NFL Week 17 News and Notes

Re: NFL Week 17 News and Notes

Steelers say they'll be motivated against Ravens
December 26, 2007

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Najeh Davenport, unexpectedly the Steelers' top running back with the playoffs only a week away, looked up in surprise when asked about resting Sunday in Baltimore.

To the Steelers (10-5), no game against the Ravens (4-11) is inconsequential, even if Pittsburgh can claim nothing more by winning than a higher seeding in the AFC playoffs that begin Jan. 5.

"I was under the impression I was playing the whole game," Davenport said Wednesday, after the Steelers practiced for the first time in a week. "That's something new to me."

Wide receiver Hines Ward and defensive end Brett Keisel also said they're going into this game as if it were like any other -- even if it isn't, not with Pittsburgh already assured a division title and at least one home playoff game.

"I think we're going to play," Keisel said. "From everything I've heard, we're going to play and try to win the game and finish out the season right."

To the Steelers, that means going into the playoffs with some momentum after dropping two of their last three. They also want to end their long losing streak in Baltimore -- they've lost four in a row there -- and sweep all six games against AFC North rivals.

There's more to play for, too: Should the Steelers win and the Raiders (4-11) upset the Chargers (10-5), Pittsburgh -- and not San Diego -- would be No. 3 rather than No. 4 in the AFC playoffs.

That could prove significant because the fourth-seeded team must play streaking Jacksonville (11-4) next weekend, with the winner likely facing New England (15-0) in the divisional round.

The third-seeded team will play Cleveland (9-6) or Tennessee (9-6) next weekend and, more than likely, Indianapolis (13-2) the weekend after.

"It's a single-elimination tournament and we've got to come into this thing rolling and that's why we're approaching this week the way we are," Keisel said.

That approach is to treat the game, at least publicly, like any game. Coach Mike Tomlin, however, is dropping hints some of his less-than-healthy regulars might get some time off, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (sprained ankle) and safety Troy Polamalu (knee).

It seems unlikely Tomlin will sit down a majority of his starters, not with the Steelers already without two key injured regulars the rest of the way in running back Willie Parker (broken leg) and defensive end Aaron Smith (torn biceps).

The Steelers haven't played since beating St. Louis 41-24 on Dec. 20, so any player sitting out Sunday would be idle for more than two weeks going into the playoffs. With the way New England, Indianapolis and Jacksonville are playing, that might not be the ideal approach.

"He (Tomlin) knows what's best for the team," Ward said.

The Steelers haven't had an easier game all season than their 37-7 rout of Baltimore on Nov. 5, when Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes before halftime. Afterward, Ravens wide receiver Bart Scott said he "threatened" Ward and, when he saw him again Sunday, planned to "threaten him" again.

Scott laughed that off Wednesday, saying, "I was just upset with Hines at the time. Once I looked back and analyzed it, I said, "Hey, I love him.' "

A feeling not shared by many Ravens and Steelers, especially given the one-sided scores in their recent games. Last season, the Ravens won 27-0 in Baltimore and 31-7 in Pittsburgh, a game that ended up putting the Steelers out of the playoffs.

"It (this game) matters to us," Roethlisberger said. "It's Baltimore.

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Holmgren says Seahawks first-stringers will start
ASSOCIATED PRESS

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- According to coach Mike Holmgren, the Seahawks won't be easing into the playoffs.

The Seahawks coach welcomed his NFC West champions back from a two-day Christmas break on Wednesday with the message that Seattle's veterans will start Sunday at Atlanta. He said he wants them to play it as if it was Week 2 - not a meaningless game inside a lifeless, half-empty dome, with Seattle already locked into the No. 3 seed for the playoffs that begin the following weekend.

''We kicked it around a lot,'' Holmgren said of meetings with his assistants on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day weighing maintaining momentum for the postseason versus resting starters to avoid the possibility of injury.

''We're going to play the game just as we've played every game so far this season,'' he said.

He particularly hopes to continue an improved rushing offense from last weekend's win over Baltimore.

''We want to go into the playoffs as strong as we can be,'' he said. ''We're going to play the guys hard ... and keep our fingers crossed.''

He said the only players who may miss the game are the ones already injured. Wide receiver Deion Branch (calf), defensive tackle Rocky Bernard (groin) and Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones (sore shoulder) missed practice Wednesday.

That practice showed Holmgren's decision between playing and preservation, as he substituted more liberally than usual with the starting units.

Then there was his answer to whether quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, now even more important while having a career year for what has become a pass-first offense, would exit the game early in favor of Seneca Wallace if Seattle (10-5) gets a big lead on the Falcons (3-12).

''Probably, yeah,'' Holmgren said.

''It will be talked about - not just with us but a lot of teams - this week on how to do this,'' Holmgren said, thinking of the perfect New England Patriots and other playoff teams. ''I'm not sure there's a right way to do it.

