Two of Romo’s eight 300-yard games came against Philadelphia and the Cowboys average more than eight yards per pass attempt.

In the first of three Week 17 rematches, the computer begins the trend of liking last week’s winner. Romo’s numbers certainly don’t stand out, but the Cowboys once again make the Eagles one-dimensional, beating the Eagles 63% of the time by an average score of 23-16.

Madden Simulation: Philadelphia 30, Dallas 27

I considered omitting this, but I am going to err on the side of confronting one’s fears:

The Cowboys looked to have the game wrapped up with less than two minutes left in the fourth quarter when a Marion Barber fumble opens the door for a miracle Eagles comeback. With time running out and Philadelphia down to just one final play, Donovan McNabb hits Brent Celek for a 13-yard touchdown to give the Eagles a 30-27 victory.

Despite the soul-crushing defeat, Tony Romo played like the Romo Dallas fans saw in December ’09 and not the quarterback fans began to doubt after previous late-season collapses. In fact, Romo threw for 282 yards and two touchdowns in the loss, and more importantly, never turned the ball over.

Moreover, until Barber’s fumble, the Cowboys offense looked flawless (at least virtually). But in the playoffs, the fine-line between victory and defeat can sometimes come down to one mistake, and in Dallas’ case, this mistake was a difference maker, not only for the game, but for their season.

This isn’t going to happen.

My Guess (10-6 based on win-loss)

My conservative prediction last week didn’t turn out to be close in terms of the score.

I’ve had mixed feelings about tomorrow’s game all week. Part of me thought that Dallas might lose to the Eagles but then turn around and win a couple of playoff games as the #6 seed. However, I’ve since become convinced that the Cowboys will pull this one out. The teams will be tied 10-10 at the half thanks to a late score by the Cowboys. The Eagles will take a lead, but a Dallas touchdown in the fourth quarter will be enough to give the Cowboys their second NFC East title in the past three seasons.

Dallas 17, Philadelphia 13

Dallas took a 17-0 lead at the half and never looked back, so the team didn’t need a late score to pull out the game.

For the season:

Week: My Prediction (Actual Result)
Week 1: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 24 (actual: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21)
Week 2: N.Y. Giants 17, Dallas 14 (actual: N.Y. Giants 33, Dallas 31)
Week 3: Dallas 31, Carolina 21 (actual: Dallas 21, Carolina 7)
Week 4: Dallas 24, Denver 14 (actual: Denver 17, Dallas 10)
Week 5: Dallas 31, Kansas City 14 (actual: Dallas 26, Kansas City 20)
Week 7: Atlanta 28, Dallas 17 (actual: Dallas 37, Atlanta 21)
Week 8: Dallas 31, Seattle 17 (actual Dallas 38, Seattle 17)
Week 9: Dallas 23, Philadelphia 17 (actual: Dallas 20, Philadelphia 16)
Week 10: Dallas 31, Green Bay 20 (actual: Green Bay 17, Dallas 7)
Week 11: Dallas 20, Washington 6 (actual: Dallas 7, Washington 6)
Week 12: Dallas 30, Oakland 13 (actual: Dallas 24, Oakland 7)
Week 13: Dallas 21, N.Y. Giants 12 (actual: N.Y. Giants 31, Dallas 24)
Week 14: Dallas 27, San Diego 20 (actual: San Diego 20, Dallas 17)
Week 15: New Orleans 30, Dallas 18 (actual: Dallas 24, New Orleans 17)
Week 16: Dallas 31, Washington 0 (actual: Dallas 17, Washington 0)
Week 17: Dallas 17, Philadelphia 13 (actual: Dallas 24, Philadelphia 0)

For the season, the Cowboys would have gone 13-3 had my predictions come true.  Frankly, this team had the ability to go 13-3, but it is probably better that the team struggled a bit before rebounding late in the season. The Cowboys have not entered the playoffs with this much momentum since the 1992 season (which was, of course, a 13-3 season). There are also plenty of comparisons we could make between the 2009 team and the 1991 team, the latter of which won five straight to finish the season at 11-5 and ended a playoff drought with a win over Chicago.

The Cowboys didn’t merely slip by the Eagles last week; instead, Dallas controlled both lines of scrimmage. Moreover, the Cowboys made mistakes but still pulled out a dominant win. I think Dallas will jump out to a 21-10 lead and then hold off a late Philadelphia rally.

