NFL Week 17 News and Notes

NFL Week 17 News and Notes

Ravens' RB McGahee breaks two ribs in loss to Seattle
ASSOCIATED PRESS

SEATTLE -- The Baltimore Ravens lost yet another starter on Sunday when running back Willis McGahee broke two ribs on a hit in the first quarter of the Ravens' 27-6 loss to Seattle.

McGahee remained down on the field after being tackled on a 1-yard run late in the first quarter by Seattle linebacker Lofa Tatupu and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. McGahee walked slowly off the field, and had his chest wrapped on the sideline before walking back to the locker room.

The team said McGahee was hopeful of returning in the second half, but was announced as being out when the second half began. After the game, the Ravens said McGahee had cracked ribs and his status for next week's season finale against Pittsburgh was unknown.

McGahee had five carries for 10 yards in the first quarter. Former Denver lead running back Mike Anderson took McGahee's place. Anderson had seven carries for the season entering Sunday, but was also slowed by a hamstring injury in the second half.

Baltimore was already without middle linebacker Ray Lewis, and its top two tight ends and cornerbacks. Offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden also strained his left hamstring in the first quarter, but remained in the game until the closing minutes.

Reserve tight end Quinn Sypniewski, filling in for the injured Todd Heap and Daniel Wilcox, also sustained a concussion and bruised sternum.

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NFL Week 16  recap

Pittsburgh 41, St. Louis 24

Willie Parker's season ended after his first carry, and the Pittsburgh Steelers will miss the NFL's leading rusher if they get to the playoffs. Najeh Davenport has two huge games since entering the league in 2002. Both have come against the St. Louis Rams, with Davenport's two-touchdown, 123-yard rushing effort pacing a 41-24 victory on Thursday night.

Dallas 20, Carolina 13

Tony Romo's sore thumb appeared fine and the Dallas Cowboys were driving down the field on the way to taking a 14-0 lead. Then Terrell Owens sprained his left ankle. The offense stalled and the concern about Owens' overshadowed Dallas' 20-13 victory over the Panthers on Saturday night.

New England 28, Miami 7

Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes, two to Moss, and the Patriots beat the Miami Dolphins 28-7 on Sunday to improve to 15-0, the best start in league history.

Tennessee 10, N.Y. Jets 6

Pro Bowler Kyle Vanden Bosch had three of Tennessee's six sacks and Chris Brown ran for a touchdown as the Titans beat the New York Jets 10-6 on Sunday for their third victory in four games and their first winning season since 2003.

Seattle 27, Baltimore 6

Matt Hasselbeck shook off two interceptions to throw two touchdown passes and Shaun Alexander had his biggest rushing day since Week 4 as the Seattle Seahawks clinched the No. 3 seed in the NFC with a methodical, 27-6 victory over Baltimore Sunday.

San Francisco 21, Tampa Bay 19

Shaun Hill passed for 123 yards and three touchdowns to remain unbeaten as an NFL starter, and Michael Clayton landed out of bounds with his catch on a 2-point conversion attempt with 1:20 left in San Francisco's 21-19 victory over Tampa Bay's reserves Sunday.

Arizona 30, Atlanta 27

Neil Rackers kicked a 29-yard field goal as the fourth quarter ended to force overtime, then booted one from 31 yards on the first possession of the extra session to give the relieved Arizona Cardinals a 30-27 victory over thye Falcons Sunday.

Philadelphia 38, New Orleans 23

Donovan McNabb accounted for 300 total yards and tossed three touchdown passes, leading the Philadelphia Eagles to a 38-23 victory Sunday that dealt a devastating blow to a New Orleans squad still clinging to playoff hopes.

Jacksonville 49, Oakland 11

The Jaguars routed the Oakland Raiders 49-11 on Sunday, clinching a postseason spot in emphatic, yet quiet, fashion.

N.Y. Giants 38, Buffalo 21

A rediscovered running attack and an opportunistic defense carried the Giants past the Bills and the elements in a 38-21 win.

Detroit 25, Kansas City 20

T.J. Duckett ran for a season-high 102 yards and a touchdown, helping Detroit hold on for a 25-20 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday and snap a six-game losing streak.

Indianapolis 38, Houston 15

Peyton Manning looked sharp, Indy's running game was efficient, the defense forced three turnovers and there was no letdown Sunday in what's likely to be the Colts final postseason tuneup. Indy scored on six of its first eight possessions and had 38 consecutive points in a 38-15 rout.

Chicago 35, Green Bay 7

Brian Urlacher returned an interception for a touchdown for the first time in his career, Adrian Peterson ran for 102 yards, and the Chicago Bears beat the Packers 35-7 on a frigid Sunday afternoon. The loss wiped out the Packers' shot at home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Cincinnati 19, Cleveland 14

Like one of Derek Anderson's wind-blown passes, the chance to clinch a playoff spot slipped right through the Cleveland Browns' hands. Anderson threw four interceptions Sunday, two of them setting up rapid-fire touchdowns in a 19-14 victory by the Cincinnati Bengals that left the upstart Browns scrambling for a playoff spot instead of celebrating one.

Redskins 32, Vikings 21

Playing the kind of hard-nosed, harder-hitting defense that fallen teammate Sean Taylor was famous for, the Redskins shut down Adrian Peterson and set up two early touchdowns with interceptions to take control of their playoff fate with a 32-21 win over the Vikings, their third win in a row.

