UNPREDICTABLE PLAYOFF PARTICIPANTS: For the 15th consecutive season, five or more teams will qualify for the playoffs that were not in the postseason the year before. Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City and Pittsburgh did not make the playoffs in 2009 but have done so this season.
This Sunday, that number may grow to as many as seven. The Jacksonville Jaguars are the remaining club in contention for a playoff spot in the AFC that did not qualify in 2009. Of the five teams in contention for the remaining two playoff spots in the NFC, four did not qualify for the postseason last season: the New York Giants, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
RETURN SPECIALIST: Chicago Bears Pro Bowl punt returner DEVIN HESTER leads the NFL with a 17.1 punt return average (31 returns, 529 yards) and three punt return-touchdowns this season. If his 17.1 punt return average holds, Hester will register the highest punt return average in a season in NFL history (minimum 30 returns). Former Baltimore Ravens punt returner JERMAINE LEWIS currently holds the NFL record with a 16.1 punt return average in 2000.
KING SAM: St. Louis rookie quarterback SAM BRADFORD will lead his club into Seattle on Sunday Night Football with an opportunity to clinch the NFC West. With a Rams win, Bradford has a chance to become the first quarterback selected No. 1 overall to start a playoff game in his rookie season.
Bradford currently has 3,357 passing yards and 18 touchdowns and can also move up the NFL record books among rookie quarterbacks on Sunday night.
The most passing yards by a rookie quarterback:
PLAYER / TEAM / YEAR / YARDS
Peyton Manning / Colts / 1998 / 3,739
Matt Ryan / Falcons / 2008 / 3,440
Sam Bradford / Rams / 2010 / 3,357*
Joe Flacco / Ravens / 2008 / 2,971
Chris Weinke / Panthers / 2001 / 2,931 *Active