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Some truisms far from the truth

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
-- The Declaration of Independence

Despite the best intentions of the representatives of the 13 united colonies who signed that splendid document 229 years ago -- and despite Pete Rozelle's efforts on behalf of parity -- not all National Football League teams are created equal.


Some are endowed with better athletes on their rosters. Some are better coached. Of the NFL's 32 teams, there are invariably a dozen that play the game the "right" way, do the things they must do to succeed, and find themselves in pursuit of postseason happiness. In five weeks, we'll know who those 12 playoff teams will be.

Over the years, those of us who follow the NFL have come to hold certain truths as self-evident: Win the battle of turnovers and time of possession and you'll win the game. Penalties, the ugly result of a lack of discipline, will kill you. So will allowing big plays on special teams. Being the top conference seed is a good thing.

Well, football fans, some of these truisms are true -- and some of them aren't. For here are some statistical indicators of success and failure that will astonish and amaze you. Shock and awe would not be an exaggeration, well, not a big one.

We know this because Insider Jeremy Green, the Cleveland Browns' director of pro personnel during 2000-2004, tracked some of the time-honored statistical categories. They were sorted into two categories: sins that more than likely will cost you the game; and myths that, surprisingly, quite often won't.

"I think people will be surprised," Green said. "We all have an idea of what wins and loses football games, but some of those categories don't always correlate."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.