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NFL Week 14: N.O./Dallas tonight

If Kansas City misses out on the playoffs by one game this season, they will know exactly which game cost them.

Cleveland, coming off a fourth-quarter choke against Pittsburgh and then a 30-0 embarrassment against Cincinnati, was down by two touchdowns to K. C. in the fourth period.

In his first regular season action of his career, QB Derek Anderson led the Browns to a tie and then an overtime win.

This past Thursday, the Browns used that good momentum to get slapped by Pittsburgh again, this time no comeback needed, I bet that performance made the Chiefs all the more happy.

San Diego and Indianapolis can win their divisions today.

New England can wrap up their division with a win and a Jets loss; Seattle can do the same with a win and a San Francisco loss.

The Redskins’ news of the week was resigning Ladell Betts to a five-year, $11 million contract.

The interesting note is that Betts easily could have gone looking for a starting spot, and starter’s money, after the season on the free agent market.

Instead, Betts said, &uot;They were the first team to give me the opportunity to play in the NFL, so I’m loyal to that.&uot;

When asked about still being a sub for Clinton Portis, Betts said, &uot;Hopefully, we’ll have one of the best 1-2 punches in the NFL.

We’re here for the long haul, and we’re trying to get this thing turned around, so hopefully me and Clinton together can take care of the backfield.&uot;

Atlanta (6-6) at Tampa Bay (3-9) – 1 p.m.

Michael Vick needs 40 more yards to become the NFL’s single season rushing leader for a quarterback.

Atlanta needs probably three, maybe even all four wins, to make the playoffs.

With Dallas, Carolina and Philadelphia left to go, beating the 3-9 Bucs is a must.

Line – Atlanta by 3

My pick – Falcons, 30-14

Baltimore (9-3) at Kansas City (7-5) – 1 p.m.

Cincinnati is trying to make a run at Baltimore’s division lead, but the Ravens still have a two-game lead with four to go.

The main question here, how much is K. C. still kicking themselves?

With five 7-5 teams in the AFC trying for two wild card spots, nine wins won’t get it done and even 10 could end up in a tiebreaker.

Line – K. C. by 2.5

My pick – Ravens, 17-14

Indianapolis (10-2) at Jacksoville (7-5) – 1 p.m.

Line – Indy by 1

My pick – Colts, 27-17

Minnesota (5-7) at Detroit (2-10) – 1 p.m.

Line – Detroit by 1.5

My pick – Lions, 34-10

New England (9-3) at Miami (5-7) – 1 p.m.

The 1-6 start is going to be just too much for the Dolphins to overcome and the knockout blow could come today.

New England has won three in a row.

Post-Thanksgiving under Bill Belichick, the Pats are 35-6.

Two positives for Miami, one super-sub RB Lawrence Maroney might not play for N. E. and the Dolphins’ defense has been forcing a lot of turnovers recently while the Pats have been turning the ball over much more than Belichick and Brady are used to.

Line – N. E. by 3

My pick – Dolphins, 24-23

N. Y. Giants (6-6) at Carolina (6-6) – 1 p.m.

Line – Carolina by 3

My pick – Panthers, 20-10

Oakland (2-10) at Cincinnati (7-5) – 1 p.m.

Line – Cincy by 10.5

My pick – Bengals, 33-7

Philadelphia (6-6) at Washington (4-8) – 1 p.m.

With Jeff Garcia at QB, the Eagles play the first of three straight on the road against NFC East rivals.

Who in the league office hates the Eagles?

Brian Westbrook getting back toward 100 percent is nearly as big a positive as losing Donovan McNabb is a negative though, and a still not entirely healthy Westbrook still had 20 rushes and six catches, totaling 124 total yards, against Carolina.

Westbrook’s plays, more often than not, seemed to keep possessions going in the second half.

Line – Philadelphia by 1

My pick – Redskins, 21-14

Tennessee (5-7) at Houston (4-8) – 1 p.m.

Line – Houston by 1

My pick – Titans, 26-21

Green Bay (4-8) at San Francisco (5-7) – 4 p.m.

Line – S. F. by 4.5

My pick – Niners, 35-28

Seattle (8-4) at Arizona (3-9) – 4 p.m.

Line – Seattle by 3

My pick – Seahawks, 28-6

Buffalo (5-7) at N. Y. Jets (7-5) – 4 p.m.

Line – Jets by 3.5

My pick – Jets, 19-14

Denver (7-5) at San Diego (10-2) – 4 p.m.

Even forgetting about Tomlinson for a moment, look at what the Chargers have going for them right now.

Phillip Rivers has completed 64.4 percent of his passes, tossed 16 TDs versus six INTs, and will end up somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,500 passing yards this season.

Antonio Gates, despite what Kellen Winslow Jr. has to say, has been Rivers’ favorite receiver.

Gates has 57 catches including a team-high six touchdowns.

Also interesting, 37 of Gates’ 57 receptions have picked up first downs.

Shawne Merriman is a true star in the league now. Returning from a suspension last week, he recorded two sacks (giving him 10.5 on the season) and two forced fumbles.

Overall, their defense is eighth in the league in yards allowed, but even more than that are the big plays the Chargers make.

Fourteen different Chargers have sacks including Shaun Phillips who also has 10.5.

Good luck to Jay Cutler.

Line – Chargers by 7.5

My pick – S. D. 31-16

New Orleans (8-4) at Dallas (8-4) – 8:15 p.m.

The Saints can’t clinch their division tonight but they can clinch a playoff spot.

Fortunately for the Saints, if Dallas is too tough on the road here, they have the Redskins at home next week.

Dallas has the highest scoring offense in the NFC (27.7 points per game) and N. O. has the best offense in terms of yardage in the NFC (400.2 yards per game).

In five home games though, the Cowboy defense has allowed more than 14 points only once.

That should be the difference here.

Line – Dallas by 7

My pick – Cowboys, 24-21

Chicago (10-2) at St. Louis (5-7) – 8:30 p.m. Monday

Line – Chicago by 6

My pick – Bears, 28-7

For the season…

Straight-up – 118-74 (10-6 last week)

Against the spread – 90-102 (6-10 last week)