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Miami escapes bad streaks

Dec 18, 2007 5:07 AM
9-6 104-114-5 47.7

Perfection is one week closer to reality while imperfection was avoided last week.

In what can best be termed blustery conditions, the New England Patriots improved to 14-0 with their 20-10 win over the New York Jets last week while the Miami Dolphins avoided an 0-14 start with their overtime win over Baltimore. The loss by the Ravens, by the way, was their eighth in a row, the longest current losing streak in the league.

Not by much, though. Kansas City has lost seven in a row and Detroit has lost six straight since starting 6-2. Atlanta has lost their last five.

New England has clinched the top seed in the AFC and Indianapolis has clinched the number two seed. San Diego has clinched the AFC West title and is currently seeded third. There is a tie in the AFC North between Pittsburgh and Cleveland with Pittsburgh holding the tie breaker edge. Meanwhile Cleveland and Jacksonville hold the two AFC wild cards with Tennessee having a shot with an 8-6 record but needing help.

In the NFC Dallas and Green Bay are tied for the top two seeds with 12-2 records but with Dallas holding the tie breaker edge. They will be the top two seeds as neither Tampa Bay nor Seattle — the other two Division winners — can catch either the Cowboys or the Packers.

The New York Giants should earn the top NFC wild card with their 9-5 record and at least a one game lead over Minnesota. The Vikings entered Monday night’s home game against Chicago as a heavy favorite to improve their 7-6 record. At 7-7 Washington is in the Wild Card picture, especially with the matchup at Minnesota this week. The enigmatic New Orleans Saints are also 7-7 and still have a shot at the playoffs even after their 0-4 start to the season.

Here’s a look at the 16 games to be played this weekend.

Steelers -7½ at Rams (45): Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has been pressured often over the past month. St. Louis has started to play better and has an offense capable of moving the ball against a Pittsburgh defense that is not as fearsome in December as it was in September. OVER.

Cowboys -10 at Panthers (44): Dallas is off of its worst effort of the season as the offense was totally inept in their 10-6 loss to Philadelphia. The Panthers earned a tough win over road weary Seattle but are just playing out the string. Dallas should put forth a strong effort here. COWBOYS.

Browns -3 at Bengals (46½): Barring the type of weather endured in Cleveland last week, the Browns offense should have success against the very weak and likely disinterested Bengals defense. Cleveland has shown the ability to win and cover when favored, even on the road. BROWNS.

Packers -7 at Bears (NT): Chicago played at Minnesota on Monday night and defeated the Packers in the earlier meeting this season. This will be the equivalent of the Bears’ Super Bowl with a chance to deal their most bitter rival a blow to its playoff seeding. BEARS.

Texans +7 at Colts (47): The Texans are clearly an improved team and gave the Colts a battle in their 30-24 loss in Week 3. An upset here would not surprise as the Texans can use this game as more of a measuring stick of the team’s progress. TEXANS.

Chiefs +4½ at Lions (43): The Lions were totally inept in losing at San Diego last week, losing six turnovers to the surging Chargers. The Chiefs were more competitive in their home loss to Tennessee, but were unable to hold a lead in the second half. The Lions have more options on offense. LIONS.

Dolphins +21½ at Pats (43½): Weather always has to be considered as a significant factor at this time of year and poor conditions do keep down scoring and make winning by margins that much more difficult. In ideal weather conditions, the Pats win in a blowout. But with inclement weather a real possibility. DOLPHINS.

Giants -3 at Bills (34½): The Giants will finally clinch a wild card with a win while Buffalo was eliminated in last week’s loss in Cleveland. Both teams have shown a better ability to run the ball than pass. Combined with possibly poor weather, makes a low scoring game a very likely result. UNDER.

Raiders +13 at Jaguars (40): Jacksonville’s dominant running game matches up well against Oakland’s poor rush defense. The Jags have rushed for at least 113 yards in all but two games. The Raiders have held only three foes to under 100 rushing yards. This game could get out of hand early if the Jaguars get an early lead. JAGUARS.

Eagles +3 at Saints (46): New Orleans has won three of its last four games and the offense is back on track with Drew Brees showing more of last season’s All Pro form. Neither defense has played outstanding although Philly’s strong effort last week in Dallas must be noted. Still, both teams are capable of big plays. OVER.

Redskins +7 at Vikings (NT): Minnesota continues to be dominant in the running game, both on offense and defense. That should pose a problem to the Washington offense which now does not have a very good passing game. Vikings were averaging 35 points per game over their last four games prior to last Monday. VIKINGS.

Falcons +10 at Cards (44): It’s hard to conclude anything other than Atlanta has tossed it in for this season. Their totally lackluster effort in Tampa Bay came on the heels of the abrupt resignation of unpopular coach Bobby Petrino. Both defenses are weak but Arizona has a huge edge on offense. CARDINALS.

Ravens +9½ at Seahawks (NT): Can it get any worse for the Ravens? The overtime loss in Miami extended Baltimore’s losing streak to eight straight. Seattle was in a poor scheduling spot last week and the loss at Carolina was not a surprise. The Seahawks have won four home games by at least 14 points. SEAHAWKS.

Jets +9 at Titans (38): The Jets have QB issues with Kellen Clemens knocked out of last week’s game in New England. Tennessee plays good defense and has a solid running game, including that of QB Vince Young. Tennessee should play conservatively, knowing not many points are needed to win. UNDER.

Bucs -7 at 49ers (37): Tampa got its first kickoff return for a touchdown in franchise history as just one of the highlights in the 37-3 romp last week over hapless Atlanta. San Francisco played one of its best games of the season in upsetting Cincinnati. Tampa has wrapped up the NFC South title and may rest some players here. 49ERS.

Broncos +9 at San Diego (NT): Denver cannot be thrilled about spending Christmas Eve playing a meaningless football game. The Chargers were very impressive in routing Detroit last week, benefiting from a half dozen Lions turnovers. There will be a festive crowd on hand and that extra energy should produce a solid win. CHARGERS.