The Eagles clinched the NFC East and the Falcons can do the same with a win and or tie at Tampa Bay Sunday. As for the rest of the conference, there are seven teams at 4-7 are still entertaining dreams of a post season berth.
On the AFC side, there’s a slight possibility that even 10 wins may not be enough to get in the post season party. Either way, the next five weeks should be the most exciting of the season.
FACTOID OF THE WEEK
Baltimore’s Jamal Lewis has rushed for 948 yards in his last seven meetings against the Bengals (averaging 135.4 YPG), registering at least 100 yards in each of those contests. He’s tied with Denver’s Terrell Davis for the longest streak of consecutive games with 100 rushing yards versus one opponent since 1970. TD turned the trick against Seattle from 1996-01.
LAST WEEK: 9-7 (100-77 on the season)
Just missed another double-digit week, thanks to the Broncos’ meltdown in Invesco Field and sticking with Da Bears on Turkey Day. We did have Bills winning in Seattle and the Pats win against Baltimore.
FALCONS at BUCS
The Dirty Birds wrapped up the services of TE Alge Crumpler for the next six years with a contract extension earlier in the week. They can do the same for the NFC South with a win at Raymond James Sunday. The Bucs blew an opportunity to stay pace by losing at Carolina last week. While Philly has been getting the hype (and rightfully so) as the NFC’s top dawg, the rest of the NFL shouldn’t sleep on Atlanta. With Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett, they may have a slightly better running game than the Eagles heading into the post season.
BRONCOS at CHARGERS
For all intents and purposes, the winner of this game will likely win the AFC West while the loser will have to fight for a wild-card berth. The Bolts outlasted K.C. in a shootout at Arrowhead last week while Denver fell at home to Da Raidahs in another see-saw contest. In the previous meeting, the Broncos held LaDainian Tomlinson to 60 yards rushing in a 23-13 home win. Since then, San Diego has won 7 of their last 8 games. I’ll go with the home team in this one again.
PACKERS at EAGLES
Ever since Freddie Mitchell’s 4th and 26 miracle in the playoffs, Cheesehead fans have been marking this date down on their calendar. Both teams are coming in on a roll: Philly toyed with Lil’ Eli and Big Blue before winning while the Pack handled their business against the Rams. Is a letdown possible for the Eagles now that the East has been won? Not with home field advantage still for the taking. The turning point for this game may be the status of Ahman Green. I don’t think Najeh Davenport can turn the trick for a second straight week.
STEELERS at JAGUARS
An AFC playoff preview at Jacksonville? Perhaps, but the Jags need to bounce back after a heart-breaker at Minnesota to stay in the hunt. The Steelers keep rolling along after slapping the Deadskins silly last week. With two of the AFC’s best defenses on the field, this has all the makings of a low-scoring contest. While Big Ben has been playing well since becoming the starter, you just get the feeling that his winning streak has to come to an end sooner or later. No disrespect to the Black and Gold, but it’s about to become sooner.
COWBOYS at SEAHAWKS
Believe it or not, this game has several playoff implications in the NFC. Seattle is leading the West only because the Rams have been slipping in and out of contention over the last few weeks. The Tuna Helpers are among a posse of 4-7 teams that are still in the NFC wild-card hunt. Julius Jones’ performance on Turkey Day has given Dallas fans reason for some hope, but realistically this is still an underachieving team at best. However, the Seahawks are falling into that category as well. I may regret this, but we’ll stick with the home team.
Ravens over Bengals: Cincy could have used some of those 58 points against Cleveland for this Sunday.
Vikings over Bears: It’s playoffs or bust for Mike Tice and the gang.
Patriots over Browns: It’s probably not going to happen, but here’s hoping that Terry Robiskie gets more than an interim label this time.
Lions over Cardinals: Denny Green has Jim Hart and Neil Lomax’s home numbers on speed dial.
Titans over Colts: Just a hunch. I think Air McNair will outperform Mr. Manning Sunday.
Bills over Dolphins: Buffalo would be in the hunt if it wasn’t for their 0-4 start.
Panthers over Saints: Will Jim Haslett last the week?
Jets over Texans: Gang Green should win this with or without Chad’s return.
Rams over 49ers: San Fran is officially on the clock.
Raiders over Chiefs: This could be a Browns-Bengals repeat at the Black Hole.
Giants over Redskins: Eli finally gets to see his receivers in an upright position.