The first quarter of the NFL season is over and 20 teams are currently either in first place or within a game of the top spot in the division - including the Dallas Cowboys, who sit at 2-2 heading into their bye week. Since 1990, when the current 12-team playoff format was adopted, 90 teams (35.7 percent of the 252 playoff clubs) have advanced to the postseason after starting the season 2-2 or worse. There were three such teams last season and all three won their divisions (Colts, Eagles, Seahawks).
In five of the past 10 seasons, a team that has started 2-2 or worse has even advanced to the Super Bowl. So entering week 5, while it certainly helps to be near the top of the standings, don’t count anyone out, there’s a lot of season left to be played.
And the 2011 NFL season is turning out to be tricky to predict anyway: As Cowboys fans found out the hard way, through the first four weeks, there have been four games in which a team trailing by at least 20 points rallied to win. That is already tied for the most such games in any season in NFL history. Additionally, 16 teams have come back from a deficit of at least 10 points, the most ever through the first four weeks. After the break, the BTB Panel attempts to pick winners for the weekend regardless.
Overall, our panel did fairly well again last week, with the consensus picks coming in at 11-5. For the season, the consensus pick is at 45-19, which translates into a very cool 70% forecast accuracy.
Here are our week 5, 2011 picks: