Expect lots of new blood
in NFL playoffs

Nov 25, 2003 6:45 AM

The NFL playoff picture is coming into focus. It is very likely that possibly nine teams from last season’s playoffs won’t return.

Kansas City currently has the best record in the NFL with a 10-1 mark and controls its own fate for the top AFC seed. Indianapolis and Tennessee are tied in the AFC South at 9-2 and both seem headed to the postseason.

New England at 9-2 has a two game edge over Miami in the AFC East and will host the Fish next week after having already won the first meeting in overtime in Miami. Miami currently holds the second AFC wild card with a one game edge over Baltimore and Cincinnati.

Things have become a bit clearer in the NFC where four teams (Carolina, Dallas Philadelphia and St Louis) are tied for the conference’s best record at 8-3. Dallas controls its own fate with wins over both the Eagles and Panthers.

St Louis has a one game edge over Seattle in the West with the Seahawks in control of the second wild card. The Packers have the momentum in the NFC North, but trail Minnesota by a game.

Home underdogs have rebounded nicely over the past month. Over the last four weeks home pups have gone 13-2-4 ATS after starting 1-10 during the first three weeks. For the season home dogs are 22-25-4 with a realistic shot at achieving their historical norm of about 53-55 percent.

What a roller coaster ride it has been! Here’s a look at this week’s games, including the traditional pair of games to be played on Thanksgiving Day.

Packers (—7½) at Lions (44½): Green Bay has won three of four and the offense is in great form, especially the running game. The Packers have scored at least 20 points in all but two games. Detroit has been terrible on offense, but the defense has been steady over the past six weeks. UNDER.

Dolphins (+3) at Cowboys (35): Miami was fortunate to escape with a win over Washington after playing poorly before inserting QB Jay Fiedler for the ineffective Brian Griese. Dallas got its offense in gear against Carolina’s defense and controls its fate for the top seed in the NFC. Think Bill Parcells makes a difference? DALLAS.

Bills (NL) at Giants: The loser of this game is virtually eliminated from the playoffs. Buffalo has struggled on offense for more than a month, topping 14 points just once in the last six games. The Giants continue to be plagued by turnovers and Buffalo’s defense has been its strength. UNDER.

49ers (+3) at Ravens (37): Baltimore was very fortunate in overcoming a 17-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat Seattle in overtime. San Francisco has lost all five-road games this season. Both teams are excellent at running the ball, which tends to shorten the game. UNDER.

Bengals (+3) at Steelers (42): The Bengals are above .500 this late in the season for the first time in ages. Pittsburgh won the earlier meeting 17-10 and last week won at Cleveland despite gaining just 168 yards in total offense. The Bengals have played well on the road and are no longer intimidated. CINCINNATI.

Patriots (+4) at Colts (43): Both teams are 9-2 and playing well. New England has the edge on defense and the Colts have the more potent offense. Both head coaches have a defensive bent, which makes for an attractive underdog when the line is more than a FG. NEW ENGLAND.

Cards (+4½) at Bears (36): But for some kicking miscues, Chicago could be riding a five game winning streak. The Bears have gotten healthy along the offensive line. Arizona is largely non-competitive on the road. Dangerous laying points, but the Bears’ their last three wins have been by more than a touchdown. CHICAGO.

Eagles (+1½) at Panthers (36½): After starting 5-0, Carolina has split its last three games. Six of Philly’s eight wins have been by a FG or less. The Eagles have won six straight and eight of nine. Plus, they are good on the road. PHILLY.

Vikings at Rams (NL): Both teams have plenty of weapons and can be explosive on the ground and in the air. In recent weeks both defenses have been very yielding against the run. The last three games in the series have featured at least 69 total points and this one should be no different. OVER.

Falcons at Texans (NL): QB questions surround both teams. Statistically these are the two worst defenses in the league. Houston has played well at home while Atlanta has shown improvement in its last four games. When weak offenses oppose weak defenses the preference is for the offense. OVER.

Saints (+1½) at Redskins (41): New Orleans has played well over the last month following a bad start. Washington got a superb effort from backup QB Tim Hasselbeck in last week’s loss at Miami. The Redskins continue to play hard for coach Steve Spurrier. Both teams have had trouble stopping the rush and Saints TB Deuce McAllister has been running wild. The Saints offense struggles on grass. WASHINGTON.

Browns (+6) at Seahawks (41½): The rebuilt defense Browns has excelled, ranking fourth in the league, while the sputtering offense ranks 28th. Seattle is unbeaten at home but has had several close calls. On talent these teams are pretty even. CLEVELAND.

Broncos (—3) at Raiders (43): The Raiders got their second straight cover in their narrow loss at KC last week. Denver was embarrassed at home with a loss to Chicago. Denver routed the Raiders earlier this season and has won 13 of 17 in the series. Despite their poor season the Raiders have been competitive in all but that loss to Denver. OAKLAND.

Chiefs (—7½) at Chargers (48): Kansas City handled the Chargers at home on opening day and has continued to roll. The Chargers have lost 16 of their last 20 games dating back to last season and have allowed at least 20 points in 17 straight games. The Chiefs have averaged over 30 this season. KC.

Bucs (NL) at Jaguars: The Tampa Bay defense has been its downfall late in games. Jacksonville has excelled in defending the run, something the Bucs offense does not do well. Overall both defenses rank in the league’s top 10. UNDER.

Titans (NL) at Jets: Tennessee QB Steve McNair was injured in the win over Atlanta and is doubtful. The Titans rallied from an early 21-0 deficit last week and actually had a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Jets offense has been operating well under QB Chad Pennington and will be forced to pass against the Titans’ top ranked rushing defense. OVER.

Last week: 6-7-2

Season: 73-78