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Divisions, wild cards, Deion up for grabs

Dec 24, 2002 6:41 AM

   One week left in the regular season and still half of the 12 playoff berths are up for grabs. Two final wild cards are to be determined in the NFC. A couple of division champs and wild cards are still out there for the taking in the AFC.

   Plenty of playoff implications to be sorted out. Maybe Deion Sanders will be able to help clear everything up at the CBS studio. That is, unless he signs with the Raiders, in which case a pass intended for Raiders' opposing receivers will be easier to catch than a phrase coming from behind Deion's microphone.

   Eagles (-2) over GIANTS: The Giants have won three straight after being given up for dead. But Philly ate them up like a cheese steak earlier in the season. Eagles still the better team, even with a third-string QB. Eagles need win for home field. G-men need win to get in money games. Have a hunch they'll make it even with a loss.

   Chiefs (+7) over RAIDERS: Chiefs found a way to win on Sunday without a Priest. Missing his spirit in the lineup, Chiefs' offense sputtered but survived. Priest may return to the pulpit but, even if he doesn't, the Green will keep Chiefs' parishioners smiling.

   Dolphins (+3) over PATS: Polluted AFC waters in jeopardy of killing the Fish. Dolphins have not been a good catch on the road. Still looking for one big finale away from home to wrap up the division. If Pats were going to make a statement they would have grounded the Jets.

   SKINS (-6) over Cowboys: Ramsey starting to settle in as Spurrier seems to have finally decided on a QB. Somehow I can't see Jerry Jones stalking the sideline, looking over The Tuna's shoulder.

   BILLS (-7) over Bengals: Two's plenty. Cincy can't handle the excitement of a 3-win season. Corey Dillon sat out fourth quarter with bruised left elbow. Bills should have covered spread but officials looked the other way when Packers fumbled.

   BROWNS (+2) over Falcons: Browns have a plan to slow Vick down on real grass. The excuse will be, broken water pipe! But in reality, sliced beer line from Dawg Pound.

   LIONS (+4½) over Vikings: The Vikes received their fair share of the breaks with wins over Saints and Dolphins. Lions tough ATS at home. I'm praying Marty takes the ball and not the wind in OT. Can there be a wind in a dome?

   TEXANS (+8) over Titans: Tennessee playing for highest seed and homefield advantage. But somewhere in the backs of their minds they have to be thinking don't get anyone hurt, while Texans are thinking we have nothing to lose.

   Panthers (+8) over SAINTS: The Saints can't have much confidence. Giving up over 20 points every game this season. Blew game to Vikings and then followed up with bumbling effort versus Bungles.

   Ravens (+7) over STEELERS: Ravens have been eliminated. Ravens will play for pride when most will expect they have none.

   COLTS (-7) over Jags: Colts have lacked consistency all year. Should be able to unite for huge effort at home against a team that's spinning out of control with a coach on the hot seat.

   JETS (+3) over Packers: Pack only team undefeated at home this season. Mediocre on the road. Most NFL teams would not want to play the Jets right now. Pennington playing like a seasoned veteran.

   Cards (+11) over BRONCOS: Cards only 5-10 but haven't lost many by over 11 points. Denver, in a desperate search for a wild card, hasn't beaten many clubs by over 11 points on its journey.

   Seahawks (+4½) over CHARGERS: Matt Hasselbeck has found a groove. And not a minute too soon for Mike Holmgren, who was beginning to look like anything but the genius he's supposed to be.

   Bucs (-7) over BEARS: Chandler in serious doubt after Linda Blair-type helmet hit. Bears turn to Henry Burris? Henry, say hello to Warren Sapp and possibly the best D in the NFL.

   RAMS (+2) over 49ers: Niners locked into playoff position. If I'm Mooch, I'm not going to risk any injuries here. May be stuck with the Jamie Martin side but I'll take the home dog against a team with little incentive.

   Last week: 8-7

   Season: 119-111-9

            Best bets: Jets +3, Bucs —7, Panthers +8.