NFC Teams Find December a Difficult Month
by Greg Melikov - 12/02/2008
December has proved a disappointing month for NFL teams in the NFC. None of the past champs have posted outstanding records in the 21st Century.
In addition, the AFC has won six of the last eight Super Bowls. The New York Giants, during last year's championship season, didn't do particularly well, going 3-2 in the final month of regular play.
During the past five seasons, New York is 9-14 in December, losing four of five games to Washington. The Giants already have disposed of the Redskins twice.
However, the defending Super Bowl champs don't have an easy December while leading the NFC East--starting Sunday the Giants host Philadelphia, 15-7 since '03. The Eagles, with an outside shot at the playoffs, are 3-0 against Washington, away on Dec. 21, and 4-0 against Dallas, at home on Dec 28.
The Giants also play three teams with an excellent chance of making the playoffs: at Dallas, Dec. 14; home against Carolina, Dec. 21; and at Minnesota, Dec. 28.
Dallas, who plays the Steelers on Sunday, is 8-13 in December. Carolina, chasing NFC South leader Tampa Bay, is 13-12 and play the Bucs Monday night. The Panthers have a 2-1 edge over Tampa Bay while going 8-13 since '03.
The Vikings, leading the NFC North, are 10-14 overall in the final month of the year while Arizona, atop the NFC West, is 11-13.
Two teams that thrive in December are both in the AFC. Most importantly, New England and Pittsburgh made the Super Bowl four of the past five seasons, winning three times.
The Patriots won back-to-back championships in '03-04 and lost last year to the New York Giants, the first NFC team to win it all since Tampa Bay in '02. The Steelers won the big one in '05.
New England is an astounding 21-2 the past five Decembers. Ironically, both losses were to Miami in '06 and '04 while the Patriots won last year and in '03. The teams split this season.
New England and Miami are wild-card contenders, but stand a chance of winning the AFC East. The Patriots have an easy four games ahead despite playing on the road three times: Seattle, on Sunday; Oakland, Dec. 14; and Buffalo, Dec. 28. The Patriots host Arizona on Dec. 21.
The New York Jets, atop the division, are 12-11 in December the past five years. After splitting with New England earlier in the year, the Jets go for two in a row against Buffalo on Dec. 14 and Miami on Dec. 28.
In December since '03, New York is 2-2 against the Dolphins and 1-2 against the Bills. The Dolphins are 2-1 against New York and 2-2 vs. Buffalo.
Miami, 8-10 during December, must capture all four remaining games to finish on top, including Buffalo away on Sunday. The Dolphins host San Francisco on Dec. 14 and travel to Kansas City on Dec. 21.
The Steelers, leading the AFC North, have performed well the past five Decembers, posting a 17-6 record. But Pittsburgh's division nemesis, the Ravens, won three of four meetings while going 15-10 since '03.
Wild-card contender Baltimore hosts the Steelers on Dec. 14, aiming to avenge a 23-20 loss this year. The remaining schedule is no pushover: home against Washington on Sunday and against Jacksonville on Dec. 28 while traveling to Dallas on Dec. 20.