AFC East race looks Patriotic

December 24, 2001 6:29 AM
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At season’s beginning, you could name your own price on the New England Patriots finishing in first place in the AFC East. Now, the Pats are in great position to be there on closing day.

Here’s how next weekend’s games look.

Saturday, Dec. 29

Ravens 24, Bucs 16: At one time this meeting would have been a great defensive matchup. However, both defenses are worn out by age, attrition and injuries. The Ravens offense has the edge. Take Ravens (pk). Sunday, Dec. 30

Rams 41, Colts 27: At one time this game would have been the shootout of the century. Injuries have hurt Indianapolis, which is just a shell of its former self. The game could still be wild. Take Rams (—10).

Packers 20, Vikings 10: The Vikings did not like playing in Green Bay when they were more talented. The QB situation at Minnesota is iffy. Green Bay’s home field advantage doesn’t give the Vikes much of a chance. Take Packers (—8).

Panthers 20, Cards 13: The Panthers can whip this group. The Cards are battered and with the season running out, look for them to throw in the towel should Carolina score twice early. Take Panthers (pk).

Jets 23, Bills 20: The Bills give New York problems at Giants Stadium. The Jets are looking to win and could be playing conservative, which usually means trouble. Take Bills (+7).

Lions 27, Bears 20: The Lions are playing with much gusto and heart, which is liable to tear Bears apart. The Bears are on a great run, but it’s hard to tell how much is left in the tank against a highly motivated opponent. Take Lions (+2).

Jaguars 19, Chiefs 13: Low scoring game here favors the Jaguars with a healthy Mark Brunell. Both teams are out of the running for a playoff spot. Just a game for pride. Take Jaguars (—3).

Titans 27, Browns 17: The Titans are getting their second wind, while Cleveland has run out of gas and luck. Browns are looking forward to next season. Take Titans (—6).

Dolphins 27, Falcons 17: The Dolphins ran into two teams gunning for them and paid the price. The Falcons, with no chance of gaining ground for a playoff spot, are playing for pride. Miami still has hopes of a division title. Take Dolphins (—8).

Steelers 24, Bengals 10: Pittsburgh looks like the cream of the AFC and poised to meet the Rams in the Super Bowl. Strange happenings can occur when teams look too far in the future. Steelers will remain focused to the job at home. Take Steelers (—7).

49ers 17, Cowboys 16: Tough game for the 49ers considering QB Jeff Garcia’s condition. The Niners may start a backup with no chance of catching Rams. Everything is in favor of Dallas. Take Cowboys (+4).

Giants 16, Eagles 13: The Eagles are looking to play defensive in this one, escaping without any serious injuries. The Giants, whose playoff hopes look bleak, will think about the time they beat Philly in the next to last game of the season. Take Giants (+6).

Broncos 24, Raiders 17: The Broncos are hanging on desperately for a playoff shot and the hated Raiders are in the opposite corner. Denver doesn’t need motivation for this game. The QB situation is rough with Brian Griese iffy and no help coming. Take Broncos (+1).

Chargers 24, Seahawks 17: The Seahawks are hanging on for a miracle to make the playoffs, while San Diego is as loose as ashes and twice as dusty. The Chargers would like nothing better than to knock Seattle out of the playoffs. Take Chargers (pk).

Saints 24, Redskins 9: The Redskins are playing out the string, while the Saints go on their merry way into the playoffs. New Orleans is trying to make the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time. Take Saints (—6).