Less than a month until the playoffs!

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 7, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Washington 23, New York Giants 10. The sad thing is that we here in southern Virginia will probably get stuck watching this instead of the Dallas-Philly game that actually means something in the NFC East. Both coaches are on thin ice with their jobs (although Steve Spurrier has at least one more year to prove that Daniel Snyder might be a genius after all). The Skins get the Pick because they should have won at least two of the game they’ve lost; Spurrier needs to remind his boys that a football game last three quarters, not four.

Philadelphia 21, Dallas 20. NFC Game of the Week. A win by the Eagles gives them a two-game division lead with three to play. A win by the Cowboys pushes them into a tie with Philly for the division lead, and they’ll own the tiebreaker after a season sweep. Philadelphia hasn’t lost since Dallas beat them on Oct. 12, and they’ll be thinking about that today. The key today is defense; Dallas’ was tops in the league before it was embarrassed last week by Miami, while Philly has had trouble against the run, allowing 160.1 yards a game in their seven-game winning streak.


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New Orleans 28, Tampa Bay 6. Will the Bucs become the second-straight Super Bowl champions to not make the playoffs the following year? If Aaron Brooks and Deuce McAllister have anything to say about it, they will! The Saints came back to beat Washington last week to keep their own playoff hopes alive, while Tampa was whomped by Jacksonville, which speaks volumes about them becoming a shadow of who they were only 12 months ago. McAllister became only the fifth running back in NFL history to run for 100 yards in nine straight games last week, and I’ll lay you 10 to one he’s itching to have a crack on some division rivals.

Pittsburgh 30, Oakland 13. Speaking of being shadows of a former self… Who would have thought that this game would have so little meaning? A loss eliminates the Steelers from playoff contention (not that there’s much hope left there anyway), while Oakland hasn’t won a road game yet. Pittsburgh gets the Pick because their team hasn’t been as injury-riddled as the Raiders, but this one will be meaningless by late tonight.

Minnesota 28, Seattle 16. The Seahawks may be 8-4, but they’re 1-4 on the road, and they head to San Francisco and St. Louis after this. The Vikings have been dropping faster than a house of cards in a tornado, but they get the Pick for one reason: last season, when they won their last three games to hurtle into the playoffs. If they don’t rekindle that, they’re swimming in a volcano.

Baltimore 42, Cincinnati 35. Marvin Lewis hammered his former team on Oct. 19, leading his Bengals to a 34-26 win over the team for which Lewis worked from 1996 to 2001. That win sparked a run in which the squad has won seven of eight, including the infamous victory over Kansas City. The winner here has a one-game lead in the AFC North with three games left, and the Bengals would own the tiebreaker if they pull this one out. But Baltimore gets the Pick because the Ravens are on a roll; after stomping San Francisco 44-6 two weeks ago, they pulled out a 17-point fourth quarter to slip past Seattle last week. If Jamal and Ray Lewis get rolling, Baltimore might crimp the Bengals’ playoff plans.

Indianapolis 35, Tennessee 31. AFC Game of the Week. Both teams are coming off tough losses, and the winner goes atop the AFC South. The Colts get the Pick because the Titans have a tendency to allow quarterbacks to pick them apart. Peyton Manning did it the Colts’ 33-7 rout of the Titans on Sept. 14, Tom Brady did it in New England’s win on Oct. 5, and Chad Pennington did it in the Jets victory last week. Steve McNair’s going to have to play like he can for his team to take this one.

Jacksonville 20, Houston 10. The Jaguars want to avenge the loss Houston handed them on Sept. 28, and after smashing Tampa Bay last week, they’ve got some momentum. The Texans don’t have a quarterback, now that David Carr and Tony Banks are both out with injuries. Byron Leftwich doesn’t have a reputation for accuracy, but he was on last week against the Bucs, completing 20 of 34 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns.

Green Bay 24, Chicago 17. Brett Favre and Ahman Green suffered through one of their worst games in recent memory in last week’s loss to Detroit, but the Pack still gets the Pick because Favre is 19-4 lifetime against the team from the Windy City. On the other hand, the Bears had one of their most explosive performances of the millennium in last week’s win over Arizona, so anything’s possible.

Detroit 28, San Diego 24. The Lions have the momentum after beating Green Bay last week, although San Diego almost scored the upset of the decade, getting within 21-17 of Kansas City before Doug Flutie had two turnovers to end the threat. No real reason for this game to be played, but at least Detroit has taken its first real step toward regaining the magic that disappeared with Barry Saunders.

San Francisco 30, Arizona 7. As has been the norm for them, the Cardinals are playing for kicks at this point in the season. This is another Big Deal game, but the 49ers get the Pick because they might (repeat, might) be ticked enough to avenge their destruction at Baltimore’s hands last week.

New England 27, Miami 7. The weather up north will be freezing with a chance for sleet, something the Dolphins surely aren’t used to. A Patriot squad that’s re-captured the nation’s heart by winning eight straight, including an overtime win in Miami on Oct. 19. Everyone knew that the New England offense was superb with Tom Brady and Troy Brown around, but their defense came through last week, stuffing Indianapolis on the one-yard line in one of the most thrilling games of the season.

Kansas City 30, Denver 14. A win today gives the Chiefs their first AFC West title since 1997, but that’s not the only reason they get the Pick. Denver almost (and probably should have) beat them on Oct. 5, with only a late punt return for a touchdown by Dante Hall saving the game for the Chiefs. Cincinnati proved that Kansas City isn’t indestructible; now the Chiefs have to keep believing in themselves; hence, they can’t keep this one as close as last week’s 28-24 win over San Diego.

New York Jets 24, Buffalo 16. The Jets have been playing much better than they were at the start of the season, with Chad Pennington back to lead them to three wins in their last four games, including last week’s thriller over Tennessee. The Jets also get the Pick because they’ve shown a tendency to turn things around in the final weeks of the season; last year, they finished the season 9-7 after starting 2-5.

Carolina 41, Atlanta 9. Michael Vick is back, but the team he returns to is a far cry from the one that outscored Carolina 30-0 and 41-0 last season. The Panthers have lost two straight, and having their playoff hopes dashed by a 2-10 team is

simply not going to be acceptable.

St. Louis 35, Cleveland 13. Marshall Faulk is back among the elite, passing Jim Brown and Walter Payton on the career touchdown list with three six-pointers last week against Minnesota. He and Marc Bulger still might have some problems against the fifth-ranked defense in the league, but the Brown defense is the reason the team is 4-8, while the Rams are solid on the ball stoppage side of things, squashing Dante Culpepper for eight sacks and two fumbles last week.

Last week: 10-4

Overall: 104-77