By Tony McClean
Updated: December 16, 2004
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — You can tell the season is nearing an end when the Saturday airwaves are invaded by the NFL. For the next two weekends, there will be Saturday primetime NFL games on the three football networks.
Luckily, most of the primetime games this weekend will have either some playoff implications (Steelers at Giants, 1:30 ET Saturday on CBS) or historical implications (Ravens at Colts, 8:30 ET Sunday night on ESPN).
In fact, the Packers will visit the Metrodome on Friday, Christmas Eve to battle the Vikings. More than likely, the winner of the NFC North will be decided on the FOX telecast. It will be followed the next day by a pair of games (Raiders at Chiefs on CBS; Broncos at Titans on ESPN).
FACTOID OF THE WEEK
The Carolina Panthers (6-7) are still in playoff contention, but cannot clinch a playoff spot this week. However, the defending NFC champs can become only the fourth team in history to win six consecutive games immediately after losing six in a row.
– 1970 Bengals: lost 6, won 7 (finished 8-6, reached playoffs)*
– 1974 Jets: lost 6, won 6 (finished 7-7, missed playoffs)
– 1994 Giants: lost 7, won 6 (finished 9-7, missed playoffs)
* (won AFC Central)
LAST WEEK: 11-5 (119-90 on the year)
Finally, a week of double-digit wins. That noise you hear in the background is me tapping myself on the back while typing this story (Ouch!!!). We took a chance on the Jets, the Tuna Helpers, and the Vikings (again!!!) and got burned.
PANTHERS at FALCONS
There aren’t too many teams in the NFL hotter than Carolina right now. Jake and his fatmen are trying to make a bum’s rush to the playoffs while Atlanta will be without T.J. Duckett (knee) for the next two weeks. Way back in Week Four, the Panthers held Michael Vick to 148 yards passing and 35 yards rushing but still lost 27-10 at home. Carolina needs this game more than Atlanta right now. They should win, but it won’t be easy.
SEAHAWKS at JETS
Would someone please let me and or Mike Holmgren know which friggin’ Seattle team will show up week-to-week? The Birds got their biggest win of the season last week by outlasting the Vikings at the Metrodome. Gang Green and Reverend Herm fell short on the road at Pittsburgh last week, but they still appear to be a playoff team. Again, I’ll go with the team that needs the win the most. I may regret it but I’ll give the nod to Seattle.
VIKINGS at LIONS
If I had my choice, I’d pick both of them to lose this game. While the Boys from Motown gave the Cheeseheads a scare at Green Bay last week, the Vikings gagged at home against Seattle. Clearly, Minnesota is the better team and should be the desperate team using the analogy of my two previous picks. But I still see last year’s collapse by the Vikings in my head and they may be looking past Detroit for their Chrismas Eve showdown with Green Bay. I smell upset.
RAVENS at COLTS
For the second straight week, Peyton Manning is within breathing distance of eclipsing Dan Marino’s record for TD passes in a season. Last week, the Ravens became the latest team to take Lil’ Eli down a peg in their win against Big Blue. Now really, do you think Ray Lewis and the gang want to be the team that Peyton breaks the record against? Especially with a playoff berth still in site and the entire nation watching? I didn’t think so.
PATRIOTS at DOLPHINS
What are you doing, Tony Mack? Why are you putting what seems to be a Monday Night walkover for New England in your main picks of the week? You aren’t really thinking that the Fish have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning, do you? You don’t really think Bill Belichick will allow his squad to lose to one of the worst teams in the league, do you? Oh, well I’ve made worst picks than this. Plus, I need at least one major upset.
Steelers over Giants: Hey, Archie and Eli…..The Chargers are asking how do they smell now???
Chiefs over Broncos: Okay, there’s room for at least one more upset this week.
Bills over Bengals: This could be the weekend’s most entertaining game.
Packers over Jaguars: Not without a major fight from Jacksonville.
Chargers over Browns: Why won’t anyone mention the Bolts as one of the AFC’s elite teams this season?
Eagles over Cowboys: Philly can’t afford too many more injuries.
Rams over Cardinals: Only because Denny Green’s crew is still pretty lousy.
Redskins over 49ers: Speaking of lousy teams…….
Texans over Bears: Both teams are building for 2005.
Bucs over Saints: Tampa are still trying to entertain playoff hopes.
Titans over Raiders: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. This was the AFC Championship game just two seasons ago.