By Tony McClean
Updated: November 23, 2007
NEW YORK — Now that Week 12 is already upon us, it’s time to start examining the playoff picture and recent league history. Since the NFL Wild Card round was instituted in 1990, six teams have made the playoffs despite having a record below .500 after 10 games.
Entering Week 12, six teams currently hold a 4-6 record with four of them (Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City and New Orleans) having made the playoffs last year.
Also, several teams have the opportunity to become the first clubs since 1990 to win a division title after holding a losing record after 10 games. Carolina and New Orleans trail Tampa Bay (6-4) by two games in the NFC South while Kansas City is only a game behind Denver and San Diego, both 5-5, in the AFC West.
Parity or mediocrity? The league will give you the “any given Sunday mantra”. Given the dominance of Team Tivo up in Foxboro, it just may be a little bit of both.
FACTOID OF THE WEEK
Speaking of the Pats, they can become the 12th NFL team to start the season at 11-0 and they can win the AFC East Division title. With a win Sunday night against Philadelphia, or a Buffalo loss, or ties by New England and Buffalo, the Patriots will become only the fourth team since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978 to clinch a division title by its 11th game (1985 Chicago, 1997 San Francisco and 2004 Philadelphia).
Who is the only tight end in Cleveland Brown history to have a 1,000-yard receiving season?
A. Dave Logan
B. Ozzie Newsome
C. Gary Collins
D. Milt Morin
(Answer comes at the end of the column).
LAST WEEK: 9-7 (87-57 overall)
Just another up-and-down week, but again, we finish on the plus side. The Steelers and Saints let me down big time and I’m not even gonna mention Buffalo’s “effort” Sunday night. However, we did have Big Blue come through for us as well as the Rams, Colts, and Browns (barely!!!).
TEXANS at BROWNS
This has all the makings of a shootout at the Dawg Pound Sunday. Both teams are coming off big wins that have kept their playoff hopes alive. The entire offensive unit is back for Houston and they showed it last week against the reeling Saints. Despite a comedy of errors by the officiating crew at Baltimore, the Browns were able to pull out an overtime win against the Ravens. I know Houston’s defense, epecially Mario Williams, has been playing better over the last few weeks, but I’m starting to get the feeling that Cleveland has a little magic working for them. I’ll be a close one, but I’ll lean toward the home team.
REDSKINS at BUCS
Coming off a bitter road loss at Dallas, the Skins visit Tampa Bay for the fourth time in three seasons. In fact, they are meeting in the regular season for the fifth straight year. Throw in playoff games between the teams in 1999 and 2005, and there’s a budding rivalry of sorts between the franchises. Most importantly, all of the games have been decided by a touchdown or less and Sunday should be not different. While the Bucs have put themselves in the NFC South race, Grandpa Gibbs’ boys have lost two straight and need this win to remain in the postseason hunt. I’ve liked Jason Campbell and the Skins all season and I think they can get this win.
EAGLES at PATRIOTS
With Donovan McNabb listed as questionable and several other Eagles either out or hurting, this truly could get ugly early. At this point in time, Team Tivo is playing for keeps. While I still don’t think they will and don’t need to go undefeated to validate them, they seem to be playing a huge chip on their shoulder. Philly would have to play above and beyond their potential just to hang with them. And if rookie Kevin Kolb is forced to make his NFL start, New England will smell blood in the water. If they were a little bit healthier, I’d give Philly a shot. But I’m not feeling that upset vibe with this team. For the Eagles’ sake, I hope they make a game of it.
DOLPHINS at STEELERS
There are several subplots involved in this MNF matchup. Can the Black and Gold recover from their whupping at the hand of the Jets last week? Will Rickey (Dude, Where’s My Career???) Williams make his first appearance of the season? Will the Fish finally be able to win a game so the members of the 1976 Bucs squad can open their Mountain Dews in celebration? By all rights, this should be a walkover for the Steelers. Especially coming off the Meadowlands fiasco last week. Oh, I deliberately forgot to mention Joey Porter’s homecoming. Why you may ask? Because just like in space, when you’re winless, no one cares and no one can hear you talking trash.
Saints over Panthers: Okay, you’ve laid a rock for two straight weeks. No win this week, no playoffs for you!!
Chargers over Ravens: I’ve stopped trying to figure the Bolts out, but they should be able to win this.
Titans over Bengals: VY vents his frustrations on the aledged Cincy D.
Jags over Bills: Jacksonville may have a playoff run left in them.
Cardinals over 49ers: Do you realize Arizona could possibly win the NFC West. Well, I guess someone has to.
Giants over Vikings: Winning at Motown was costly, but they should still get by Minny.
Bears over Broncos: Sorry, I still don’t think Jay Cutler is all that great.
Chiefs over Raiders: If K.C. misses the playoffs, will Reverend Herm survive??
Seahawks over Rams: St. Louis comes crashing back to earth.
B. In 1981, Ozzie Newsome had the first of his two 1,000-yard seasons in Cleveland. That season, Newsome had 62 catches for 1,002 yards. Three years later, the Alabama product had a career-high 89 receptions for 1,001 yards.