The score:

personalized greetings

Dallas 24, Philadelphia 19

Know Your Dallas Cowboys: Twitter Updates for 2010-01-08

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Relative Value Rankings After Week 17

The Cowboys stepped up to shut out the Eagles to set up Saturday’s game, a rematch with the same Philadelphia team. A repeat of several performances would certainly help Dallas.

There were, of course, some bad (hook ’em, Roy) performances.

Safety Michael Hamlin returned to field, sending linebacker Jason Williams to the inactive list.

Inactives vs. Philadelphia: QB Stephen McGee, S Pat Watkins, CB Cletis Gordon, LB Jason Williams (#41 last week), G Montrae Holland, C Duke Preston, T Marc Colombo, LB Curtis Johnson

45. Cory Procter, C/G

Last week: 45

vs. Philadelphia: Procter did not play at all against the Eagles, marking the second time in three weeks that he did not step onto the field.

44. Pat McQuistan, T

Last week: 44

vs. Philadelphia: McQuistan was a blocker on special teams. With the return of Marc Colombo, McQuistan probably won’t play this week.

43. Jon Kitna, QB

Last week: 43

vs. Philadelphia: Kitna went all season without playing a down. It would have been nice had that been the case with Brad Johnson last year…

42. Michael Hamlin, S

Last week: Inactive

vs. Philadelphia: Hamlin made the active list, but he did not record a tackle.

41. Victor Butler, LB

Last week: 40

vs. Philadelphia: Butler played against the Eagles, filling in late when the game was decided. He did not record a tackle.

40. Junior Siavii, DT

Last week: 39

vs. Philadelphia: Siavii did not record a tackle. He has not recorded a tackle since the December 13 game against San Diego.

39. Shaun Suisham, K

Last week: 38

vs. Philadelphia: Suisham made a 44-yarder but missed a 30-yarder later in the game. Cowboy nation gasped, thinking of what might happen if a forthcoming game came down to a field goal.

38. Steve Octavien, LB

Last week: 42

vs. Philadelphia: Octavien recorded one tackle on defense.

37. Roy Williams, WR

Last week: 30

vs. Philadelphia: This is perhaps way too far down on the list.

No, it’s not.

36. L.P. Ladouceur, LS

Last week: 36

vs. Philadelphia: For the 16th consecutive week, all I can say is Ladouceur did his job well.

35. Sam Hurd, WR

Last week: 34

vs. Philadelphia: Hurd did not record a tackle on special teams, and Kevin Ogletree has stepped forward as a bigger threat at receveir.

34. Deon Anderson, FB

Last week: 33

vs. Philadelphia: Jason Phillips had bigger blocks from the fullback position than Anderson. His holding penalty in the second quarter negated a 24-yard run by Felix Jones.

33. David Buehler, K

Last week: 34

vs. Philadelphia: Four of his five kickoffs went into the end zone and were downed for touchbacks. That’s why a team drafts a kickoff specialist.

32. Jason Hatcher, DE

Last week: 37

vs. Philadelphia: Hatcher wins the Jason Witten Real Man Award for recording a sack without a helmet. Wow.

31. Stephen Bowen, DE

Last week: 32

vs. Philadelphia: Bowen recorded one tackle on defense.

30. Kevin Ogletree, WR

Last week: 31

vs. Philadelphia: Ogletree had one reception for 15 yards and was targeted on another deep pass late in the first half (Romo was roughed on the play, which helped to set up Shaun Suisham’s field goal). Ogletree is emerging as a threat at just the right time.

29. Martellus Bennett, TE

Last week: 28

vs. Philadelphia: Bennett was targeted on one pass. John Phillips has looked better recently as both a blocker and as a receiver.

28. Tashard Choice, RB

Last week: 27

vs. Philadelphia: Choice left the game early with a concussion.

27. John Phillips, TE

Last week: 29

vs. Philadelphia: Phillips caught two passes for 14 yards and made a couple of key blocks.

26. Alan Ball, S

Last week: 26

vs. Philadelphia: Ball made a great play on a punt return with a perfect form tackle on DeSean Jackson. Ball also filled in for Terence Newman at corner and recorded two defensive tackles.

25. Bobby Carpenter, LB

Last week: 24

vs. Philadelphia: Carpenter recorded three tackles and provided some pressure in the QB. However, he had some trouble with tight end Brent Celek.

24. Orlando Scandrick, CB

Last week: 25

vs. Philadelphia: Scandrick had three tackles on defense along with a special teams tackle. The Eagles didn’t burn him over the middle the way some teams have.

23. Marcus Spears, DE

Last week: 21

vs. Philadelphia: Spears recorded one solo tackle and one assist. His assist came early in the game on a solid play, as he and Anthony Spencer stuffed Brian Westbrook.