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Belichick wouldn't sit starters for finale, would he?
ASSOCIATED PRESS

After leaving his starters on the field late in meaningless games all year long to punish dissenters and the disbelieving, there's no way New England coach Bill Belichick would sit them down for the regular-season finale at the New York Giants.

Not with his history of playing regulars from first whistle until last. Not with a shot at a perfect record on the line, something that hasn't been done in the NFL in 35 years. Not with the chance to squash any debate about whether these Patriots are the best team ever to set foot on turf. Not even if the Giants, as expected, rest a half-dozen of their own front-line guys to get ready for the playoffs.

Right, Bill? ... Bill? ... Mr. Belichick?

''I'm not worried about anybody else,'' he said after New England beat Miami 28-7 to push their marker to 15-0.

It's worth noting that was the third time Belichick essentially was asked the same question about starters and that each answer boiled down to a version of, ''We'll do what's best for our football team.''

(Translation: Tune in next Saturday night to find out. Nice try, anyway.)

Belichick may not give good quote, as reporters like to say, but nobody gives better misdirection.

Just for kicks, go back and read the statement Belichick crafted after getting caught by the NFL spying on New York Jets coaches with a sideline video camera during the season opener.

It was so artful that even after fining the coach $500,000, and lifting another $250,000 and a first-round pick from the franchise, commissioner Roger Goodell made sure to have the last word: ''This episode,'' he said in a letter to the club, ''represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to avoid long-standing rules designed to encourage fair play and promote honest competition on the playing field.''

That's old news (to everyone but Belichick, who could have taught Captain Ahab a thing or two about revenge).

It's always more instructive to look at what Belichick has done in similar situations, including another textbook example from the Pats' preparations for Miami last week.

Despite being an overwhelming favorite at home against the league's weakest team, he made his players practice in full pads three times, something they haven't done since training camp. And the Patriots' injury report has been a running joke in the league for years; it's always packed with names followed by ''doubtful'' and ''questionable'' during the week and almost always empty by game time. To play for Belichick is to live in fear of having a job.

So now you know that Randy Moss wasn't exaggerating all those times he took the podium after a win and said, ''Coach Belichick would never let us get big heads.''

(Translation: Coach likes swollen heads inside helmets; once the helmets are off, not so much.)

The other thing to remember is the Patriots have won three Super Bowls since 2001, so there's no need for lectures about sealing the deal. They understand it's the last win of the season that validates the ones before it, not the other way around.

Coaches, however, have very different philosophies about how to get their teams to the big game with the best chance to win.

Look at the Colts' roster next week against Tennessee and you'll see one extreme. Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy has faced the possibility of an unbeaten team several times in recent years, but he always places a premium on having a healthy, rested squad heading into the postseason.

Belichick takes the opposite tack. He's a momentum freak, and a perfectionist besides, and this game plays into both of those dearly held beliefs. The Patriots are playing so far above their competition they're accumulating team and personal records almost as an afterthought. They picked up a few Sunday and put themselves in position to break a few more next week.

As much as Larry Csonka was right when he said about his 1972 Dolphins, ''Perfection ends a lot of arguments,'' it wouldn't be hard to argue that if the Patriots win them all, their unbeaten season would mark them as the best of all time.

The league has never been tougher, or deeper. Players are bigger, stronger and faster. New England's defense might not be as dominating as the 1985 Bears, and the 1992 Cowboys offense might have been able to match them score for score.

Add up the totals at the end of every game, though, and the Patriots leave every team in the Super Bowl era in their dust.

During the Dolphins unbeaten season, admittedly a more conservative, run-and-gritty-defensive era, they averaged only 27.5 points total. The Patriots are beating opponents by an average of more than 20 points, something only one other championship team - the 1941 Bears, who posted a 22.6-point differential - accomplished.

Like everybody else, even Belichick's players won't know until Saturday night whether their coach intends to go after that mark, too.

''He has a tone or a beat, that we're beating to, trying to stay in rhythm,'' Moss said. ''That's what we're beating to now: his beat.''

That beat just goes on ... and on ... and on.

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Jaguars, Giants qualify for playoffs, Titans control AFC wild-card
ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK -- The Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants secured playoff berths Sunday, while the Tennessee Titans took control of their fate in the AFC.

Jacksonville's 49-11 romp past Oakland as a 14-point favorite gave it an 11-4 record and the fifth seed in the AFC. The Jaguars will finish second to Indianapolis in the AFC South and will open the playoffs at either San Diego or Pittsburgh in the wild-card round.

''This was the first step,'' cornerback Rashean Mathis said. ''We have a few more steps to go. We are still climbing the mountain. We haven't reached the top of it yet. We haven't even peaked. After we peak, then the champagne bottles will come.''

The Giants weren't popping any bubbly either after a 38-21 win at Buffalo that qualified them for the postseason. New York (10-5) will finish second to Dallas in the NFC East and will play at either Seattle or Tampa Bay in the wild-card round.

''I'm enjoying being 10-5,'' linebacker Antonio Pierce said. ''I'm looking forward to Christmas and looking forward to the playoffs.''

Tennessee controls the other AFC wild-card spot. After beating the New York Jets 10-6, the Titans (9-6) will make it by winning at defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis in a night game next Sunday. If the Titans lose, then Cleveland, also 9-6, will go no matter what it does against San Francisco in its finale.

Although Tennessee owns the tiebreaker if both win, the Browns play an NFC team and have completed their schedule against AFC opponents at 7-5. Tennessee is 6-5 in conference and must beat the Colts to get to 7-5, sending the tiebreaker to record against common opponents, where the Titans have the edge.

