NFL notebook: Best record means nothing at this point

2013-01-02T00:00:00Z NFL notebook: Best record means nothing at this pointThe Associated Press The Associated Press
January 02, 2013 12:00 am  • 

DENVER - The Broncos and the Falcons, who tied for the league's best record at 13-3, are well aware of one of the NFL's biggest truisms: More often than not, the regular season is for suckers.

Over the last decade, just two of the 13 teams that had the best regular-season record - or tied for the best mark - went on to win the Super Bowl: the '02 Buccaneers and the '03 Patriots.

The last eight teams to enter the playoffs with the best record bowed out before they could put their fingerprints on the Lombardi Trophy and revel in a rain of confetti.

Both the Broncos and Falcons are promising to practice like champions this week and not allow rest and relaxation to turn into rust and ruin.

In the last seven seasons, three No. 6 seeds and a No. 4 seed ended up winning it all, giving hope to the likes of the Ravens, Redskins, Bengals and Vikings in this year's playoff pool.

A year ago, the Green Bay Packers rested their regulars in the season finale, and they lost their edge, becoming the first 15-1 team to lose its first playoff game - to a Giants team that was 7-7 in mid-December and went on to win it all.

"That's kind of what it was for us when I was in Indy," Broncos wide receiver Brandon Stokley said of the '05 Colts, who went 14-2 but lost to Pittsburgh in the divisional round. "We kind of rested the last week, then we had a bye. It's too much. So, I like just grinding every week, just playing football."

That's exactly what Peyton Manning's new team did, securing the AFC's top seed Sunday with its 11th straight win.

Along with the Falcons, Patriots and 49ers, the Broncos get a break this week, one that can prove a pitfall as much as a profit.

"We've just got to practice like we're playing this week," Denver receiver Eric Decker said.

While the Broncos stormed into the playoffs, the Falcons, who already had the NFC's top seed secured, didn't gain any momentum Sunday, losing to Tampa Bay.

"Before this game was played, we were the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, at the end of the game, nothing has changed," Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez said.

Packers' Woodson to play in playoff game Saturday

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Charles Woodson has been cleared to play again, and the Packers are counting on the defensive back to provide a lift in Saturday night's playoff game against the Vikings.

Woodson deferred to team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie and gave his broken collarbone as much time to heal as possible, sitting out Sunday's regular-season finale at Minnesota. Woodson was injured Oct. 21 and has missed nine consecutive games.

But now that the Packers are in win-or-go-home mode, Woodson is back.

"Charles has been a stud in this league for 15 years, so whenever he's on the field with us, he's always a huge threat," inside linebacker A.J. Hawk said Tuesday.

Extra points

• The 49ers signed kicker Billy Cundiff on Tuesday to compete with struggling veteran David Akers.

Akers, who made 44 of 52 attempts in his sensational 2011 season and first year with San Francisco, is just 29 for 42 this year. Akers, 38, is 7 for 13 from 40-49 yards and missed wide left twice from that range in Sunday's 27-13 victory over Arizona.

• Bills CEO Russ Brandon added the title of team president Tuesday and said Buddy Nix will remain the club's general manager. The announcement Tuesday came a day after the Bills fired coach Chan Gailey following three losing seasons.

Brandon's promotion gives him operational control of the franchise, and he will report directly to owner Ralph Wilson, who previously held the president's title.

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