Four weeks remain in the NFL regular season and wins are increasingly tough to come by. With every game of vital importance in a tight playoff race, what’s the key to late-season success?
“You have to be able to win close games,” says NFL Network analyst and former NFL head coach STEVE MARIUCCI. “They’re not typically as high scoring games, they’re grind them out kind of games. You have to be poised and confident.”
Patriots head coach BILL BELICHICK understands what’s required down the stretch. Since 2006, New England has posted an 18-2 (.900) record in the final four games of a season, the second-highest winning percentage in the NFL (San Diego, 19-1, .950).
“There are only a few games left in the season, each one gets more important because there are fewer of them left,” says Belichick. “There is less margin for error across the board. It’s a four-game season and it all comes down to winning.”
Broncos head coach JOHN FOX has guided Denver (7-5) to five consecutive wins after a 2-5 start. The veteran coach, whose club is tied atop the AFC West, says dreams of playing in the postseason turn to reality in December.
“We’ve always taken the approach that people always remember what you do in December,” says Fox. “We’ve got control of our destiny. We’ve got four tough games starting with this week at our place against the Chicago Bears.”
Steelers linebacker JAMES FARRIOR certainly has a sense of urgency as the final quarter of the season approaches. Pittsburgh, who is tied with Baltimore (9-3), Houston (9-3) and New England (9-3) for the best record in the AFC, will host divisional foe Cleveland on Thursday night (NFL Network, 8:00 PM ET).
“It’s even more important in December,” says Farrior. “These are the games that are going to put you in place to make your run. We’re just trying to keep up in the division. Right now is our time. We can’t afford to lose any games. So we’re going to have to play every game like it’s a playoff game. We already started our playoffs.”