The race for the second wild card in the NFC is between Minnesota, Washington and New Orleans. The Vikings hosted the Redskins on Sunday night.

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Titans-Colts season finale switched to prime time
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NEW YORK -- Next Sunday's season finale between the Titans and Colts at Indianapolis has been moved to prime time with Tennessee in position to secure an AFC wild-card berth.

The NFL said after Tennessee's 10-6 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday it was switching Titans-Colts from 1 p.m. EST to 8:15 p.m. under the flexible schedule for late-season Sunday games. The originally scheduled Kansas City-Jets game moves to 4:15 p.m. EST.

Also being moved to 4:15 p.m. EST will be Dallas at Washington and Pittsburgh at Baltimore.

If the Titans beat the defending Super Bowl champion Colts, they will earn the sixth seed in the playoffs. They can't get in with a loss, regardless of what Cleveland does at home to San Francisco in an afternoon game. The Titans opened as 4-point favorites for their Week 17 matchup.

Although Tennessee owns the tiebreaker if both win, the Browns play an NFC team and have completed their schedule against AFC opponents at 7-5. Tennessee is 6-5 in conference and must beat the Colts to get to 7-5, sending the tiebreaker to record against common opponents, where the Titans have the edge.

The Titans and Browns, both 9-6, are the only teams in the running for the final AFC wild-card slot.

Tennessee will make its first appearance on Sunday night this season; the Titans have appeared on two Monday night games, beating New Orleans and losing to Denver, both on the road.

Indianapolis has been a regular in prime time. This will be the Colts' sixth night game and third on Sunday night.

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Injuries: Bad breaks for Jones, McGahee
December 23, 2007

Associated Press

It was a rough day for NFL running backs.

Detroit's Kevin Jones, Baltimore's Willis McGahee, Indianapolis' Joseph Addai, the Giants' Brandon Jacobs and New Orleans backup Jamaal Branch all were banged up Sunday.

Jones' knee injury during the Lions' 25-20 win over the Kansas City Chiefs was the most severe. He caught a pass in the first half and after being tackled, immediately grabbed his right knee.

"It doesn't look good," Detroit coach Rod Marinelli said. "It's pretty serious."

Jones has been sidelined by injuries in each of his four seasons since Detroit drafted him in the first round of the 2004 draft. He was limited to 12 games last year with a foot injury, which led to him being on the physically unable to perform list during training camp and missing the first two games of this season.

McGahee broke two ribs on a hit in the first quarter of the Ravens' 27-6 loss to Seattle.

McGahee, who entered Week 16 fifth in the NFL in rushing with 1,207 yards, had five carries for 10 yards before going out.

The team said McGahee was hopeful of returning in the second half, but was announced as being out when the second half began. After the game, the Ravens said McGahee had cracked ribs and his status for next week's season finale against Pittsburgh was unknown.

Mike Anderson took over for McGahee, but was slowed by a hamstring injury in the second half. After having just seven carries all season, Anderson had 44 yards on eight touches.

Ravens reserve tight end Quinn Sypniewski, filling in for Todd Heap and Daniel Wilcox, sustained a concussion and bruised sternum.

Addai played sparingly after the first quarter of the Colts' 38-15 win over Houston when he reportedly sustained back and shoulder injuries, a report later denied by Colts spokesman Craig Kelley. He said Addai was out because of a coach's decision.

After the game, Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy said Addai -- and receiver Anthony Gonzalez, who bruised his foot and left in the first half -- could have returned.

"Those guys are not nicked up too bad," Dungy said.

The Colts, without Marvin Harrison for the ninth straight game, also lost tight end Ben Utecht with a shoulder injury. Defensive back Tim Jennings left in the final minute with an undisclosed injury. Dungy had no immediate updates.

Jacobs rumbled for 145 yards and two scores in New York's 38-21 victory over Buffalo, including a powerful 43-yard run, but he went out with a sprained left ankle in the fourth quarter. Jacobs, who returned briefly after hurting his ankle, said the injury isn't major, and he expects to play next week.

Bills Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters did not return after hurting his groin in the second quarter. Without him, Buffalo allowed three sacks, ending a three-game run without allowing a sack.

Already missing Reggie Bush with a left knee injury, Branch broke his leg on a special teams play in the Saints' 38-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. New Orleans nearly had a more serious problem when, in the second quarter, starting back Aaron Stecker appeared to hurt his left leg and was carted to the locker room. He returned in the third quarter.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 289 yards, but lost his best receiver when Marques Colston left the game in the first half with a chest contusion that had him spitting up blood. New Orleans also lost cornerback Mike McKenzie, who departed with a sprained right knee.

Eagles safety Brian Dawkins left the game with what team officials termed a right foot injury. He's scheduled for an MRI exam on Monday. And linebacker Omar Gaither went out with a quad contusion.

Kansas City quarterback Brodie Croyle was knocked out of the Chiefs' 25-20 loss to Detroit when he injured his right hand trying to make a tackle on Paris Lenon's 61-yard interception return for a TD.

"MRI came back negative; it's not broken," Chiefs coach Herm Edwards said. "We'll see where he's at going into next week. Brodie probably couldn't have went back."

Lions OT Damien Woody (shoulder), S Gerald Alexander (right shoulder) and Kansas City OT Damion McIntosh (ankle) also were injured.

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Bills lose Pro Bowl LT for season finale
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  -- Bills left tackle Jason Peters will miss Buffalo's season finale at Philadelphia on Sunday because of a groin injury that could also keep him from playing in the Pro Bowl in February.

