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The Washington Post Sunday - - D6 NFL WEEK 17 -

MATCHUP

The Fal­cons, who al­ready have clinched a play­off spot, can win the NFC South and home-field ad­van­tage through­out the NFC play­offs with a win, but they would drop to the No. 5 spot in the play­offs with a loss and a Saints win. RB Michael Turner, who leads the NFC with 1,304 yards rush­ing, has four straight 100-yard games against the Pan­thers. With a win, the Steel­ers would take the di­vi­sion, earn a first-round play­off bye and guar­an­tee them­selves one home game in post­sea­son. The Steel­ers, giv­ing up just 64.1 yards rush­ing per game, are on pace to shat­ter the team record for rush­ing de­fense. Pitts­burgh’s 2001 team gave up 74.7 yards per game. If Detroit beats the Vik­ings, the Lions would avoid be­ing alone in last place for the first time since 2007 and would put Min­nesota in a last­place tie for the first time since 1990. Vik­ings in­terim coach Leslie Frazier said QB Brett Favre still must be cleared to play af­ter missing Tues­day’s game at Philadel­phia with post-con­cus­sion symp­toms. If the Raiders win, they would fin­ish 6-0 in the AFC West and be­come the first team to go un­beaten in a di­vi­sion and still miss the play­offs. The Chiefs would be di­vi­sion champs with a 2-4 di­vi­sion record. The Chiefs are al­low­ing a league-low 12.4 ppg in seven home games and are the only team not to give up a rush­ing touch­down at home. A win would give the Dol­phins their first 7-1 road record since 1984. They’re 1-7 at home. Pa­tri­ots QB Tom Brady has 27 straight reg­u­lar sea­son wins at home and 319 con­sec­u­tive passes with­out an in­ter­cep­tion, both NFL records. He needs 299 yards pass­ing for a fourth 4,000-yard sea­son. The Bills will miss the play­offs for the 11th straight year, tied with Detroit for the long­est ac­tive drought, but have a chance to fin­ish 5-3 af­ter an 0-8 start. Jets RB LaDainian Tom­lin­son is 86 yards rush­ing from the ninth 1,000-yard sea­son of his 10-year ca­reer. CB Dar­relle Re­vis has no INTs, but he was se­lected for his third straight Pro Bowl. WR Jeremy Ma­clin needs 36 yards re­ceiv­ing to reach 1,000. That would give the NFC East cham­pion Ea­gles two play­ers with more than 1,000 yards re­ceiv­ing for the first time in team his­tory. WR DeSean Jack­son al­ready has sur­passed the mark. Cow­boys QB Stephen McGee could make his first ca­reer start. Both teams en­ter av­er­ag­ing fewer than 20 points per game, Ari­zona at 18.8 (26th in NFL) and San Fran­cisco 17.8 (28th). Ari­zona has 12 re­turns for touch­downs this sea­son, one shy of the NFL record set by Seat­tle in 2003. The Car­di­nals are try­ing to win back-to-back games for the first time this sea­son. The Jaguars would win their first di­vi­sion ti­tle since 1999 with a vic­tory and a Colts loss to Ten­nessee. The Tex­ans are the only NFL team with a rusher (Arian Fos­ter), passer (Matt Schaub) and re­ceiver (An­dre John­son) all ranked among the league’s top five. The un­drafted Fos­ter leads the league with 2,030 yards from scrim­mage. The Pack­ers would clinch a play­off berth with a win and still could get in with a loss, if the Buc­ca­neers and Giants both lose. The Bears are as­sured a first-round bye but have a shot at home-field ad­van­tage through­out the play­offs with a win and losses by the Fal­cons and Saints. Bears Coach Lovie Smith said he will play his starters. Ti­tans QB Kerry Collins needs 99 yards to move past for­mer Colts QB Johnny Uni­tas for No. 11 on the NFL’s ca­reer list for yards pass­ing. WR Randy Moss has five re­cep­tions for 62 yards since join­ing Ten­nessee. Colts QB Pey­ton Man­ning is ex­pected to make his 208th con­sec­u­tive start, break­ing Gene Up­shaw’s NFL record at the start of a ca­reer. San Diego’s de­fense is al­low­ing an NFL-low 267 yards per game and 177 yards pass­ing. The Charg­ers are tied for the league lead with 44 sacks. For Den­ver, Bran­don Lloyd leads the NFL with 1,375 yards re­ceiv­ing and is headed to his first Pro Bowl. WR Jabar Gaffney has ca­reer highs in re­cep­tions (64) and yards re­ceiv­ing (863).

