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News » Four divisions have room on their dance cards

Four divisions have room on their dance cards

Four divisions have room on their dance cards
It's cut and dried for the New York Giants, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos. Win today and they clinch division titles in Week 14 of the NFL season.Not so simple in the AFC North, AFC East, NFC South and NFC North. Those races are still wide open, as are the wild-card races in both conferences.The most attractive game finds three-time Super Bowl rivals Dallas and Pittsburgh meeting at Heinz Field. The Cowboys have little hope of catching the Giants in the NFC East but they are in a tight wild-card race with Tampa Bay, Carolina and Atlanta. Dallas faces an uphill fight to make the playoffs with three more tough opponents (Giants, Baltimore and Philadelphia) left.

Pittsburgh needs the win to stay in front of Baltimore in the AFC North.The New York Jets , New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins, the contenders in the AFC East, are playing on the road. The Jet owns a one-game lead over the Pats and Fish.Sole possession of first place in the NFC South will be at stake when Tampa Bay visits Carolina on Monday night. Atlanta, which has a divisional game at New Orleans, is right behind the NFC South leaders.Minnesota is expected to maintain, if not expand, its lead in the NFC North by winning at Detroit (0-12), while rivals Chicago and Green Bay face dangerous opponents from the AFC at home -- Jacksonville and Houston.

>Game of the day

Cowboys (8-4) at Steelers (9-3)

TV: Ch. 29, 4 p.m.

The line: Steelers (-3).

The scoop: Pittsburgh leads the league in total, rushing and passing defense and faces a Dallas offense that averages 356.4 yards per game. . . . Could be a sack fest. Steelers have allowed 42 sacks and Cowboys 40. Dallas DE DeMarcus Ware leads league with 15 sacks and Pitt LB James Harrison has 14. Ware (knee) and Dallas RB Marion Barber (toe) are injury questions. . . . Cowboys make first visit to Steel City since 1997.

Outlook: Cowboys more desperate, plus Wade Phillips is 2-0 all-time vs. Steelers. Dallas, 24-23.


>Top attractions

Buccaneers (9-3) at Panthers (9-3)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Panthers (-3).

The scoop: Bucs routed Carolina in first meeting, 27-3. . . . Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams has run for a TD in last five games. Carolina WR Steve Smith usually runs wild against TB. He has plus-100 receiving yards in five of previous seven meetings. . . . Coordinator Monte Kiffin working another defensive masterpiece as Bucs are second to Giants in NFC with 279.5 average yield. . . . Tampa Bay has won last four and six of last seven with the loss by just four at Dallas.

Outlook: Bucs aren't pretty but know how to win. Tampa Bay, 17-14.


Falcons (8-4) at Saints (6-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Saints (-3).

The scoop: Surprise team of NFL, Atlanta has won four of last five and is 3-3 on road. Falcons need this one because Tampa Bay and roadie at Minnesota loom ahead before laugher against Rams. . . . Saints lead league in offense, averaging 405.3, but are virtually dead in NFC wild-card chase. . . . Atlanta rookie QB Matt Ryan has passed for 2,625 yards.

Outlook: Falcons keep surprising. Atlanta, 33-30.


Eagles (6-5-1) at Giants (11-1)

TV: Ch. 29, 1 p.m.

The line: Giants (-6 1/2).

The scoop: Giants won first meeting, 36-31, in Philadelphia on Nov. 9 . . . Eagles WR DeSean Jackson leads NFL rookies with 775 receiving yards.

Outlook: Giants stay out of the clubs this week. New York, 24-17.


>Best of the rest

Redskins (7-5) at Ravens (8-4)

TV: Ch. 2, 8:15 p.m.

The line: Ravens (-5).

The scoop: Redskins QB Jason Campbell is efficient but has only 10 TD passes, same number as Bills' Trent Edwards. RB Clinton Portis is second in league with 1,228 yards and 4.8 average. . . . Ravens have won six of last seven, with the loss a 30-10 humbling at the Giants. Trap game for Balto with showdown against Pittsburgh and visit to Dallas coming up. . . . Ravens' leading rusher is Le'Ron McClain (545 yards), not Willis McGahee.

Outlook: Redskins can't score against league's No. 2 defense. Baltimore, 24-9.


Jaguars (4-8) at Bears (6-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Bears (-6 1/2).

The scoop: Which supposed Super Bowl contender is worse off: the Jaguars or the Chargers? . . . Jacksonville season has fallen apart with five losses in last six games. Jags have given up 84 points in last three. . . . Up-and-down Bears coming off 20-point loss at Minnesota. . . . Bears rookie RB Matt Forte has 1,012 yards and 4.1 rushing average.

Outlook: Jags' hearts just aren't in it. Bears, 20-10.


Texans (5-7) at Packers (5-7)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Packers (-6).