Coach Dick Jauron said Monday that Peters will have tests this week to determine the severity of the injury suffered in the second quarter of a 38-21 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday.

''Hopefully, it'll be OK in time and hopefully he'll be able to participate in the Pro Bowl as a healthy tackle,'' Jauron said. ''I'm sure that Jason's excited about playing in the Pro Bowl and will want to play in it. But I'm sure also he'll do the right thing as we move along.''

Jauron said Peters had been bothered by a sore groin for several weeks before aggravating it when his right leg slid out from under him while blocking Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora. Peters lay on the field for several minutes before limping off on his own.

He watched from the sideline before being escorted to the Bills locker room with two minutes left in the second quarter. Without Peters, Buffalo allowed three sacks, ending a franchise record-tying string of three games without a sack.

Peters has not missed a start in 40 games since taking over at right tackle midway through the 2005 season.

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Top pick Russell draws Chargers in first career start
ESPN.com

Despite a rough and ragged outing in his longest stint of the year on Sunday afternoon, rookie quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the top pick in the 2007 draft, will get the first start of his career when the Oakland Raiders conclude the season against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

First-year coach Lane Kiffin, who brought Russell along slowly after the former LSU star missed all of training camp as contract negotiations dragged on, has been reluctant to install the rookie as his starter. And Kiffin's worst fears were realized in Sunday's 49-11 loss to Jacksonville, when Russell had four turnovers and was temporarily knocked from the game with a head injury.

But with only one game remaining on the schedule, the Raiders want to get a long look at Russell so they can assess his progress moving forward into 2008.

Russell, who signed a six-year contract with a maximum value of $68 million one week into the season, figures to be the Raiders' starter next year. He will become the team's third different starter in 2007. Josh McCown has started nine games and Daunte Culpepper has six starts. Both are eligible for unrestricted free agency in the spring.

Oakland will become the ninth team in the league this season to employ at least three different starters.

Prior to Sunday's game, Russell had made only two appearances, against Denver on Dec. 2 and Indianapolis on Dec. 16, and he played sparingly in those contests. Russell worked a total of five series and 26 snaps in those games.

On Sunday, though, he replaced McCown after the first two series and unofficially played 47 snaps.

Russell, 22, completed seven of 23 passes for 83 yards, with one touchdown pass and three interceptions. He lost a fumble, was sacked twice and was called for intentional grounding. Russell was also knocked out of the game late in the second quarter but returned to start the second half, and finished the game.

"Unfortunately, it's like one of your worst nightmares come true," said Kiffin, who has carefully parceled out playing time for the rookie quarterback. "This was my fear all along."

Kiffin noted that because he missed all of camp, Russell hadn't really played much in the past year. And many of the mistakes Russell made against the Jaguars, said Kiffin, were on things he would have worked on had the young passer had the benefit of training camp.

For his part, Russell, who connected on his first career touchdown pass, a two-yarder to tight end Zach Miller late in the game, seemed unscarred by the experience and eager to get his chance to start.

"Things didn't go the way we wanted them to," Russell said. "Who cares? It's one day. You've got plenty of football to keep playing."

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Lions' Jones has sprained ACL
December 24th, 2007

Allen Park, MI (Sports Network) - Kevin Jones will not suit up for Detroit's final game of the season after sustaining a sprained ACL on Sunday.

In the first half of the Lions victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, Jones caught a screen pass and fell awkwardly after being tackled by Brian Sapp.

"(The doctors) are waiting for the swelling to go down to make further evaluations on what they're going to do," said head coach Rod Marinelli. "Hopefully we'll know something more as the week goes on."

Jones, who may require offseason surgery, ends the season with 581 yards rushing and eight touchdowns in 13 games. He also had 33 receptions for 199 yards.

The Lions close out the regular season on the road against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, December 30.

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Browns place Kelley, Adams on IR
December 24th, 2007

Berea, OH (Sports Network) - The Cleveland Browns placed nose tackle Ethan Kelley and safety Mike Adams on injured reserve Monday, each with a knee injury.

Kelley started in the last five games, appearing in 13 overall this season with the Browns. His season ends with 24 tackles, one sack and a forced fumble.

Adams, a reserve who also played on special teams, appeared in all 15 games. He had 29 tackled and one sack.

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Panthers C Hartwig done for season due to knee injury
December 24th, 2007

Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - Carolina Panthers center Justin Hartwig will miss the team's final game of the season due to a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

Hartwig, who will sit out Sunday's contest at Tampa Bay, was hurt during this past Saturday's loss to Dallas.

"Justin Hartwig has an MCL sprain, which is good news. But with only one week to go we are going to go ahead and put him on injured reserve," Panthers coach John Fox said.

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Sapp may face suspension
KFFL.com
   
Chris Mortensen, of ESPN, reports Oakland Raiders DL Warren Sapp faces a possible one-game suspension for bumping an official during the team's Week 16 game, according to league sources. The decision could come Wednesday, Dec. 26. Sapp was ejected from the game after he bumped umpire Garth DeFelice late in the second quarter. He earlier had drawn a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for verbally abusing an official.

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Opening Line Report
VegasInsider.com

It’s preseason all over again. Bookmakers must feel that way having to make quick, huge line adjustments on some of these NFL Week 17 games.

There have been three favorite changes and seven moves of more than a field goal – all before mid-Monday afternoon.

