Look at Dolphins, Browns next season

Dec 20, 2005 4:39 AM

The post season picture is becoming clearer with two weeks remaining to the playoffs. Of the 16 games played this weekend, only three are without playoff implications.

Even Nick Saban’s 7-7 Miami Dolphins take the field against Tennessee with a mathematical chance of earning a Wild Card by winning their final two games. Cleveland has done a similarly solid job, especially on defense and continues to play with enthusiasm and intensity for Romeo Crennel.

Both the Dolphins and Browns will be teams on the rise in 2006 and would be solid plays to make the playoffs. With Sports Books coming up with new propositions all the time (especially props with long shelf lives) you might find a Yes/No proposition for whether a specific team will make the postseason next year.

The other first season coach, Mile Nolan, has not had similar results with San Francisco. The 49ers clearly had the least talented roster of the three. There should be some opportunities for playing San Francisco next season to achieve more than the likely four wins will be posted next spring.

New England and Cincinnati clinched Division titles over the weekend. Denver clinched at least a Wild Card, but is a solid favorite to win the AFC West. Jacksonville should clinch a Wild Card this weekend. The Jaguars are a game ahead of both San Diego and Pittsburgh, with Kansas City, at 8-5, still a viable threat.

Five playoff berths remain to be decided in the NFC where only Seattle has clinched. The Seahawks are on the verge of owning home field advantage in the NFC playoffs, while the Giants and Bears are heavy favorites to win their divisions. Each holds two-game leads, but must play the final two games on the road.

Carolina holds a one game lead over Tampa Bay in the South. Atlanta is in critical condition having to play at Tampa Bay this week and hosting Carolina in Week 17. At 8-6, the Falcons are in severe jeopardy of extending their streak of never having back to back winning seasons in the nearly 40 year history of the franchise.

Wishing you a very happy holiday season here’s a look at all 16 games to be played this weekend.

SATURDAY

Bills +13½ at Bengals (43): Mistakes have plagued the Bills, now riding a five game losing streak.The combination of QB Kelly Holcomb to WR Eric Moulds did looked sharp in defeat. The high-powered Bengals are in the playoffs for the first time since 1990 and has designs on the AFC No. 2 seed. OVER.

Steelers -7 at Browns (33): Pittsburgh needs to keep winning, but with a 6-5 conference record will need help to gain a Wild Card. The Browns have bought into their coach and it will again be reflected in a tight contest. BROWNS.

Chargers +1 at Chiefs (50): San Diego greatly helped its playoff chances with the upset win over previously unbeaten Indianapolis. Kansas City’s chances basically disappear with a loss here. Chiefs have always fared well at home in December. CHIEFS.

Titans+5½ at Dolphins (42): The Titans have been looking forward to next season when their salary cap situation will be much more favorable. Meanwhile their young talent continues to develop and the offense gets more acclimated to the sophisticated offensive schemes of offensive coordinator Norm Chow. Miami’s offense has also been more productive of late. OVER.

Jags -6 at Texans (37½): Jacksonville wasted numerous opportunities against outmanned San Francisco and nearly lost. A win here or next week clinches a Wild Card berth. Houston played well in defeating Arizona last week. The Texans have been in position to win each of their last four games. TEXANS.

Lions +3 vs. Saints (37½): Detroit has loads of talent, but poor upper management continues to plague the franchise. Despite their woes, the Saints have been very competitive against this level of opposition. SAINTS.

Cowboys +5½ at Panthers (38): Carolina has played extremely well over the past two months and has not allowed more than 20 points in any of its last 10 games. Dallas was embarrassed in the loss at Washington that may have exposed a vulnerability against the pass along with an inability to protect QB Drew Bledsoe. PANTHERS.

Giants +3 at Redskins (37): Washington suffered one of the ugliest losses in franchise history when blown out 36-0 at New York in Week 8. The Giants are 8-1 at home, but just 2-3 on the road. This should be a physical, field position game. UNDER.

Falcons +3 at Bucs (37): Tampa Bay’s loss at New England last week can be discounted since the Bucs were playing a third straight road game and had won the previous two. Atlanta failed in its test in Chicago. The loser likely misses the playoffs. The winner still has to win next week and have other results fall its way. Bucs have the better defense and are home. BUCS.

49ers +9 at Rams (42): San Francisco defeated the Rams on opening the day. The loss pretty much set the tone for the Rams’ very disappointing season. Aside from the blowout loss at Seattle two weeks ago, the 49ers have been competitive for much of the second half of the season. Rams have quit and were even unable to hold a lead against a reconstructed Philadelphia offense. 49ERS.

Eagles NL at Cards: Even without the starting QB, RB and several receivers, Philadelphia has not quit. No early week line on this game after Kurt Warner was injured in the Arizona loss at Houston. Philadelphia is still a decent defensive team and the Cardinals have settled for far too many field goals. EAGLES.

Colts NL at Seahawks: The bookies are awaiting word from Indianapolis as to its approach With the Colts unbeaten season now gone, many regulars may get their rest this week, then see action next week in a playoff tuneup. There is every reason for both teams to play it very conservative and just run the ball. UNDER.

Raiders +13 at Broncos (43): Denver may have already clinched the AFC West if San Diego loses earlier in the day. Regardless, Oakland remains Denver’s most bitter rival and the disdain of Broncos coach Mike Shanahan for his former employer has been well documented over the years. Denver won 31-17 in Oakland and we should see a steady dose of Denver running backs. The Denver defense has excelled at home this season with no team tallying more than 21 points. UNDER.

SUNDAY

Bears NL at Packers: Green Bay is off a Monday night game in Baltimore and faces a hungry Bears team. Chicago is all about defense although the insertion of QB Rex Grossman into the lineup against Atlanta should provide a bit of a spark. Green Bay’s offense has been troubled by injuries all season, while the defense has played much better than expected. None of Chicago’s last six games has featured more than 30 total points. UNDER.

Vikings NL at Ravens: Minnesota has benefited from playing mostly weak teams. Plus, they are a domed team playing outdoors against another AFC foe. Nothing but pride is on the line for Baltimore but that might just be enough. RAVENS.

MONDAY

Patriots NL at Jets: The bookmakers are waiting for news of New England’s approach to this game. Locked in to the No. 4 AFC seed, the Patriots might give their regulars some rest to heal nagging injuries. Jets QB Brooks Bollinger has performed well the past two weeks. Getting more than a FG would be very attractive. JETS.

Last week:10-5

Season: 118-95-10.