Who’s gunning for nfl juggernauts? Everybody!

December 04, 2007 1:59 AM
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It’s been a unique season for powerhouses in the NFL. The Packers and Cowboys started 10-1 in the NFC before facing each other last week and the Patriots began 11-0.

Not since 1972 has a team run the table in the NFL. Since then, parity and the salary cap have leveled the playing field and schedules are longer. All of which makes it that much harder to go undefeated.

In fact, that 1972 Miami Dolphins 17-0 team was the only club in the long history of the NFL to run the table during regular and postseason play. Several teams before and after came close, but always got tripped up at least once.

There have been some memorable close calls. The 1962 Green Bay Packers enjoyed a 10-0 start on the way to a 13-1 season, ending in a 16-7 win in the championship game over the NY Giants as one of Vince Lombardi’s best teams. They came close to running the table, except for a surprising Thanksgiving Day loss to Detroit, 26-14 (trailing 26-0 to the fired up Lions).

We all saw last week how focused the Eagles were, giving the Patriots all they could handle. New England needed a late TD to survive 31-28 as 24-point home favorites. Like the ’62 Packers, teams are often gunning for the juggernauts.

"It was the most complete game we played all year," Eagles LB Omar Gaither said. Philadelphia offensive lineman Shawn Andrews added, "People built them up to be Goliath. At the same time, a lot of people made us out to be a 24-point spread, and we know they’re not that much better than us."

The 1984 San Francisco 49ers started 6-0 SU/ATS before a 20-17 home loss to the Steelers. As things turned out, that was their only hiccup in an 18-1 SU, 14-5 ATS season, destroying Miami in the Super Bowl, 38-16. That team was favored in every game and was a perfect 8-0 SU/ATS on the road.

The 1985 Bears had a powerhouse team behind defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan’s 46-defense. That team held 11 opponents to 10 points or less and started 12-0 SU, 10-1-1 ATS. They looked unstoppable, until a famous Monday night game at Miami. With members of the 1972 Dolphins present, Dan Marino passed over the 46-defense as the Dolphins won 38-24. They finished 18-1 SU, 15-3-1 ATS with playoff victories of 21-0, 24-0 and 46-10.

Unlike come some of those powerhouse teams, this year’s Patriots, Cowboys and Packers are better offensively than defensively. Though the defenses are very good, their offenses are ranked 1, 2 and 3 in the NFL. In fact, the Pats and Packers are mainly passing teams, which is even more unusual. It’s going to be interesting to watch them down the stretch as both play outdoors in cold weather areas.

The previous two recent runs were the 1998 Broncos and 2005 Colts. In ’98 the defending champion Denver Broncos started 13-0 SU, 9-4 ATS. In the middle of the season a prop bet in Las Vegas was posted, "Will the Broncos run the table?" QB John Elway gave it a go, but they ended up losing consecutive road games at the Giants (20-16) and at Miami (31-21) before finishing 17-2 SU, 12-7 ATS with another Super Bowl title.

The 2005 Colts started a sizzling 13-0 SU, 9-4-1 ATS. Indy took advantage of a soft schedule, but began to break down with some injuries late in the year. In Weeks 15 and 16 they lost 26-17 at home to the Chargers and 28-13 at Seattle. "It’s tough to go 16-0. You have to play well every week," coach Tony Dungy said after his team was beaten 26-17 by San Diego to end its 13-game unbeaten run.

Other factors can creep in, too, such as resting players to get primed for the postseason. The next week the Seahawks dominated a depleted Indianapolis team, 28-13, playing without Pro Bowlers Marvin Harrison, Cato June and Bob Sanders, while Peyton Manning played just one quarter. Indy also rested Pro Bowl defensive end Dwight Freeney for all but a few plays. Even NFL David’s are gunning for Goliath this time of the season.