Titans and Giants play for home-field advantage
with its NFC West title. The Cardinals beat Miami early and beat Dallas in overtime, but the rest of their victories are against teams with losing records.
Atlanta (9-5) at Minnesota (9-5)
The Vikings are close to the playoffs and will continue at quarterback with Tarvaris Jackson, who threw four TD passes in Arizona last week replacing the injured Gus Frerotte. Frerotte had taken Jackson's starting job three games into the season.
But they will be without Pat Williams, half of the "Williams wall" in the middle of the defensive line, who is out with a broken shoulder. Both he and Kevin Williams made the Pro Bowl and both had suspensions for taking a diuretic considered a screening agent for steroids put on hold by a Minneapolis judge.
Their absence could open holes for Michael Turner, the Falcons' Pro Bowl running back. Along with Matt Ryan and new coach Mike Smith, he is among the reasons a team that was 4-12 last season and embarrassed by the Michael Vick dogfighting saga is in contention for a playoff berth with two weeks to go.
Baltimore (9-5) at Dallas (95) (Saturday night)
Philadelphia (8-5-1) at Washington (7-7)
The loser of the final game scheduled for Texas Stadium might be out of the playoffs. The winner might be, too, as the season ends with some of the tightest wild-card races of the decade.
Tony Romo is expected to start at quarterback for Dallas, although his back hurts after taking a pounding in the Cowboys' 20-8 win over the Giants last week. Even with Romo, the defense has been carrying the Cowboys, especially DeMarcus Ware, who has 19 sacks, 3½ away from the single-season record.
Baltimore's unsung hero is Le'Ron McClain, now the starting running back after opening the season at fullback. He's more important because rookie Ray Rice has been banged up and Willis McGahee disappointing.
The Eagles could have fallen apart after a tie in Cincinnati followed by the loss in Baltimore in which Andy Reid benched Donovan McNabb at halftime. Instead, they've won three straight, two over divi- sion winners, and their playoff chances could come down to their final-week game with Dallas.
The Redskins have gone in the opposite direction, losing five of six. That left Clinton Portis questioning coach Jim Zorn and had Zorn questioning himself following a loss to the Bengals last week, calling himself "the worst coach in America." Then he recanted and decided there must be some who are worse than he is.
Buffalo (6-8) at Denver (8-6)
San Diego (6-8) at Tampa Bay (9-5)
It seems like forever that the Broncos have had a magic number of "one" to clinch the AFC West — one win or a Chargers loss.
But Denver lost last week in Carolina and the Chargers, behind 21-3 in the third quarter, scored two touchdowns in 37 seconds to beat the Chiefs 2221 and stave off elimination. So if the Broncos lose and the Chargers win this week, they play next week with the title on the line.
That's unlikely — the Bills have lost seven of eight — although the Broncos have a knack for improbable losses, including one at home to Oakland. The Bucs have put themselves in danger of missing the playoffs with division road losses to Carolina and Atlanta, but they are 6-0 at home.
Green Bay (5-9) at Chicago (8-6) (Monday night)
The Packers routed the Bears 37-3 at Lambeau on Nov. 16, but have lost four straight since. In fact, that was their only win in seven games that dropped them from the playoff race. But don't blame the decision to let Brett Favre go for that — the Packers have allowed 29.5 points a game in those six losses.
The Bears' season turned when they failed on the goal line in Minnesota three weeks ago with a chance to go up 14-3 and take control of the NFC North. The Vikings then scored on a 99-yard pass to exBear Bernard Berrian and the 14-point turnaround propelled them to a win that gave them the division lead.
New Orleans (7-7) at Detroit (0-14)
Houston (7-7) at Oakland (311)
San Francisco (5-9) at St. Louis (2-12)
Cincinnati (2-11-1) at Cleveland (4-10) Notes on non-contenders. Can Detroit win a game? Maybe, perhaps even this one. After all, the Lions went to Indy and were tied at 21 early in the fourth quarter, an indication that Rod Marinelli still has them playing all out.
The Texans went 8-8 last season and could finish above .500 for the first time ever if they beat the Raiders and then Chicago. But they always get started too late.
The 49ers might be at .500 if Shaun Hill had been the quarterback from the start of the season, a change Mike Singletary made when he took over as coach.
The best that can be said for Cincinnati is that it's played well against the tough NFC East, beating Washington, tying Philadelphia, taking the Giants to overtime and scaring Dallas.