SMARTER STATS

The Pan­thers’ of­fense is so bad, they’ll have to score 14 points in their sea­son fi­nale just to reach the 200-point mark for the sea­son. But as we’ve dis­cussed be­fore, Carolina is de­vel­op­ing a solid de­fense. The new­est stand­out: DE Charles John­son, who has 111/ sacks and 26

2 quar­ter­back hur­ries on the sea­son. We know one thing for sure — the Steel­ers would far pre­fer that this game take place at Heinz Field. Pitts­burgh ranks third in over­all of­fen­sive ef­fi­ciency at home but 22nd on the road. The bad news for the Browns is that per those same ef­fi­ciency met­rics, no NFL de­fense is bet­ter on the road than Pitts­burgh’s. The Vik­ings have kept their run de­fense up, even with star play­ers ag­ing. They’ve al­lowed just 3.89 run­ning back yards per carry this year, af­ter al­low­ing 3.86 in 2009. But their ad­justed sack rate to­tal (sacks per pass at­tempt ad­justed for down, dis­tance and op­po­nent) has dropped from 7.8 per­cent in 2009 to 5 per­cent — from fourth to 29th. The Chiefs aren’t just play­ing for play­off po­si­tion­ing; they’re also look­ing at a bit of his­tory. Ja­maal Charles (6.39 yards per carry) is set to be­come the fifth run­ning back in NFL an­nals to av­er­age more than six yards per carry on 150 or more at­tempts. He has a good shot at the best mark over­all, Jim Brown’s 6.4 YPC on 291 car­ries in 1963. Em­bar­rass­ingly enough for a team coached by an of­fen­sive line spe­cial­ist and run by Bill Par­cells, the Dol­phins are one of two teams (the Seat­tle Sea­hawks are the other) not to have a 100-yard rusher all sea­son. In fact, no­body has come close — Ron­nie Brown had the high­est sin­gle-game to­tal with 80 yards in Week 2 against the Vik­ings. Add Jets QB Mark Sanchez to the short list of quar­ter­backs who may pre­fer to be away from home. In the New Mead­ow­lands this year, Sanchez has been sacked 20 times and has a passer rat­ing of 70.0. Away from home, he has been sacked just seven times, has thrown three more touch­downs (10 to 7) and has a passer rat­ing of 80.3. Sack to­tals (and sacks al­lowed to­tals) can be mis­lead­ing. Ea­gles Pro Bowl T Ja­son Peters is cred­ited with al­low­ing just two sacks this year af­ter giv­ing up 231/ in the last three. But Ea­gles QB Michael Vick has taken 34 sacks in just 372 pass­ing at­tempts. Sacks al­lowed to­tals of­ten re­flect line­men get­ting beaten try­ing to pro­tect pocket QBs.

2 Ac­cord­ing to Foot­ball Out­siders’ ef­fi­ciency met­rics, the 49ers are the most “ef­fi­cient” team in this game, rank­ing 26th over­all. The Car­di­nals rank 31st, with only the Carolina Pan­thers lower. The St. Louis Rams and Seat­tle Sea­hawks, the two teams ac­tu­ally fight­ing for the di­vi­sion ti­tle, rank 27th and 20th, re­spec­tively. Jaguars RB Mau­rice Jones-Drew will not play and QB David Gar­rard was placed on in­jured re­serve. But it shouldn’t mat­ter. Hous­ton’s pass de­fense is the NFL’s worst in com­ple­tion per­cent­age al­lowed (65.5), yards per game al­lowed (277.1), pass­ing first downs al­lowed (205) and pass­ing touch­downs al­lowed (32). You might as­sume Jay Cut­ler is the bet­ter deep thrower among the QBs in this game, but it isn’t so. On passes that travel more than 20 yards in the air, Cut­ler is 9 of 40 for 387 yards (22.5 com­ple­tion rate), 2 touch­downs and 4 in­ter­cep­tions. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is 19 of 55 (34.5 per­cent) for 743 yards, 7 touch­downs and 5 picks. Well, here’s a shocker — and per­haps less than good news for Colts fans. You’d ex­pect a dome team like In­di­anapo­lis to be much bet­ter on of­fense at home, but it’s not true this year. The Colts rank 18th in Foot­ball Out­siders’ ef­fi­ciency met­rics at home and third on the road. San Diego’s spe­cial teams have al­lowed the fewest yards in the NFL (4,008), but the Charg­ers have given up 10 more touch­downs than the sec­ond-place team in yardage al­lowed (the Steel­ers). Why? Be­cause on av­er­age, San Diego’s op­po­nents start their pos­ses­sions at about their own 33-yard line. Only the Buf­falo Bills start in a big­ger hole.

Dal­las at Philadel­phia 4:15 p.m. Ea­gles by 3, WBFF-45 in the Bal­ti­more mar­ket

Ten­nessee at In­di­anapo­lis 4:15 p.m., Colts by 91/ 2, WJZ-13 in the Bal­ti­more mar­ket

Ari­zona at San Fran­cisco

4:15 p.m., 49ers by 6

Buf­falo at New York Jets

1 p.m., Jets by 11/

2

San Diego at Den­ver

4:15 p.m., Charg­ers by 31/

2

Jack­sonville at Hous­ton

4:15 p.m., Tex­ans by 3

Pitts­burgh at Cleve­land

1 p.m., Steel­ers by 5

Oak­land at Kansas City

1 p.m., Chiefs by 31/

2

Chicago at Green Bay

4:15 p.m., Pack­ers by 91/

2

Mi­ami at New Eng­land

1 p.m. Pa­tri­ots by 5

Min­nesota at Detroit

1 p.m., Lions by 31/

2

Carolina at At­lanta

1 p.m., Fal­cons by 14

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