22. Doug Free, T

Last week: 23

vs. Philadelphia: Free made the block of the year for highlight film purposes, clearing a 40-yard path for Felix Jones in the third quarter.

21. Flozell Adams, T

Last week: 22

vs. Philadelphia: The Eagles did not generate much pressure, and Adams did not commit a penalty. Both are good trends.

20. Mat McBriar, P

Last week: 18

vs. Philadelphia: Only one of McBriar’s punts ended up inside the 20, and he put one kick into the end zone.

19. Gerald Sensabaugh, S

Last week: 17

vs. Philadelphia: Sensabaugh had four solo tackles and one assist in a pretty good game. He dropepd a

18. Patrick Crayton, WR

Last week: 19

vs. Philadelphia: Crayton was huge, catching four passes for 99 yards with a touchdown.

17. Ken Hamlin, S

Last week: 20

vs. Philadelphia: Hamlin has been solid since returning from a high ankle sprain. He had three tackles and made a huge play by breaking up a pass attempt to DeSean Jackson.

16. Kyle Kosier, G

Last week: 16

vs. Philadelphia: The line in general had a great game against the Eagles. Kosier had a couple of solid blocks, especially when he pulled.

15. Andre Gurode, C

Last week: 14

vs. Philadelphia: The Eagles did not get much pressure up the middle, reflecting a solid game by Gurode. However, Gurode had two costly penalties.

14. Leonard Davis, G

Last week: 15

vs. Philadelphia: Davis had a penalty early in the game, but otherwise, he was solid.

13. Igor Olshansky, DE

Last week: 13

vs. Philadelphia: Olshansky had one tackle and one QB hurry.

12. Terence Newman, CB

Last week: 12

vs. Philadelphia: Newman had one tackle and played a pretty good game. However, he let Jackson get past him on one play, though Donovan McNabb overthrew the ball.

11. Felix Jones, RB

Last week: 11

vs. Philadelphia: Jones showed that he is still a home run threat. He recorded 91 rushing yards to give the Cowboys another threat out of the backfield.

10. Marion Barber, RB

Last week: 10

vs. Philadelphia: Barber was stronger earlier in the game than late. He also finished with 91 rushing yards.

9. Jay Ratliff, NT

Last week: 7

vs. Philadelphia: Ratliff had one of the game’s big plays when he recovered a fumble. However, he otherwise failed to record a tackle.

8. Keith Brooking, LB

Last week: 5

vs. Philadelphia: After recording 106 tackles this season, Brooking did not even make the stat sheet against the Eagles. He was, though, around the football quite a bit.

7. Jason Witten, TE

Last week: 9

vs. Philadelphia: Witten was a big weapon and caught his first touchdown pass since week 2. The Eagles do not have anyone who can cover Witten.

6. Mike Jenkins, CB

Last week: 8

vs. Philadelphia: Jenkins has been great for most of the season and had another outstanding effort in shutting down Jackson.

5. Bradie James, LB

Last week: 4

vs. Philadelphia: James is coming up big when it matters most. He recorded four solos (two for loss), an assist, a sack, and a QB hurry.

4. Anthony Spencer, LB

Last week: 6

vs. Philadelphia: Spencer earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. He recorded four solo tackles, one assist, two sacks, a QB hurry, and a forced fumble.

3. DeMarcus Ware, LB

Last week: 2

vs. Philadelphia: Ware had one tackle and a QB hurry against Philadelphia. The Eagles paid so much attention to Ware that it opened up Spencer’s game.

2. Miles Austin, WR

Last week: 3

vs. Philadelphia: Austin caught seven of the eight passes that came his way. He has been everything the team would want out of a #1 receiver.

1. Tony Romo, QB

Last week: 1

vs. Philadelphia: Austin should receiver consideration as the team’s MVP, but this latest run has been all about Tony Romo. Romo completed 24 of 34 passes for 311 yards and 2 TD to cap off his best season yet.

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Know Your Dallas Cowboys: Twitter Updates for 2010-01-06

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A Closer Look at Playoff Teams Playing in Consecutive Weeks

This week has seen quite a bit of chatter about the fact that Dallas and Philadelphia will play one another in consecutive weeks. In nine previous instances where two teams that faced one another in the final week also played in the wildcard round, the winners of the regular season games have 4-5 records in the playoff games.

This 4-5 statistic has been used to support the argument that it’s very tough to beat a team in back-to-back weeks. That may be the case, but the 4-5 number itself hardly proves anything. In four of those games, one of the teams had nothing to play for, while in several instances, one of the teams had to win to secure a playoff spot.

