A December Run Can Lead to a Super Trip
As any Santa-loving youngster knows, this is the month to be extra good if you're to get what you want. The same goes for postseason-viable NFL teams, as San Diego Chargers coach Norv Turner pointed out this week.
"There is a period in the middle (of the season)," he said, "where there is a mind-set of, 'Hey, we've just got to get done what we can get done to make sure we're in position to do what we need to do in December.' "
Turner should know. In his two seasons with the team, the Chargers have yet to lose in December and won the AFC West title both years.
The last five years, of the five teams with the best regular-season records beyond Dec. 1, three have won Super Bowls: the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers. The Chargers are the only one to not make it to a Super Bowl.
Still, in those late regular-season games since 2004, their 20-4 record is second to the Patriots' 21-3, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
The Miami Dolphins won all four in December 2008 and made the playoffs. This year, they're 5-6 and coming off a loss to the Buffalo Bills after winning three of four.
Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said this week that he still considers his team a playoff contender and referred to the Tennessee Titans (5-6), who have won five in a row and are a trendy pick as a postseason dark horse. They host the Dolphins on Dec. 20.
"You people might have wrote us out of this thing, but I didn't," Sparano said. "Because (the Titans) won five in a row, they're in the conversation, and, because we lost (to the Bills), we're out of it? I'm not buying that."
But there's one thing few will dispute about December.
"The sense of urgency," Turner said, "heightens."