“It’s very much like preseason,” said Mike Seba, senior linesmaker for Las Vegas Sports Consultants, about the Week 17 opening numbers. “But whatever you’re seeing now, I wouldn’t get too in love with because the numbers are going to move again when coaches start coming out about how much they’re going to play their starters.”

Certainly Tony Dungy is going to have a lot of impact on the line. Some places opened Dungy’s Colts minus 3 at home against Tennessee in the Sunday night game. That was LVSC’s recommended opening number, too.

Those wagering early believe Dungy is going to severely limit his starter’s minutes because the Titans have been steamed up to minus 6½. That number probably would come way down if Dungy crosses up the early gamblers by saying Peyton Manning is going to play most of the game, even though his team is locked into the AFC’s No. 2 playoff seed.

Similar circumstances have caused bizarre early numbers in several other games, too. Surprised to see Tampa Bay a home underdog to Carolina and Seattle getting points versus Atlanta? Seba sure is.

Seba and his fellow oddsmakers sent out Tampa Bay minus 4 against the Panthers. Early money has pushed the Panthers to three-point favorites, a swing of nine points at those books that opened the Buccaneers minus 6.

“We disagree with this line,” Seba said about the Panthers being the favorite. “I think it’s ridiculous to make Carolina the favorite. Vinny (Testaverde) probably isn’t going to play leaving Matt Moore the quarterback.

“If this game meant anything to Tampa, the line would be Bucs minus 11. They’re going to rest players, but they’re also coming off a loss at San Francisco. They probably don’t want to limp into the playoffs with two straight losses.

“I could possibly see the game as pick, but not (Carolina) three.”

The LVSC oddsmakers made the Seahawks minus three against Atlanta, believing they compensated plenty for Seattle having its playoff spot locked in.

“Seattle would be minus 9 or 10 if it meant something,” Seba said. “So how far are we suppose to move it down?”

Apparently enough to make the Falcons a favorite despite Atlanta losing six straight times. Atlanta was at minus 2½ on Monday afternoon with higher juice, indicating the Falcons could soon become 3-point favorites.

There’s a been a three-to-four point line move within the first 24 hours of betting activity on the San Francisco-Cleveland line. Some bookmakers opened the Browns as high as minus 13½ hosting the 49ers.

The line had come down to 9½ with the realization the Browns would make the playoffs – win or lose – if Tennessee falls to Indianapolis.

“I could see it coming down even more to seven or 7½,” Seba said.

Wade Phillips already has said his Cowboys are going for the win against Washington. But oddsmakers aren’t putting stock in that. The Redskins are seven-point home favorites because they’re in a must-win spot and the Cowboys already have sewn up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Dallas also will be without Terrell Owens.

“If the Cowboys needed this game, they would have been three- or four-point favorites,” Seba said. “I could see it getting higher than seven. There’s not going to be any money on Dallas.”

Under normal circumstances, Houston would not be 6 ½-point home favorites against Jacksonville, which has covered seven in a row. But the Jaguars are in the playoffs.

The Packers are locked into the NFC’s No. 2 playoff seed. That’s why they’re only three-point favorites at home versus Detroit.

Seba and his fellow LVSC linemakers made the Packers minus six, believing the Packers aren’t going to rest their starters for the entire game because they have a first-round bye.

“You want to protect the home team a little bit,” Seba said. “These teams are on the road and they’re getting bet like they’re at home. We’re seeing a lot of extreme moves.”

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Saints lose McKenzie, hoping to have Colston, Bush against Bears
December 24, 2007

METAIRIE, La. (AP) -A fluke injury on a crazy play has ended Saints cornerback Mike McKenzie's season, making New Orleans' slim playoff hopes even slimmer.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Monday that McKenzie tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while nearly recovering Donovan McNabb's fumble in what turned out to be Philadelphia's first touchdown in the Eagles' 38-23 victory in New Orleans on Sunday.

McKenzie has been placed on injured reserve, as has reserve running back Jamaal Branch, who fractured his right leg during kickoff coverage.

Players were given Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, so McKenzie was not available for comment. He'll need reconstructive surgery, followed by months of rehabilitation, which may affect his ability to participate fully in practices when training camp opens next August.

Next season, McKenzie will be in the fourth year of his current five-year, $22 million contract with the Saints.

McKenzie had been the Saints' best defensive back this season, returning a pair of interceptions for touchdowns and being chosen as an NFC alternate for the Pro Bowl.

He was the first player to arrive at the loose ball resulting from McNabb's fumble, but the ball squirted into the end zone after he tried to fall on it at the 2-yard line. McKenzie then quickly bounced up to give chase before collapsing in the end zone.

It was one of several error-filled plays Sunday that cost New Orleans (7-8) a chance to take control of the race for the final wild-card spot in the NFC.

However, because Minnesota lost to Washington later Sunday night, the Saints remained alive heading into their regular season finale in Chicago this Sunday.

To advance, the Saints must beat the Bears, then hope that Minnesota (8-7) falls at Denver and that Washington (8-7) loses to visiting Dallas.

New Orleans plays one of the early games that day, while Minnesota and Washington both play later in the afternoon, sparing the Saints from scoreboard watching while they're trying to win a game.

``If we're watching the scoreboard, we just better be watching our own score right now,'' said Payton, who had mysteriously lost his voice but explained in a squeaky whisper that he felt fine otherwise. ``We've got one game left to finish and we're going to have to play better in all areas.''

