Rest doesn’t always lead to NFL playoff wins 

click to enlarge Storming ahead: Peyton Manning, center, and the Broncos have won 11 straight, entering the postseason with a ton of momentum. - JOE MAHONEY/AP
  • Joe Mahoney/AP
  • Storming ahead: Peyton Manning, center, and the Broncos have won 11 straight, entering the postseason with a ton of momentum.

The Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons, who tied for the league’s best record at 13-3, are well aware of one of the NFL’s biggest truisms: more often than not, the regular season is for suckers.

Over the last decade, just two of the 13 teams that had the best regular season record — or tied for the best mark — went on to win the Super Bowl: the ’02 Buccaneers and the ’03 Patriots.

The last eight teams to enter the playoffs with the best record bowed out before they could put their fingerprints on the Lombardi Trophy and revel in a rain of confetti.

Both the Broncos and Falcons are promising to practice like champions this week and not allow rest and relaxation to turn into rust and ruin.

In the last seven seasons, three No. 6 seeds and a No. 4 seed ended up winning it all, giving hope to the likes of the Ravens, Redskins, Bengals and Vikings in this year’s playoff pool.

A year ago, the Green Bay Packers rested their regulars in the season finale and they lost their edge, becoming the first 15-1 team to lose its first playoff game — to a New York Giants team that was 7-7 in mid-December and went on to win it all.

That’s exactly what Peyton Manning’s new team did, securing the AFC’s top seed Sunday with its 11th straight win.
The Falcons, Patriots, Broncos and 49ers get a break this week, one that can prove a pitfall as much as a profit.

And it’s not just the NFL where the season’s best team usually falters in the playoffs.

In the last 10 seasons, only two teams in each of the other major pro sports leagues parlayed the best regular-season record into a championship, according to STATS, LLC. They were: the 2007 Red Sox and the ’09 Yankees, the 2002-03 Spurs and the ’07-08 Celtics and the Red Wings in 2001-02 and ’07-08.

Since the first Super Bowl, the team with the best regular-season record has won just 21 of 46 championships, or 46 percent, which is more than in the NHL (42 percent), NBA (41 percent) and MLB (28 percent), according to STATS.

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