Ti­tans and Giants play for home-field ad­van­tage

The Covington News - - Sports -

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.

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