The final day of the NFL regular season

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 28, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Editor’s note: This was written before all of Saturday’s games were completed.

Atlanta 24, Jacksonville 16. We can only wonder what Atlanta could have done had Michael Vick’s leg not snapped like a twig in the preseason. Anyway, the Falcons have a ton of momentum after ending the playoff hopes of division rival Tampa Bay last week, so they should win this one.

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Cincinnati 27, Cleveland 6. One can only wonder what will happen to the Bengals next year when they’ve lost the element of surprise. But we’ll worry about that then; today, the Cincinnati squad will show the rest of the league who the good Ohio team is. Not only do the Bengals need this one for a shot at the NFC North, they also want to punish Cleveland for getting whomped by Baltimore last week; had the Browns won, the Bengals wouldn’t have needed the Ravens to lose tonight for a chance at the title.

St. Louis 35, Detroit 9. No game is a sure bet, even against the Lions, who are 4-3 in Detroit. But the Rams completed a perfect season at home last week and nabbed a first-round bye in the playoffs by stomping Cincinnati, a game in which Marshall Faulk scored two touchdowns and Torry Holt had his 10th 100-yard receiving game of the season. Add in the ever-reliable Marc Bulger, and anything but a big win for St. Louis will be an upset.

Indianapolis 28, Houston 20. Indianapolis was crushed by Denver last week, showing that their 11-4 record might be just a little inflated. But they’ve never lost to Houston, are the AFC’s best road team, and haven’t lost two straight in 24 games – the longest streak in the NFL. A win today gives them the AFC South – a loss and victories by Tennessee and Denver could knock the Colts all the way down to the sixth seed, and force them to play all their playoff games on the road.

Kansas City 30, Chicago 13. We may know the result to this one before it’s even played; if New England wins on Saturday, the Chiefs won’t have a shot at home-field advantage all the way through the playoffs, so coach Dick Vermeil might play his subs. If Buffalo beats the Patriots, however, the Chiefs will go all out, because they’ve gone 7-0 at home this season. But no matter where they play, they still have one of the worst defenses in the league, a fact exploited by Minnesota last week.

Dallas 29, New Orleans 23. Here’s another game that could be meaningless long before kickoff; a Philly win on Saturday gives the Eagles the NFC East and sticks Dallas in the lowly wild card spot. But if the Eagles do win and Bill Parcells puts his stars in, only to see one of them hurt, well… we all saw what could happen to a star player in a meaningless game when Michael Vick broke his leg in the preseason, didn’t we?

Miami 16, N.Y. Jets 13. It’s a sad fact that the Dolphins could (and should) finish with 10 wins and miss the playoffs, while teams with less victories will still be playing next week.

Tennessee 20, Tampa Bay 17. Steve McNair deserves the league MVP award just for playing as a champion cripple this season, especially last week’s last-second win over Tennessee. If the Colts lose to Houston and the Titans win, Tennessee gets the AFC South, which is the only reason for McNair to be on the field today. If the Titans fall behind early, he needs to sit this one out.

Minnesota 42, Arizona 12. Who wins or loses this one depends on which Viking team shows up. If it’s the one that started the season with six consecutive wins and smashed Kansas City last week, Minnesota won’t have a problem. If it’s the one that fell to New York, Chicago, Oakland and San Diego, the Cardies might fly away.

Carolina 27, N.Y. Giants 6. Few of the Panthers’ standouts played in last week’s massacre of Detroit. Today, with the NFC South in the bag and no shot at a first-round bye, the Carolina starters should get even more rest – and their fill-ins might have an even easier time of things.

Green Bay 21, Denver 14. If Brett Favre and the Pack play half as well as they did in last week’s whipping of Oakland, Green Bay might shoot into the playoffs by tonight (Green Bay will make the postseason if they and Dallas win or if Seattle loses, and will clinch the NFC North if they win and Minnesota falls). Add in the fact that the Broncos are headed there regardless, and Denver might just &uot;accidentally&uot; let this one slip away.

San Diego 7, Oakland 3. I would watch this one, but I’d rather mow my lawn with scissors.

Baltimore 23, Pittsburgh 21. We might see history today; 154 rushing yards will make Jamal Lewis the new regular-season rushing leader. He’s never had a 100-yard game against Pittsburgh, including a 69-yard performance earlier this year. The Ravens are 6-1 at home, while the Steelers are wondering what went wrong.

Last week: 10-5

Overall: 125-86