Payton said Marques Colston, the Saints' leading receiver with 90 catches for 1,108 yards, is expected to play in Chicago after being knocked out of the Philadelphia game with a chest contusion that had him spitting up blood.

The coach said Reggie Bush might return after missing three games with a partial tear of his left posterior cruciate ligament, an injury that normally requires about a month of rehabilitation.

Payton said Bush was ``pretty close'' to playing against Philadelphia.

``The soreness was gone. He felt pretty comfortable,'' Payton said. ``He's going to practice Wednesday and we'll see where we're at.''

After their surprise run to the NFC Championship game in Chicago nearly a year ago, Payton said the Saints have been very frustrated by their inconsistency and injury trouble this season.

They lost power running back Deuce McAllister to a season-ending injury in Week 3, then discovered Bush's injury on Dec. 6. Aaron Stecker, who went from third-string running back to starter, sprained a toe during the first half of the Philadelphia game, but came back in the second half. He's expected to be limited in practice this week, and with Branch going down, Payton said the Saints may need to sign another reserve running back for the Chicago game.

Yet, despite their disappointment with a season now on the brink of ending shy of the postseason, Saints players have taken comfort in the fact that they didn't fold after a dreadful 0-4 start and remained in the hunt until the final day of the season.

``There's always hope, but we're not worried about any equations or anything like that,'' quarterback Drew Brees said Sunday when asked about the Chicago game. ``We've got pride and that's what we're playing for right now.''

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Re: NFL Week 17 News and Notes

Manning Won’t Play Second Half Against Tennessee Sunday, Dungy Says

INDIANAPOLIS – As of early Monday afternoon, the calls hadn’t come for Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy. At least not yet.

Considering the circumstances of the week, he expects that will change.

Because Dungy has friends in the Cleveland, Ohio area, and because the Colts will influence the playoff chances of that city’s NFL team Sunday, he said he expects he will hear from some of those friends sometime this week. On Monday, he issued those friends a friendly warning:

When they call?

They may not necessarily like what they hear.

The Colts, who two weeks ago clinched the No. 2 seeding in the AFC playoffs, will play starters early on Sunday in their season finale, Dungy said. But as was the case in a victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday, Dungy said they won’t likely play the entire game.

And in fact, they may play a bit less.

“You play for your team,” Dungy said Monday afternoon as he and the rest of the coaching staff of the AFC South Champion Colts (13-2) began preparing to play the third-place Tennessee Titans (9-6) in a division game at the RCA Dome Sunday at 8:15 p.m.

“You coach your team. You really can’t worry about anybody else.”

Dungy said that includes the Cleveland Browns.

And for that matter, it includes the Titans, too.

The Colts, who beat the Texans, 38-15, Sunday afternoon, in the RCA Dome, this coming Sunday will have a chance to influence the seasons of both the Browns and the Titans. That’s because Titans enter the regular-season finale with a strikingly simple scenario.

If they win, they’re in the playoffs.

If they lose, they’re out of the playoffs and the Browns are in.

Dungy said the Colts will play hard against the Titans. He expects they will play well – as well, even, as they did Sunday when Dungy said they played one of their best games in recent weeks, improving their record to 5-0 in the division this season.

“We’d like to play well,” Dungy said Monday at his weekly next-day news conference. “I think we’re going to come out and play well. I’d be surprised if we don’t play as well as we did last week.

“We’re going to try to do everything we can to finish 14-2 and finish 7-1 at home.”

What that includes, Dungy said, will be all healthy starters starting.

But he said it likely won’t include them playing the entire game.

Peyton Manning, the Colts’ eight-time Pro Bowl quarterback, won’t play in the second half, Dungy said. Dungy also said backup Jim Sorgi could play in the first half. In the final games of the 2004 and 2005 seasons, with the Colts’ playoff seeding already clinched, Manning played one series before being replaced by Sorgi.

“It’s hard to say just yet,” Dungy said. “We have done that in the past. I know Jim Sorgi’s going to play at least a half. I don’t know how early he’ll get in the game, if he’ll get in the game in the first half. We’d like to come out and play sharp and establish some things.”

The extent of Manning’s playing time, Dungy said, could depend somewhat on the playing status of eight-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Marvin Harrison, who has missed the last nine games with a knee injury.

“I think a lot with Peyton depends on Marvin,” Dungy said. “If Marvin’s able to go, we’d like to get him some time with the first team. We’ll see how practices go this week with that.”

On Sunday, the Colts’ healthy starters started and played through the first three quarters, at which time they led
Houston, 38-7. Manning completed 28 of 35 passes for 311 yards and three touchdown passes, with two touchdown passes going to tight end Dallas Clark and another going to wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who caught 10 passes for 143 yards.

The Colts’ offense produced a season-high 458 yards and 33 first downs, with most of the starters leaving the game at some time in the fourth quarter.

“We’d like to do that a little bit sooner this week,” Dungy said. “I’m not exactly sure how long they’ll go. We do want to win the game. We want to keep the momentum going and we want to play better. That’s our plan. We do plan to play everybody.

“We don’t know exactly how much everybody’s going to play yet, but we do want to try to win the ballgame.”

Dungy also said the individual goals of some players will be at least a partial consideration when determining playing time Sunday. Manning needs 55 yards passing to surpass 4,000 for the season and Wayne is eight receptions from his first 100-reception season.

“That’s part of it,” Dungy said. “We’ve got some guys who are chasing some individual goals. That’s never going to take precedent over the team setting, but I played and I know how important it is. When you get close, you’d like to get the opportunity.