In no instance, though, has the home team blown out its opponent to win the division title and then returned home one week later to play the same team.

Here’s a look at those games. See if you can find anything that is similar to this week’s Dallas-Philadelphia game, other than the fact that the teams are playing in back-to-back weeks.

Chiefs vs. Raiders, 1991

Week 17: Kansas City 27, at L.A. Raiders 21

Wildcard: at Kansas City 10, L.A. Raiders 6

One year removed from a visit to the AFC Championship Game, the Raiders were 9-4 and tied with Denver for the lead in the old AFC West. Kansas City was one game behind at 8-5. The Raiders then lost two straight before hosting the Chiefs, who had improved to 9-6. The Chiefs beat L.A. 27-21 and then returned home to host the Raiders. Kansas City won the second game, 10-6.

Bills vs. Oilers, 1992

Week 17: at Houston 27, Buffalo 3

Wildcard: at Buffalo 41, Houston 38

Buffalo had nothing to play for in the final week of the 1992 season, and the Oilers destroyed the Bills. The second game is famous as the greatest comeback in NFL history, as the Bills overcame a 35-3 deficit to win, 41-38.

The Cowboys, of course, beat the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII that season.

Packers v. Lions, 1993

Week 18: at Detroit 30, Green Bay 20

Wildcard: Green Bay 28, at Detroit 24

At one point in the season (which featured two bye weeks, which is why the last game was held during Week 18), Detroit was 7-2. However, the Lions lost four of five and faced the Packers, who had won five of seven. The Lions pulled out the week 18 win, but the Packers came back in the playoffs thanks to a late touchdown pass from Brett Favre to Sterling Sharpe on what was nearly a Hail Mary play.

Green Bay lost to Dallas the following week.

Raiders vs. Broncos, 1993

Week 18: at L.A. Raiders 33, Denver 30

Wildcard: at L.A. Raiders 42, Denver 24

These games involved Wade Phillips during his first season as head coach with Denver. The Raiders had overcome a 6-5 start to hold a 9-6 record entering the final week of the season. The Broncos entered  the final week with the same 9-6 record.  The Raiders won the final game on a Jeff Jaegar field goal in overtime, then blew out the Broncos on the same field the following week.

Patriots vs. Dolphins, 1997

Week 17: New England 14, at Miami 12

Wildcard: at New England 17, Miami 3

In Pete Carroll’s first season with the Patriots, New England traveled to Miami and beat Jimmy Johnson’s Dolphins to take the AFC East. One week later, New England returned home and beat the Dolphins again, this time by a wider margin of 17-3.

Saints vs. Rams, 2000

Week 17: St. Louis 26, at New Orleans 21

Wildcard: at New Orleans 31, St. Louis 28

In between the Rams’ two Super Bowl appearances nearly a decade ago, there were the 2000 Rams. This team at one point was 8-2, but everything fell apart from there.  The Rams lost five of seven, and even a win over the Saints in the final regular season couldn’t give St. Louis the division title. New Orleans, in the meantime, had overcome a 1-3 start to take the division from the Rams. The teams played in the same stadium in the wildcard round, and New Orleans came away with a 31-28 win.

Raiders vs. Jets, 2001

Week 17: N.Y. Jets 24, at Oakland 22

Wildcard: at Oakland 38, N.Y. Jets 24

Oakland had already wrapped up the AFC West, while the Jets needed a win to make the playoffs in the team’s week 17 matchup. John Hall’s 53-yard field goal gave the Jets the win. One week later, though, the Raiders’ offense came to life, and Oakland beat the Jets by two touchdowns.

Eagles vs. Buccaneers, 2001

Week 17: Philadelphia 17, at Tampa Bay 13

Wildcard: at Philadelphia 31, Tampa Bay 9

The Eagles had already won the NFC East when they traveled to Tampa Bay in the final week of the 2001 season. Philadelphia scored twice in the fourth quarter on touchdown passes by A.J. Feeley, giving the Eagles a 17-13 win. When Donovan McNabb and other starters returned a week later at Philadelphia, the Eagles recorded a 31-9 blowout.

Colts vs. Broncos, 2004

Week 17: at Denver 33, Indianapolis 14

Wildcard: at Indianapolis 49, Denver 24

Indianapolis started Jim Sorsi at quarterback in a meaningless week 17 matchup with Denver, and the Broncos came away with a 33-14 win. One week later, Peyton Manning made quite a difference, as the Colts routed the Broncos, 49-24.