Crunch Time for Playoff Berths
Weather Could Be a Factor in Games
When half a conference with .500 records or worse still have a shot at the Wild Card, I get a little depressed. People say it's the bleak winter weather, but I know better. What's worse is that it's a full-time job trying to figure out these teams. Heck, their own coaches can't figure them out.
Miami can put a strangle hold the No. 1 pick in the draft with a loss in Buffalo. Actually, the first pick might feel like he's suffocating, but that's a different story. A bunch of teams can secure their divisions with wins. The AFC Wild Card race could thin out pretty quickly.
Here are the picks:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-4) at Houston Texans (5-7), 1 p.m.
Houston is out of it. Tampa still playing for seeding and can clinch the division with a win. Then again, Tampa is just .500 on the road
Prediction: Buccaneers, 17-10.
Carolina Panthers (5-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (8-4), 1 p.m.
Carolina picked up its first home win last week. The Panthers are 4-2 on the road. Jacksonville is really mad after last week, and they're driving the Wild Card bus.
Prediction: Jaguars, 27-13.
New York Giants (8-4) at Philadelphia Eagles (5-7), 1 p.m.
Philadelphia still has a shot at the Wild Card. Back-to-back losses to a pair of division leaders by 3 and 4 points have them just a half-game behind Washington. Do you realize that if Philly wins, every team in the NFC East will have an equal or better record to every team in the rest of conference (except division leaders)? New Jersey has been less impressive in their four games since the bye, and Philly's not an easy place to play -- especially against a division rival. Weather could be a factor, too.
Prediction: Eagles, 21-17.
San Diego Chargers (7-5) at Tennessee Titans (7-5), 1 p.m.
Vince Young is playing the quarterback position more effectively than Philip Rivers, but what these teams look like is a pair of evenly matched, mediocre teams. San Diego is just 2-4 on the road, but with even defenses, Tennessee's lack of offense could be the difference. Flip a coin.
Prediction: Chargers, 21-20.
Minnesota Vikings (6-6) at San Francisco 49ers (3-9), 4:05 p.m.
Minnesota is playing for that Wild Card, and they've won three straight after a 3-6 start. Oh, and they've been scoring a lot of points since getting blanked by Green Bay. San Francisco has virtually nothing to play for. The Niners are tied with Miami for the worst point differential.
Prediction: Vikings, 38-15.
Arizona Cardinals (6-6) at Seattle Seahawks (8-4), 4:05 p.m.
Only two games separate the division leader with the Wild Card hopeful. Seattle clinches the division with a win, and Arizona would basically be out. However, an Arizona win puts them just a game behind and what would be two head-to-head wins (23-20 in Week 2). I don't think I've picked a Cardinals game correctly in a couple months.
Prediction: Seahawks, 24-21.
Kansas City Chiefs (4-8) at Denver Broncos (5-7), 4:15 p.m.
Which of these coaches gets fired first? You can pin two or three of Denver's losses directly on Mike Shannahan. Herman Edwards is what we think he is. Denver has lost two straight, and have allowed more points than anyone except Cleveland (but Cleveland currently owns a Wild Card slot). The good news is: K.C. has scored fewer than all by two teams. Another toss-up.
Prediction: Broncos, 20-17.
Indianapolis Colts (10-2) at Baltimore Ravens (4-8), 8:15 p.m.
Highlight commentators still can't say that it was an incomplete pass with a straight face. Meanwhile, Baltimore's Super Bowl was last week. This week, it's preseason.
Prediction: Colts, 35-12.
Monday, Dec. 10
New Orleans Saints (5-7) at Atlanta Falcons (3-9), 8:30 p.m.
New Orleans should know before the game whether it means anything (if enough other teams lose that they still have a prayer for the Wild Card). Atlanta just wants this season to end. In fact, they're playing for a quarterback .. er, draft pick.
Prediction: Saints, 24-10.
Open Date: None.
Last week: 11 - 5 (68.8 percent).
Season: 122-70 (63.5 percent).
Last season: 113-79 (58.9 percent).