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Inside the 20: Week 17
By Matt Horkman

Some of you are still playing for a league championship in week 17, but for most of us, we're just waiting out the storm of week 17. This year’s postseason is shaping up to be far more intriguing than some of its past predecessors were.

In the NFC, you have Green Bay, New Orleans, and San Francisco as legitimate Super Bowl contenders. The Packers and Saints are the last two Super Bowl champions and both will enter the postseason with two of the three best passers in the game today. The 49ers, meanwhile, provide a contrasting style to recent Super Bowl champions. QB Alex Smith is almost an afterthought, as this team revolves around a strong defense, an all-pro caliber RB, and a charismatic head coach.

The AFC isn’t much different, with Baltimore, New England, and Pittsburgh as the favorites to represent the conference in the Super Bowl. These three teams and the Peyton Manning led Colts have represented the AFC in 10 of the last 11 Super Bowls.

Doesn’t the NFL claim parity?

Regardless, chances are high the Super Bowl matchup will come from these six teams. Nonetheless, there is one other point worth noting about the postseason. The lack of success of No. 1 seeds is somewhat alarming if you’re a Green Bay or New England fan.

Last year, Atlanta and New England both lost in the divisional round. In ‘08, the N.Y. Giants and Tennessee Titans also fell in the divisional round. In ‘07, it was Dallas and in ‘06, it was San Diego. Both couldn’t advance past the divisional round. If history is to repeat itself, then Green Bay and likely New England is probably not the Super Bowl matchup we’re going to get.

It is, however, the matchup the media will begin to hype.

You have the old guard, which is Tom Brady and the Patriots, taking on the new kid on the block, which is Aaron Rodgers and his Packers. The game practically sells itself, but beware of any early hype foreshadowing this contest.

Recent history says it’s not going to happen.

Week 16 Fantasy Stud
QB Aaron Rodgers -- Christmas night, Rodgers threw for a career-high five TDs against the rival Bears. Green Bay’s victory assured themselves home field advantage through the playoffs.

Week 16 Fantasy Chump
RB LeGarrette Blount -- Carolina couldn’t stop anyone on the ground this season, except for Blount. The Tampa RB ran for 30 yards in two games against the Panthers.

Stat of the Week
Consider this a follow up on last week’s nugget. The Packers have now allowed more yardage than they’ve gain. They’re 14-1.

Week 17 facts you may not have known

1. Filling in for an injured Roy Helu, Washington’s rookie RB Evan Royster ran for 132 yards in last weekend’s loss to Minnesota.

2. At 10-5, Houston’s locked into the No. 3 seed, so expect a heavy dosage of Ben Tate on Sunday. Tate ran for 104 yards in the Texans’ first meeting against Tennessee.

3. Toby Gerhart is averaging just 75 rushing yards in three starts.

4. Ryan Fitzpatrick has seven games with multiple INTs.
Wes Welker
5. Wes Welker had 960 receiving yards over the first eight games of the season. That’s an average of 120 per game, which put him on pace for 1,920 yards. That would’ve broken Jerry Rice’s record of 1,848 set in 1995. However, Welker has just 558 yards over his last seven games, which is only an average of 80 per game.

6. Reggie Wayne is averaging five catches for 60 yards over his last four games. He’s also added two TDs over that same span.

7. Matt Flynn threw for 251 yards, three TDs, and only one INT in his only career start against New England last season. Look for Flynn to play a majority of Green Bay’s offensive snaps this Sunday against Detroit.

8. Calvin Johnson has five TDs in four career games at Lambeau Field.

9. Cam Newton’s 34 total TDs is fifth most in the league. He trails only Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, and Rodgers in that category.

10. Santonio Holmes had 746 receiving yards in 12 games last season. He has only 654 after only 15 this year.

11. Prior to Marshawn Lynch’s TD last week, San Francisco went its first 14 games without allowing a rushing TD. Lynch also was the first back to go over 100 yards rushing in 36 games against the 49ers.

12. The Steelers have two 1,000-yard receivers (Antonio Brown & Mike Wallace) for the second time in three seasons. Meanwhile, Rashard Mendenhall has yet to reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark. Is this finally evidence enough that Pittsburgh is a passing team?

13. Tim Tebow now has five INTs in his last three games, including four last week against Buffalo’s defense. That puts him at just six INTs for the season. However, he’s also lost four fumbles, which puts him at 10 turnovers in 10 starts.

14. Willis McGahee has 1,000-plus yards rushing in a season for the first time since ‘07. He’s also averaging a career-high 4.8 yards per carry.

15. The Buccaneers have allowed 304 points during their nine-game losing streak. That’s an average of 34 per game.

16. Matt Ryan eclipsed 4,000 yards passing for the first time in his career Monday night. That same night, Drew Brees threw over 5,000 yards for the second time in his career. In the process, he broke Dan Marino’s 27-year old single-season passing yardage record.

17. Cincinnati has one win over a team with a winning record. Baltimore is 3-4 on the road this season. Something has to give out this Sunday, as the Ravens play for a divisional title and the Bengals play for an unlikely playoff birth.

18. Philip Rivers’ current passer rating is under 90 with one game remaining. He’s coming off three consecutive seasons of a 100-plus QB rating.

19. Not including last week, Tony Romo has just four INTs since Dallas’ bye week. However, the Cowboys are just 6-4 in the 10 games he’s finished.

20. The N.Y. Giants are 1-3 in their last four regular-season finales. They host the Cowboys Sunday night for the NFC East title.

Game of the Week
Dallas at N.Y. Giants -- When you think about it, the postseason really kickoffs Sunday night, as the Cowboys and Giants are playing a play and you’re in game. The Giants defeated Dallas in dramatic fashion just a few weeks ago. In that game, Manning and Romo combined for 721 passing yards, 6 TDs, and only 1 INT. Frankly, the one deciding factor for me is that the Giants won that game. I don’t think they can sweep Dallas. They don’t hold a significant enough advantage in my mind. These two teams could play 10 times and each would win five. That’s the feeling I get and all it takes is an even split to put the Cowboys in the postseason.

Cowboys 31 Giants 24

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