The scoop: Just like '07, Texans putting on late tease. They've won last two and four of last seven. They went 5-3 in second half last season, too. . . . Packers, two games behind first-place Vikings in NFC North, are on brink of elimination from playoff picture. . . . Houston offense averaging 367.5 yards, second in NFC. . . . Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has 20 TD passes but has been prone to costly turnovers lately. . . . Packers only 3-3 at home.

Outlook: Texans defy Lambeau cold. Houston, 30-21.


Bengals (1-10-1) at Colts (8-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Colts (-13 1/2).

The scoop: Indy has won last five, including road wins at Pittsburgh and San Diego, and is one of two leaders in AFC wild-card race. Colts have won last five over Cincy, and coach Tony Dungy is 5-0 all-time against Bengals. . . . Cincinnati WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh is second in league with 81 catches but for only 10.0-yard average, four TDs.

Outlook: Indy looking at 11-win season. Colts, 27-13.


Browns (4-8) at Titans (11-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Titans (-14).

The scoop: Ken Dorsey will open at QB for Browns, his first NFL start since Nov. 27, 2005. . . . Cleveland has won last four against Titans but last visited Tennessee in 2002, when it won with Tim Couch at QB. . . . Tennessee righted itself after loss to Jets with romp at Detroit. Titans have won 14 of last 15 regular-season games. . . . Browns haven't reached the end zone in two games since 29-27 win over Bills.

Outlook: Titans nail down division with routine win, 28-10.


Dolphins (8-5) vs. Bills (6-6)

TV: Ch. 4, 4 p.m.

The line: Bills (-1).

The scoop: K Rian Lindell cost Bills loss to Cleveland and his early miss from point-blank range set a discouraging tone for miserable loss to Niners last week. . . . Buffalo's three best defensive players (Donte Whitner, Aaron Schobel and Jabari Greer) all missed loss to Niners and probably won't play this week in Toronto. . . . Dolphins have won five of their last six, two two-point wins and last week's four-pointer at St. Louis.

Outlook: Chad Pennington will dink and dunk Bills to death. Miami, 17-13.


Chiefs (2-10) at Broncos (7-5)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Broncos (-9).

The scoop: No team is more inconsistent than the Broncos, who have wins over Tampa Bay and at Atlanta and New York Jets , but losses to Raiders and Chiefs (33-19 at Arrowhead on Sept. 28). . . . Stop laughing at Tyler Thigpen, Bills fans. K.C. QB has completed 60.6 percent with 11 TDs and four INTs in last six games. That kind of production would have Bills in playoff race. . . . Chiefs haven't won in Denver since 2000.

Outlook: Broncos caught looking ahead to Bills in two weeks. Denver, but by only 24-21.


Jets (8-4) at 49ers (4-8)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Jets (-3 1/2).

The scoop: Gang Green continues old pattern of stumbling just when Gotham bandwagon fills. . . . Jets were outclassed in home loss to Denver last week. . . . Niners' only wins in six home games were over 2-10 Rams and 0-12 Lions. . . . Jets RB Thomas Jones having huge year. He leads AFC with 1,088 rushing yards and averages 4.7 per carry. His 11 rushing TDs are second in conference.

Outlook: Niners get a lift from gift win in Orchard Park last week. Jets, 28-27.


Rams (2-10) at Cardinals (7-5)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Cardinals (-14).

The scoop: Rams have lost last six. Only two of their 12 opponents have losing records (Niners and Seahawks). Rest are 73-46-1. . . . Cards routed Rams in St. Louis, 34-13, in first meeting as ex-Ram Kurt Warner passed for 343 yards and two TDs.

Outlook: Rams just trying to get it over with. Arizona, 41-14.


Patriots (7-5) at Seahawks (2-10)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Patriots (-6 1/2).

The scoop: Bulletin: Pats have given up 95 points in last three games. . . . Not counting Super Bowl XLII loss to Giants, New England has won last 13 against NFC. . . . It's Pats first visit to Seattle since 1993. . . . For second time this season, N.E. will spend week on West Coast. Pats play at Oakland next week. They did San Francisco-San Diego swing in October. . . . Seattle has lost last four. Seahawks are only 1-5 at home.

Outlook: Pats can't afford to blow this one. New England, 30-17.


>Dog of the day

Vikings (7-5) at Lions (0-12)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Vikings (-10).

The scoop: Lions borrow idea from Sabres, put 0-12 start behind them and start fresh with clean slate. All the fumbles, interceptions, penalties, misuse of timeouts, bad play-calling are erased, and Matt Millen gets pardon from President Bush. . . . Suspensions of DTs Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are huge blow to Vikings, unless appeals or court order delays NFL disciplinary action. . . . Minnesota squeezed out 12-10 win in first meeting but Lions managed to avoid winning. . . . Lions have saved a fortune on game balls this season.

Outlook: Detroit start "new" season with usual loss. Vikings, 34-16.

e-mail: mnorthrop@buffnews.com

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 9, 2008

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P.J. Daniels Name: P.J. Daniels
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Age: 25
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