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San Diego continues amazing run

Nov 30, 2004 5:02 AM


Nearly three quarters complete, the NFL season continues to resemble the NBA in terms of balance of power. What has to be a surprise this year is the San Diego Chargers’ incredible run under coach Marty Schottenheimer.

Were the Playoffs to start now, Pittsburgh would hold the top AFC seed with New England holding the second. San Diego and Indianapolis would host Wild Card games against the New York Jets and either Baltimore or Denver.

Philadelphia (10-1) and Atlanta (9-2) are the only NFC teams with more than seven wins. And only Minnesota has seven wins in the NFC with Green Bay having a chance to join them if they defeated St. Louis on Monday night.

A decade or so ago the strength of the NFL was in the NFC, the conference that had won 15 of 16 Super Bowls between 1982 and 1997. But that’s flip-flopped as the AFC has won five of seven Super Bowls. That’s not likely to change with perhaps nine of the top 10 teams residing in the AFC.

The playoff picture will clear up in the coming weeks with so many 8-8 teams capable of stumbling into the postseason.

Incidentally, the AFC is already listed as a three point favorite in the Super Bowl against the NFC at some shops around town.

But for now, let’s see if we can pick next week’s winners.

Texans (NL) at Jets: QB Chad Pennington may return at QB for Jets. New York has turned conservative on offense, excelling at not turning over the football. In turn it has enabled the defense to be effective. Houston continues to improve but has been blasted in last two road games. JETS.

Bengals (+7) at Ravens (37): Baltimore steps down in class after playing well in loss to New England. The defense should contain a Cincy offense that exploded last week against defensive Cleveland. Similarly, the weak Ravens offense should have success against a very vulnerable Cincy defense. RAVENS.

Patriots (-7½) at Browns (41): QB Kelly Holcomb had a career game last week for the Browns in their 58-48 loss to the Bengals. This week he faces a well prepared and fundamentally sound defense. Look for Pats to force turnovers and get another impressive win. PATRIOTS

Cards (+3½) at Lions (38½): Arizona continues to play well under Dennis Green but is still short on talent. The Lions may also have their RB of the future in Kevin Jones, who should have success against the Arizona defense. Conditions and scheduling dynamics favor the host. LIONS.

Titans (+10) at Colts (54): Indianapolis won the earlier meeting 31-17. QB Peyton Manning is within a few games of shattering the TD pass record and the defense has improved. This is Tennessee’s third straight divisional road game. QB Steve McNair should have success in generating an offense. OVER.

Vikings (- 7) at Bears (42): Minnesota in position to make the playoffs with division leading 7-4 record. Earlier this season, they defeated the Bears but were never able to break the game open. Chicago has more concerns at QB but does have a solid running game. BEARS.

Bills (-3) at Miami (35): Buffalo is on a roll with four wins in the last five games, including three by at least 20 points. Miami’s win last week came against weak San Francisco. The defense did play well, but the offense was unable to do much. UNDER.

Falcons (+1) at Bucs (39): The line seems odd in this game where we have a 9-2 road team facing a below .500 host. The Bucs have improved over the past month but the Falcons have been flying high all season. Tampa Bay is no Kansas City. But Mike Vick is Mike Vick. FALCONS.

49ers (NL) at Rams: St Louis is off of their Monday nighter in Green Bay while San Francisco may have earned the top draft choice with last week’s home loss to Miami. The 49ers are a done team and coach Dennis Erickson has all but stated the team is looking towards the future. OVER.

Panthers (+2) at New Orleans (47): Both teams are 4-7 and need to win out to have a shot at an NFC wild card. Carolina has overcome major injuries to win three in a row. New Orleans was unable to keep a late lead last week at Atlanta and should not be favored here. PANTHERS.

Chiefs (NL) at Raiders: Oakland showed some heart last week in not quitting when down by 11 in the snow at Denver. Perhaps that win was a fluke, but it might at least give the Raiders some momentum for this contest against a dispirited long time rival. RAIDERS.

Broncos (+3) at San Diego (47): This game could decide the AFC West. San Diego leads by a game but lost the earlier meeting at Denver. A win by San Diego opens a two game cushion with four to play. A win by Denver gives the Broncos the tiebreaker edge. Both teams move the ball efficiently. OVER.

Giants (+2½) at Redskins (33): The Giants season continues to unravel with four straight losses following their 5-2 start. At 3-8 the Redskins continue to hang tough and are rarely blown out. The Redskins have not scored more than 18 points in a game all season. The Giants have been held to 14 or less in their last three games, two started by rookie Eli Manning. UNDER.

Packers (NL) at Eagles: Philadelphia controls their fate for the NFC’s top seed. Packers return to scene of its famous fourth and 26 collapse in last season’s playoffs. The Eagles are the better defensive team and Green Bay is hurting at RB. December weather could keep this one low. UNDER.

Steelers (-3) at Jaguars (35): In winning their ninth straight game the Steelers finally had their eight game cover streak end. Jacksonville now losing the close games won earlier this season. Pittsburgh has defied classical theory all season and is are being asked to win by only a field goal. STEELERS.

Last week: 12-3

Season: 91-80-4