“We’ll see how things go. More than anything, I think it’s those guys wanting to stay in, stay sharp, and play and prepare. That’s the tough thing. We’d like to have a great week of practice and if you tell guys they aren’t playing or they’re only playing a series, then it’s tough to have that type of practice.

“We’ll see how it goes, but I envision guys playing a little bit more than one series.”

Dungy said the ideal scenario is for the Colts’ starters to play well, establish what they want to establish, then for the backups to play well enough to enable the Colts to attain a franchise-record tying 14th victory. That would also enable the Colts to finish 6-0 in the division for the second time in three seasons, a notable achievement this season, when the AFC South is perhaps the NFL’s toughest division.

But with their seeding clinched, Dungy said entering the playoffs healthy is a major motivation, too – certainly more of a motivation than helping another team.

No matter how many friends he has in that city.

“You really can’t (worry about another team’s playoff fate),” Dungy said. “Those guys have done a great job. I have some friends over on that staff. I’d like to see them get in the playoffs. I’ve got some friends on Tennessee’s staff. It’s one of those things you can’t worry about it. I don’t think our players can worry about it. We’ve got to get ourselves ready to go and just play the best we can and get ourselves ready for the playoffs.

“You feel badly in a way, but it’s the way the schedule works out.”

Dungy said he has been in Cleveland’s situation before, notably with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1998, the last year a team he coached missed the playoffs. The Buccaneers that season beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 35-0, in Cincinnati in the season finale, then learned on the flight home that the Arizona Cardinals had beaten San Diego, 16-13, to eliminate Tampa Bay from the playoffs.

“You think about the games that got away from you and that you should have won to not put yourself in that position,” Dungy said. “That’s always been my message to our teams. Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to depend on anybody else.

“They can certainly let you down more easily than you let yourself down.”

colts.com

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Re: NFL Week 17 News and Notes

Giants can't be expected to go all-out

New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin is in the same boat as Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy entering this final weekend of the 2007 NFL regular season.

Both of their teams have clinched playoff seeds and have nothing to play for, but the Giants-New England game Saturday night will have a huge TV audience (at least as huge as an NFL Network audience can be) because the Patriots have a chance to make history. The Tennessee-Colts game Sunday night will determine if the final AFC wild-card playoff team will be the Titans or Cleveland.

The Giants and Colts both will be playing at home, and their fans expect to see them to be competitive within reason.

But anything beyond token appearances by star players on the Giants and Colts would not be reasonable.

You can be sure that New England coach Bill Belichick will be using all of his healthy first-line players. He'd love to make 16-0 history, particularly after Week 1's Spygate controversy.

But Coughlin is under no obligation to use his starters in a game the Giants probably couldn't win even if they all played.

He would not be compromising the integrity of the NFL by resting many of his regulars. In fact, it would be prudent to conserve their energy for the team's wild-card game the following week.

Some Miami Dolphins fans and NFL purists might be critical of the Patriots for wrapping up a 16-0 season against an opponent at less than full strength. Anyone who has watched New England play all season should realize that the Patriots probably could beat the best team the Giants ever had.

# The Patriots have scored 71 touchdowns this season. The three other AFC East teams — Buffalo, the New York Jets and Miami — have a total of 76 touchdowns. ... The Patriots have a point differential of plus-312. That's more points than 15 teams have scored this season.

# The Buffalo Bills are ninth in the 32-team NFL in average home attendance this season at 71,064 for their eight games at Ralph Wilson Stadium. That average will drop in 2008 with a home game in Toronto. ... I know Bills left tackle Jason Peters was excited being picked to start in his first Pro Bowl in February, but here's one thumb down on risking further damage to the groin injury that knocked him out of last Sunday's loss to the Giants and this Sunday's game in Philadelphia. I don't think the Bills should let him play in a meaningless exhibition game coming off an injury and seven weeks of inactivity.

# It has been a very good year for Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. He hired Wade Phillips as coach. He signed underachieving Arizona Cardinals offensive guard Leonard Davis and he's going to the Pro Bowl with 10 other Cowboys. He signed relatively inexperienced quarterback Tony Romo to a long-term deal. He kept Terrell Owens, who has been a big playmaker (instead of a troublemaker). He was elected to the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and selected Texas Sports Personality of 2007 by The Dallas Morning News. The new palace for the Cowboys is almost finished. And his 13-2 team can win 14 games in a season for the first time Sunday (the Cowboys have lost their last seven regular-season finales).

# I know some of you agree with the following steroids take from Framingham, Mass., attorney Rob Meltzer. But I hope it isn't a huge number of you. Here's what he contributed to his local newspaper: "For their money, the fans are entitled to the best show that organized athletics can offer. If that means that the players want to shoot up vast quantities of steroids for exciting home-run derbies and 75-yard touchdown passes, which ultimately adds to the thrill of the game, then fans should be outraged at sport managers who ban the drugs that make these events worth watching."

I'm outraged that anyone could be so irresponsible, shortsighted and oblivious to the multitude of negative consequences tied to the unrestricted use of performance-enhancing drugs.

# Not surprisingly, the defending champion Rochester Knighthawks received an outpouring of respect in Inside Lacrosse magazine's National Lacrosse League preseason players' survey:

Best offense — Rochester 90 percent, Buffalo 3 percent, New York 3 percent, San Jose 3 percent, Toronto 1 percent.

Best defense — Buffalo 27 percent, Rochester 23 percent, San Jose 19 percent, Calgary 5 percent, Toronto 5 percent.

