Pro football’s ’72 Dolphins safe for another season

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Just two weeks remain in the regular season and much remains to be decided with nearly half of the playoff field yet to be determined.

It was a wild Sunday indeed as the final winless team, Indianapolis, got its first win of the season just as the lone remaining unbeaten team, Green Bay, was being legitimately upset in Kansas City.

That loud sound you heard just past 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon was the annual popping of the champagne corks by members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins as 2011 will be the 39th season since they became the only team to finish an unbeaten regular season with a Super Bowl win.

Or perhaps that loud sound was the scream from any ecstatic bettor who happened to make a two-team money line parlay on the Chiefs and Colts, which returned more than 22-1 odds, netting a $100 bettor a profit of $2,240 by joining the Chiefs (+550) with the Colts (+260).

Happy Holidays indeed!

Three teams clinched playoff berths but not division titles as Baltimore, New Orleans and Pittsburgh are assured of playing beyond the first weekend in January when the regular season concludes.

All four teams in the AFC West remain alive insofar as winning that division title is concerned, while three of the four teams in the NFC East can still claim that division title. However, it is extremely unlikely any of the teams in those divisions can make the playoffs as a wild card.

In the NFC Atlanta and Detroit control their wild card fates and each need just one win in their final two games to clinch that playoff berth. In the AFC, with both Baltimore and Pittsburgh having clinched playoff spots, only one wild card berth remains. Cincinnati and the New York Jets are tied at 8-6 with the Bengals having the more favorable schedule to end the season with home games against Arizona and Baltimore. The Ravens may rest players in Week 17 if they are a wild card. The Jets “host” the Giants this week and close the season at Miami.

Here’s a look at the 16 games to be played over the Christmas weekend with the bulk of the games, 13 to be exact, being played on Saturday, Christmas Eve. All will be day games with single games being played on Thursday night, Christmas night and Monday night.

THURSDAY

Texans -6½ at Colts (41): Houston games have been low scoring over the second half of the season as a result of their high performing defense and an offense that has been much less productive since starting QB Matt Schaub was lost for the season to injury. The Colts’ offense remains one of the NFL’s weakest. UNDER.

SATURDAY

Raiders +1½ at Chiefs (42): Kansas City won the earlier meeting in Oakland, 28-0, which came in the midst of the Chiefs’ 4 game win streak. KC enters this game with positive momentum and more reps in practice this week for QB Kyle Orton should have more success in the red zone. CHIEFS.

Broncos -3 at Bills (43): Buffalo has lost seven straight following 3-0 and 5-2 starts. They end their season next week in New England which makes this the most likely spot to end that losing streak. Despite the difference in their records and the current form of both, Denver does not warrant being a road favorite. BILLS.

Jaguars +8 at Titans (40): The Titans can to avenge an opening week 16-14 loss at Jacksonville. The Jags’ offense has struggled all season, scoring more than 20 points just once. They do have extra rest following last Thursday’s thrashing at Atlanta. Tennessee has something to play for and figures to bring the better preparation. TITANS.

Cards +4½ at Bengals (40): Cincinnati has tailed off following a surprising 6-2 start, having dropped four of six with the two wins coming against lowly Cleveland and St Louis. Both offenses are best described as average while both defenses have made enough plays to keep games close. UNDER.

Dolphins +10 at Pats (48½): New England continues to have a very porous defense which makes laying double digits against a team still competing a very risky proposition. Despite their 5-9 record Miami has outscored their foes for the season and has allowed fewer points than the Patriots. DOLPHINS.

Browns +13½ at Ravens (39): The Browns have scored more than 20 points just once. Baltimore has been a far different team at home than on the road and has five home wins by double digits. They figure to be aggressive on both sides of the football against a Browns team they defeated 24-10, just three weeks ago. RAVENS.

Giants +3 at Jets (46): The Jets have the better fundamental profile and are better at running the football. The 7-7 Giants have been outscored by 38 points for the season while the 8-6 Jets have outscored their foes by 31. The line is fair which makes backing the team with the better defense, especially against the pass. JETS.

Vikings +6 at Redskins (44): Minnesota rookie QB Christian Ponder has shown signs of improvement but the Viking offense still revolves around RB Adrian Peterson who is less than 100 percent healthy. Minnesota’s defense has been a sieve all season and even journeyman QB Rex Grossman should have success. REDSKINS.

Bucs +7 at Panthers (48): With the Panthers playing with enthusiasm, getting strong leadership from rookie QB Cam Newton and an offense that has rushed for over 150 yards in four straight games, even laying a touchdown is justifiable for a team that figures to win the line of scrimmage. PANTHERS.

Cards NL at Steelers: Expect the Steelers to be heavily favored against a Rams team that has been inept offensively all season. Although the Rams have been blown out several times this season three of their last four losses have been by a TD or less. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger remains banged up and, if healthy, might still see just enough action to secure a lead before being replaced. UNDER.

Chargers +3 at Lions (50½): The Chargers have won three straight by a combined 109-38 and have rushed for 619 yards over the past four games. This should be one of the most entertaining games of the weekend. And one of the highest scoring. OVER.

49ers -1½ at Seahawks (37½): The Seahawks have scored at least 30 points in three straight games but will be tested by a San Francisco defense that has been excellent all season, especially against the run. With both teams needing the win neither offense should be expected to take too many chances which could lead to a low scoring game. UNDER.

Eagles + 3 at Cowboys (50): The Eagles dominated Dallas in their earlier meeting, winning 34-7 and outgaining the Cowboys 495 to 267. Even if the Eagles have been eliminated, both offenses should have success moving the ball both on the ground and through the air. OVER.

SUNDAY

Bears +13 at Packers (46½): The injury to Chicago QB Jay Cutler has been too much for the Bears to overcome as Caleb Hanie has proven to be an inadequate backup. Chicago has lost four straight games and has failed to top 14 points in any of its last three. Expect Green Bay to get back on track. PACKERS.

MONDAY

Falcons +7 at Saints (53): Expect the Saints to play with great intensity and with the Falcons knowing that they can afford this loss, even if it means a second place divisional finish, they might ease up in the fourth quarter and save that energy for next week’s game against Tampa. SAINTS.

 

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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