(Bill Belichick photo courtesy of the New England Patriots)
(Fran Tarkenton photo courtesy of the Minnesota Vikings)
By Rick Gosselin
Talk of Fame Network
There have been 20 teams that have started a season 8-0 since the American Football League and National Football League merged teams and schedules in 1970.
Twelve of them went on to play in a Super Bowl.
That’s a potential problem for one team this season. Carolina, Cincinnati and New England have all managed to stay perfect through the season’s midway point with 8-0 records. But there are only two Super Bowl slots. So one … if not all … is going to be out of luck come February.
Dominance in September, October and November does not always guarantee dominance in January.
The Kansas City Chiefs opened the 2013 season 9-0 but went 2-5 the rest of the way and wound up losing on the road in the wild-card round. The 2011 Green Bay Packers and 2005 Indianapolis Colts both started seasons 13-0 but didn’t even reach the conference title games those seasons.
The 2008 Tennessee Titans and 1975 Minnesota Vikings both wasted 10-0 starts with losses in conference semifinal games. The 1990 San Francisco 49ers also started off 10-0 but lost in the NFC title game to the New York Giants, who also opened 10-0 that year. The 2009 Indianapolis Colts started off even better – 14-0 – but wound up losing the Super Bowl to the New Orleans Saints.
The 2007 New England Patriots became the only team in NFL history to finish a regular season with a 16-0 record but lost in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.
The Miami Dolphins crafted the only perfect season in NFL history under Hall-of-Fame coach Don Shula, using a 14-0 regular-season in 1972 as propulsion for a 3-0 playoff run and their first Lombardi Trophy.
The 1998 Denver Broncos and 2009 New Orleans Saints used 13-0 regular-season starts as stepping stones to Super Bowls, the 1985 Chicago Bears opened 12-0 on their way to a Lombardi Trophy and the 1991 Washington Redskins started 11-0 on the way to a championship.
The 2006 Colts parlayed a 9-0 start into a Super Bowl, and the 1977 Dallas Cowboys opened 8-0 on the way to a Lombardi Trophy.
Peyton Manning engineered three of those perfect starts but only has one Super Bowl ring to show for them. Hall-of-Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton was responsible for two of the perfect starts with the Minnesota Vikings but neither season finished with a Lombardi Trophy. This is also the second time Tom Brady has quarterbacked a New England team unbeaten through the season’s midway point.
Interestingly enough, of the 20 teams that opened the season with 8-0 starts, three of them wound up suffering their first losses at the hands of the Cowboys. Two more saw their perfect starts end at the hands of the New York Jets, and two others saw perfect seasons crash on the rocks with losses to the San Diego Chargers.
The Panthers play in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day, and the Patriots visit the Jets on Dec. 27.