It doesn’t happen all the time, which is what makes it so great when it does.


Sports are at their best when they remind us we don’t know what to expect. Remember next year, if your team enters Week 17 with a 13 percent chance of making the playoffs as the Bills did Sunday: As long as that percentage is above zero, it’s worth watching. Just in case.

Of the 12 playoff teams this year, eight were not in the playoffs last year, including all four NFC division winners. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that ties for the most new playoff teams from one season to the next since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990 (there were also eight new playoff teams in 2003). It’s the first time since the league expanded to eight divisions in 2002 that one conference had four division champions that weren’t playoff teams the year before.

And this isn’t a parity-means-mediocrity issue, either. Five of the six NFC playoff teams won at least 11 games, and the sixth was last year’s conference champion. These are high-quality teams and a field from which it’s tough to predict a winner. (I think I’m taking the New Orleans Saints, for example, but their first game is against a team they already beat twice, and it’s hard to beat the same team three times, so how the heck do I know?)

Roethlisberger’s thrown multiple touchdown passes in seven straight games and the Steelers ended the season with a 9-1 sprint, the lone setback a loss to New England on Dec. 17 in which his only mistake came on a poorly executed fake spike that resulted in a game-ending pick.

What’s working? Nearly everything.

Having two of the top skill position players in the league in wide NFL Jerseys Cheap receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell helps. So does the continued Wholesale NFL Jerseys China evolution of rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant’s immersion into the offense following an ill-advised trade demand.

Yet Pittsburgh’s offense will only go as far over the next month as Roethlisberger can take it. Though he downplayed looking for payback after the Jaguars shut him down in ways that few teams have in recent years, not everyone is buying it.

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