NFL extremes: 15-1, 7-9 in postseason!

Dec 21, 2004 7:45 AM

With just two games left in the NFL regular season, we still have the normal number of teams, more or less, battling to make the playoffs.

There is a real possibility that both NFC wild cards will have, at best, .500 records. Also, the winner of the NFC West could conceivably have a 7-9 record.

At the other extreme we have a real possibility three teams finishing the regular season with 15-1 records. Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are both 13-1 and New England was 12-1 entering Monday night’s game with Miami.

The winner of this week’s game between Indianapolis and San Diego will be favored to finish with 13 wins and the loser likely to finish 12-4.

In the NFC only Philly and Atlanta will finish with more than 10 wins. The winner of the NFC West cannot finish better than 9-7 record if Seattle wins, 8-8 if St Louis wins. Amazingly Arizona could win its final two games and win the division at 7-9 if other things break their way.

In the NFC Philadelphia has clinched the top seed and Atlanta has earned the second seed. Aside from that pair only Green Bay has clinched a playoff spot. Seven teams are at 5-9 and three more are at 6-8. It is a certainty that at least one of those 10 teams will make the playoffs with at best an 8-8 record.

In the AFC there are four teams at 8-6, plus the New York Jets are 10-4 in addition to the four division leaders. It is possible, though unlikely, that nine teams in the AFC could finish 10-6 or better with three guaranteed to miss the playoffs. None of the 8-6 teams face one another in the final two weeks so it’s possible each of the four could win out. Baltimore and Buffalo would have to defeat Pittsburgh to get to 10-6.

Here’s a look at this week’s schedule which includes a rare Friday game being played on Christmas Eve in addition to a pair of games on Christmas Day and the final Monday night game of the season . Next week everybody closes out the regular season on Sunday, Jan. 2.

Packers +3 at Vikings (55): This game likely decides the NFC North although the Packers have already clinched a playoff spot and did win the earlier meeting. Both teams have potent offenses and suspect defenses. The ideal conditions indoors suggest both teams will have success throwing downfield. The last seven meetings have gone "over" the total. OVER.

Raiders +7½ at Chiefs (58): Kansas City has won three in a row and at 6-8 still has faint playoff hopes. In the last four games, the Chiefs have averaged 40 and have topped 30 seven times this season. KC won the previous meeting three weeks ago at Oakland, 34-27. Oakland has won only once on the road this season. CHIEFS.

Broncos -3½ at Titans (51½): Denver’s 5-1 start is a distant memory as the Broncos have tumbled mightily with three losses in their last four games. Tennessee is out of playoff contention, but the last two games have been entertaining and high scoring. QB Billy Volek has put up big numbers in replacing injured starter Steve McNair. The Titans’ defense remains banged up. Denver playing with a sense of desperation. OVER.

Ravens +6 at Steelers (35½): Pittsburgh’s only loss was in Week 2 at Baltimore. The Ravens are one of several 8-6 teams battling for a wild card. Baltimore remains ineffective on offense but the defense has been solid. The Ravens held high powered Indianapolis to a season low 20 last week. Both need to win but Baltimore has the greater urgency. RAVENS.

Bears +6½ at Lions (37): At 5-9, realistically both are playing with a focus towards next season. Chicago’s strength much of the season has been the defense while the offense has been unable to overcome injuries to several QBs. Detroit has started to run the ball more effectively in recent weeks but their offense has largely inefficient. Detroit has had three losses by a FG or less and two more by a TD or less. LIONS.

Giants NL at Bengals: The Giants rookie QB Eli Manning got a confidence boost from last week’s effort against Pittsburgh, but the loss was New York’s seventh in a row. Cincinnati has been playing well over the last month but was unable to handle red-hot Buffalo last week. The Giants put great effort into last week’s game and will likely do the same next week against Dallas. Cincinnati is playing its final home game and likely to give the much greater effort behind either starting QB Carson Palmer or backup Jon Kitna. BENGALS.

Chargers NL at Colts: This game will likely determine the three and four seeds for the playoffs with both teams having identical records and already having clinched division titles. The major headline will be the likelihood of Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning tying or breaking the record for most TD passes in a season. San Diego has had an amazing turnaround after going 4-12 last season. Only once have the Chargers allowed more than 24 this season. OVER.

Texans +7 at Jaguars (38 ½): The Jags impressive upset win at Green Bay puts them in excellent position to make the playoffs with wins here and next week in Oakland. They continue to get just average production from QB Byron Leftwich but a solid running game, strong defense and an ability to make big plays in close games have kept the Jags in contention. Houston is on the rise. Jacksonville plays with revenge for an earlier 20-6 loss. JAGUARS.

Panthers +3 at Bucs (40): Carolina won the earlier meeting a month ago, 21-14. The Panthers have played the better football over the past six weeks. Interestingly this line is almost identical to what Tampa laid in the first meeting on the road. Both teams have offenses that are overshadowed by their defensive reputations which gives us some value in the total. OVER.

Falcons +1½ at Saints (46 ½): It’s hard to trust the Saints in this situation but they are at home. Atlanta does not have any sense of urgency to win aside from maintaining good form. The Falcons won the earlier meeting at home, 24-21. The Saints have a vulnerable defense but an offense that is capable of the big play. SAINTS.

Patriots NL at Jets: The Patriots are off a Monday nighter in Miami and face a team they struggled to defeat in their earlier meeting, 13-7. Both teams play solid fundamental football that seeks to avoid mistakes and turnovers. UNDER.

Bills -11 at 49ers (42½): Buffalo is streaking with five straight wins and covers, with each victory by double digits. The average score in the five wins is 37-16 and only a loss at New England keeps the Bills from being on an eight game skein. San Francisco has been non-competitive in most games this season and currently has the edge for the top draft choice next April. It’s dangerous to lay more than a TD on the road but the Bills are playing like one of the league’s elite teams. BILLS.

Skins -1 at Cowboys (37): Dallas has dominated the Redskins over the past half decade, winning 13 of the last 14, and covering in 12 of the games. Washington has started to understand coach Joe Gibbs offense and the Skins have played well over the last month. This is a heated rivalry and both teams have veteran coaches who will be looking towards building some confidence for next season. Washington’s defense is the best unit on the field. UNDER.

Cards +7 at Seahawks (43): It’s hard to believe but Arizona could win the NFC West with a 7-9 record. They continue to play hard for coach Dennis Green and he will have them motivated to take advantage of this unlikely scenario. Seattle has underachieved all season, never being able to recover from that blown huge lead in an October loss to the Rams. Both have vulnerable defenses. OVER.

Browns NL at Dolphins: Miami hosted New England on Monday night, but should be a solid favorite over a Cleveland team that has clearly quit on the season. This will be the Browns first game in a warm climate since September. It’s always tough to gauge the mindset of players of teams not contending, but at least Miami has played with some enthusiasm and pride in recent weeks. DOLPHINS.

Eagles NL at Rams: St. Louis was pathetic last week at Arizona. The Rams face a Philly team that has locked up the NFC’s top seed and will be without WR Terrell Owens. He is the player that has made an otherwise ordinary offense one of the league’s best. Other players are banged up as well and the Rams should be home underdogs. The Rams QB situation is unclear at press time and the Eagles are unlikely to take too many chances stopping the clock. UNDER.

Ho Ho Ho. Happy Holidays to one and all.

Last week: 10-5.

Season: 118-100-5