Who’s the NFL’s hottest team? How about the coldest team?
And, one more question: Do the answers to those first two questions mean a doggone thing as the playoffs kick off with this weekend’s four wild-card games?
Answer: Not always.
Let’s go back 10 years for one of the best recent examples to show that momentum, while invaluable some years, isn’t always necessary.
In 2009, the Chargers had won a league-high 11 in a row. They went one-and-done.
Meanwhile, in the NFC, the Cowboys had won a conference-high three straight, including back-to-back shutouts to close the regular season. In their playoff opener, they got smoked 34-3 by a Vikings team that had lost three of its last five games.
That year’s Super Bowl featured the Saints over the Colts. The Colts lost two straight after a 14-0 start. And the Saints lost three straight after a 13-0 start.
“I think everybody would like to have momentum,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “But, really, at the end of the day it’s about how did you play this particular week? I hear all the [arguments about needing momentum], but at one point during the season we were 2-2. And I don’t know what we ran off, [four] in a row. If we do that, we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”
Here is a ranking of this year’s playoff teams, hottest to coldest:
Streaking or sliding
1. Ravens: Won 12 straight, including a 5-0 mark against playoff teams.
2. Chiefs: Won six straight and have topped 22 points in 11 straight.
3. Packers: Won five straight since embarrassing 37-8 loss at San Francisco.
4. Eagles: Won four straight, including two at home, since being 6-7.
5. Saints: Won three straight, but 13-3 record includes two home losses.
6. 49ers: Won two straight, but 13-3 record includes two December losses.
7. Titans: Won Sunday but are 1-2 the past three weeks; went 5-3 on the road.
8. Texans: Lost Sunday while resting starters but 2-2 in past four games.
9. Patriots: Lost Sunday, 2-3 in past five games and went 1-2 at home in December.
10. Vikings: Lost second straight as starters rested Sunday; past eight: 4-4.
11. Seahawks: Lost two straight, three of four and are 4-4 at home.
12. Bills: Lost two straight, three of four and are 5-5 in their past 10.