The annual National Football League playoff party will include some new guests this season, as Washington, Indianapolis and defending Super Bowl champion St. Louis are in danger of failing to qualify for the post-season.
In this light, the plug was finally pulled on the Redskins, the most expensive team in football. Owner Dan Snyder fired head coach Norv Turner after a narrow 9-7 loss to the New York Giants, who are now the surprise leaders of the NFC East.
Hey, Dan! If you had only spent your big bucks on a kicker. Who do you think you are? Bobby Bowden?
The Rams’ problems are obvious: key injuries on offense and a porous defense, leading to losses in three of their last four. St. Louis remains tied for first in the mild, but mild NFC West, the schedule is far from easy: home to Minnesota, road trips to Tampa Bay on a Monday night, then the regular season finale against the Saints.
And the Colts may not be the rising team of the decade that many predicted. Last season’s 13-3 record may simply have been the result of a last-place schedule from Payton Manning’s rookie year.
Headline contests this week will greatly determine who will play in January. These include the “other” battle for Florida, when Tampa Bay heads south to Miami. The Jets visit the Raiders in an old AFL rivalry. The Steelers meet the Giants in an old NFL rivalry prior to the merger.
Sunday, Dec. 10
Rams 34, Vikings 27: Track meet slated in home finale for St. Louis. Rams are in first “must-win” situation since relocating from Anaheim. Scary selection on the Rams —4.
Bucs 17, Dolphins 10: An all-Florida Super Bowl? These two teams wouldn’t mind a rematch, but in this game Bucs +1Â½ is enough.
Jags 37, Cards 7: A mismatch for the ages. Watch for entertainment purposes only. Jags —16 gets them closer to finishing at .500.
Lions 27, Packers 24: Since Boss Ross vacated, Lions looked in the mirror and have played well. They may not like the snow in Green Bay, but NFL rules state they must go once a year. So they might as well win it, too. At +3, Lions get the money.
Titans 23, Bengals 7: Tennessee takes page from Miami playbook, kicks those opponents into submission with field goals. Del Greco offered $100 million contract by Redskins, as Titans —13 in a scary winner after booting the Bengals.
Steelers 20, Giants 19: NYG in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot. Steel City is still fighting for one. The need is greater for Pittsburgh, while G-men may be in a rebound mood. Steelers +3Â½ gets the money.
Bears 23, Patriots 17: Despite Sunday night embarrassment to the Packers, at least the Bears play for 60 minutes. As for the Pats, they may not be playing out the string, but it sure seems like it. Chicago —3 is our selection.
Chiefs 24, Panthers 17: Can you believe these teams are a combined 3-0 against the Rams? Panthers are on a roll, but will look like K-State in Arrowhead. KC and a healthy Elvis Grbac —3 takes it.
Ravens 26, Chargers 7: Ravens, bolstered by an easy schedule, meet another chump. Despite suspicious record, B’more —13 is the way.
Eagles 24, Browns 6: After six straight toughies, how will Philly react against a patsy? One vote here that the Browns remain a pushover as Eagles —13 tear them up.
Broncos 31, Seahawks 13: The hottest team in the NFL won’t cool off in the rarified air of Colorado. Broncos —8 continue their hot hand.
Redskins 23, Cowboys 10: Passing game coordinator Terry Robiskie was named interim coach to replace Turner. That should wake up the snoozing Skins, as —5Â½ gets the job done.
49ers 27, Saints 12: The demise of the Saints is underway, despite the great job coach Ditka did rebuilding the offensive line last season. Niners —3 gets the money.
Jets 31, Raiders 27: Oakland let one get away in Pittsburgh. Jets come off a monster win over Indy. Raiders tough to beat at home, but Jets’ wide-open attack and stout defense won’t need the 4Â½ points.
Monday, Dec. 11
Colts 30, Bills 10: Buffalo is hard-pressed to place 11 healthy bodies on the field to play defense. Thus, Manning should have a field day. The Colts —5Â½ will come out on fire after a pair of devastating losses.