Toughest defender — Regy Thorpe (Rochester) 20 percent, Cam Woods (Toronto) 16 percent.

Fastest player — Steve Toll (Rochester) 24 percent, Josh Sims (Colorado) 17 percent, Jarett Park (New York) 13 percent, Chris Schiller (Rochester) 10 percent.

Best shooter — John Grant Jr. (Rochester) 50 percent, John Tavares (Buffalo) 11 percent, Dan Dawson (Portland) 3 percent.

Most creative player — John Grant Jr. (Rochester) 70 percent, Colin Doyle (San Jose) 4 percent.

Best unknown player — Defenseman Sandy Chapman (Rochester) was one of four players tied for the top spot with 5 percent.

Inside Lacrosse analyst Brian Shanahan also rated the Knighthawks No. 1 in the preseason 2008 rankings, followed by Colorado, Buffalo, Calgary, San Jose, Philadelphia, Toronto, Minnesota, Edmonton, Portland, Chicago and New York. He projects Rochester over Colorado in the Champion's Cup Final.

So let's not book the circus during the playoffs.

democratandchronicle.com

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Re: NFL Week 17 News and Notes

Panthers end Peppers' season by placing him injured reserve with knee injury
December 26, 2007

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Julius Peppers' disappointing season is over.

The Carolina Panthers placed the defensive end on injured reserve Wednesday with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. The injury forced Peppers to miss Saturday's loss to Dallas, ending his consecutive games streak at 78.

Peppers finished with only three sacks in 14 games, ending a streak of three straight years with at least 10 1/2 sacks. He was not elected to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2003.

The poor year leaves Carolina with a decision to make in the offseason. With one year left on Peppers' contract, the Panthers will likely have to rework his deal before next season to open up salary-cap space.

Before this season, it was assumed Peppers would get a new contract rivaling the six-year, $72 million deal given to Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney.

Peppers, who had a career-high 13 sacks last year, said earlier this month that he doesn't believe his low numbers this year will affect his value.

Rookie Charles Johnson, who got his first start against the Cowboys, will likely start in Sunday's season finale at Tampa Bay.

Taking Peppers' place on the roster is kicker Rhys Lloyd, signed from Baltimore's practice squad to give Carolina a stronger leg for kickoffs. John Kasay has a league-low two touchbacks and has put five kickoffs out of bounds.

The Panthers also signed receiver Travis Taylor, who played briefly with St. Louis and Oakland this season. Taylor replaces center Justin Hartwig, who was placed on injured reserve Monday with a knee injury.

Also Wednesday, tackle Jordan Gross (ankle), safety Chris Harris (neck) and quarterback Vinny Testaverde (Achilles) missed practice.

The Panthers added two players to the practice squad on Wednesday: former Wake Forest safety Patrick Ghee and defensive back Eddie Canonico, who has played in the Arena Football League.

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Re: NFL Week 17 News and Notes

Dolphins place CB Andre Goodman on IR
December 26, 2007

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -Miami Dolphins cornerback Andre Goodman was placed on injured reserve Wednesday with a knee injury, and the team signed guard Ikechuku Ndukwe off Baltimore's practice squad.

Goodman played in 13 games this season and started four. He had two interceptions and made 20 tackles.

Miami is Ndukewe's fourth team since he joined the NFL in 2005.

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Re: NFL Week 17 News and Notes

49ers QB Hill questionable
December 26th, 2007

Santa Clara, CA (Sports Network) - San Francisco 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill is questionable to start Sunday's season-finale at Cleveland due to a back injury that he sustained in the win over Tampa Bay this past weekend.

Hill, who was forced out of the game for one play in the third quarter before returning to the contest, sat out practice on Wednesday.

"Right now we're just taking it a day at a time," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "We rested him today. I'm hopeful that he'll play on Sunday and right now the rest is important in order for him to do that. He'll be questionable right now. He's got back spasms."

Nolan said with Trent Dilfer ruled out for Sunday, other possibilities at QB are Chris Weinke and Drew Olson. Alex Smith is already out for the season due to a separated right shoulder.

Weinke hasn't played in a game this year and has seen action in six contests since the conclusion of the 2002 season.

"He took a lot of reps today," Nolan said of Weinke. "He did a good job. It's going to have to do with him utilizing the guys around him, feeding them the ball. He's played in games. He's an experienced and mature guy. If we have to go with him he gives us our best chance."

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Re: NFL Week 17 News and Notes

Bengals place three more players on IR
December 26, 2007

Associated Press

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Running back DeDe Dorsey, center Eric Ghiaciuc and safety Madieu Williams will miss the Cincinnati Bengals' season finale after they were placed on injured reserve Wednesday.

The Bengals signed free agent running back Quincy Wilson and promoted guard Nate Livings off their practice squad. They have 52 players, one shy of the roster limit, for their final game in Miami.

Cincinnati (6-9) was down to running back Kenny Watson after Dorsey sprained his right ankle during a 19-14 loss to Cleveland on Sunday. Running back Rudi Johnson was inactive with a chronic hamstring injury; Johnson didn't practice Wednesday.

Ghiaciuc sprained his left foot during the game. Alex Stepanovich filled in at center for three games when Ghiaciuc was hurt earlier this season.

Williams aggravated a thigh injury during practice last week. He and starting safety Dexter Jackson were inactive for the win over Cleveland because of injuries.

Livings, a first-year player from Louisiana State, has been on the practice squad all season. Wilson, a second-year player, was waived by the Bengals on Sept. 2.

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