With playoff seeding commonly set for the top four teams by the last week of the season, the temptation always has been to rest front-line players. But over the past five seasons, the first four seeds have a better record in the playoffs if they won their last regular-season game.
Since 1999, 30 of 40 teams seeded in the top four spots won their regular-season finale. Of those 30, 25 won their opening playoff game. Of the 10 that lost the regular-season finale, six won their first playoff game.
RUN, FALCONS, RUN
There is no secret to the Falcons' success. It's their league-best running attack. Thanks in part to Michael Vick, the Falcons led the league and set a team record with 2,672 rushing yards. That included six games in which Atlanta rushed for 200 yards. The Falcons were 5-1 in those games, with the loss coming in Seattle in a meaningless regular-season finale.
CHANGING OF THE GUARD
The Marshall Faulk era is coming to an end, at least in the mind of Rams rookie running back Steven Jackson.
In a bold statement to jump-start the postseason, the first-round draft pick said:
"I think we're in the stages of passing the torch; that's how I feel," he said. "I've been in there in some key situations; I played the whole overtime period this last Sunday. ... I think we're in the transition of turning the offense over toward me. It's just a matter of time."
TALK ABOUT A SWIM MOVE
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan would like receiver Ashley Lelie to come up with a better touchdown celebration. After scoring against the Colts on Sunday, Lelie flopped onto the grass in the end zone and pretended to swim freestyle. The performance lasted only about five seconds, which was more than enough for Shanahan.
"I was embarrassed a little," Shanahan said. "Oh, my God! All those touchdowns, he's going to have to flip the ball to the officials for about the next three years to make up for that act."
NO LOVE IN THE AIR
Steelers rookie quarterback sensation Ben Roethlisberger, left, apparently doesn't have a significant other. The talk of the town has been that Roethlisberger has been dating LPGA member Natalie Gulbis. Big Ben said there is no truth to the rumor and told reporters he has never met Gulbis.
"I don't know where it all came from," Roethlisberger said. "I talked to her once on the phone, but there's nothing there."
+ The Broncos-Colts game marks the 13th time teams that met in the final game of the regular season also met in the first round of the playoffs. Only five times has the team that won the regular-season game repeated in the playoffs. Denver beat Indy 33-14 on Sunday.
+ Since Thanksgiving, the 12 teams that made the playoffs are a combined 46-26, a .639 winning percentage.
+ The Vikings have lost 20 of the past 22 games outdoors. Under coach Mike Tice, Minnesota is 2-15 outdoors, 0-5 when the temperature is 45 or below.
+ There were more 100-yard rushing games (179) and receiving games (190) and 300-yard passing games (81) than in any other season in NFL history.
+ Inside opponents' 20-yard line, Jets quarterback Chad Pennington has thrown 37 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Compiled by ROGER MILLS and JOANNE KORTH, using information from the NFL and other news sources.