''I believe in momentum going into the playoffs. At the same time, everyone hold their breath that no one gets hurt. So how do you balance that?''

His players say they want business to be usual.

''They pay us to play,'' veteran guard Chris Gray said.

''Any kind of a letdown, though it might be human nature, is not what you can do at this level, especially with the competition that will happen in the playoffs,'' Patrick Kerney said.

Kerney holds a half-sack lead on Mario Williams of Houston for the league lead. He is also returning to the city in which he played eight seasons until last spring. It is still home to his charitable foundation and the many friends he hopes to see Saturday afternoon.

''Certainly don't want to let this week pass by,'' he said. ''It will definitely be a special time for me to get back to Atlanta and play.''

Shaun Alexander is a native of Florence, Ky., who played at the University of Alabama. He said ''pretty much the whole state of Kentucky is invited, and the whole state of Alabama,'' to Sunday's game. But the running back, coming off his best game since September, is playing with a wrist that he broke in Week 1.

''It's more important just to make sure that we have everything ready to go for the playoffs,'' he said. ''There are little things that we've got to do. But at the same time, the risk (is) always there.''

Holmgren's decision may prove to be similar to the one he made two years ago entering the finale at Green Bay. Those Seahawks also had everything they could clinch taken care of, in that case home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Holmgren rested only nicked-up starters, including Jones and cornerback Marcus Trufant. He then pulled the first-team offense at halftime, after Alexander scored his league-record 28th touchdown.

He said it was the only time in his 16 seasons as an NFL head coach he's done that. Seattle lost to Green Bay - then went on to its first Super Bowl.

Yet Holmgren still doesn't like that he made ''wholesale changes'' for a meaningless game.

''We were able to keep guys healthy, but that particular Sunday wasn't much fun,'' Holmgren said.

''I'm going to push them hard, just like I always do. And I'm going to go at the game hard and try to set an example that way.''

He said the competitor in him, in anybody, mandates that.

''Last night, we were playing a game my kids got for Christmas - Name This Movie. It got a little wild,'' Holmgren said, shaking his head, flailing his arms. ''So it's just how you do stuff.''

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Pushing the Envelope
VegasInsider.com 

Take a look at the home teams appearing on the 2007 NFL final regular season card this week. Notice anything peculiar? If you said half of them are dogs (aka: home dogs), you are correct. More importantly, three of them are winning teams that will dress up as home dogs – all three of whom are playoff bound.

This in itself, according to the our numbers, is any interesting situation. That’s because winning teams, playing as home dogs in regular season finales, are a robust 15-9 SU & 16-8 ATS in all games since 1980. Think about that for a moment. In 37 years a play like this generates an average of less than two plays every three years. However, because the new wave of thinking by coaches approaching the playoffs (opting to rest starters rather than risk injury), we are seeing more and more qualifying plays lately.

Let’s examine the coach’s tendencies throughout their NFL career of the three teams that qualify this weekend, namely the Giants, the Colts and the Bucs…

Tom Coughlin – 8-3 SU & 9-2 ATS in Last Game of the Season, including 5-0 SU at home… 36-23 SU at home versus AFC opponents, with three losses by more than 11 points… 59-41 SU all home games, with ten losses by more than 15 points… 4-0 ATS as a home dog of more than 7 points.

Tony Dungy – 8-3 SU & 4-7 ATS in Last Game of the Season, including 5-1 SU & 2-4 ATS at home… 9-2 SU in Last Home Games… 78-24 SU in all home games, with 12 losses by more than 6 points… 9-5 SU & 10-4 ATS as a home dog, including 8-1 SU & 7-2 ATS if his team has at least one win on the season – and – 7-2 SU & 8-1 ATS versus an opponent with a winning record.

Jon Gruden – 4-5 SU & ATS in Last Game of the Season, including 2-3 SU & ATS at home… 3-6 SU & ATS in Last Home Games… 52-32 SU & 44-38-2 ATS all home games, including 12-5 SU with a winning record versus and opponent with a losing record (two losses by more than 3 points)… 16-4 SU & 15-5 ATS at home off a SU favorite loss, including 14-2 SU & 13-3 ATS if current win percentage is .454 or better, and 9-0 SU & 8-1 ATS if current win percentage is .454 or better and they are hosting an opponent with a win percentage less than .666… 9-5-1 ATS as a home dog, including 5-1 SU & 6-0 ATS versus and opponent off a loss.

In closing, as you can readily decipher, each coach is in a role in which they proven they can handle. Will they rest the regulars? That remains to be seen.

Looking at these games from an opponent’s point of view, one would have to agree that both New England and Tennessee have reasons to play. The Pats to preserve a perfect season; the Titans to earn a playoff berth. But Carolina certainly has little-to-no reason to come with an exerted effort, even if they were capable of doing so (0-3 SUATS last three road games, average loss more than 26 PPG).

It will be interesting to see how this theory pans out this final week of the season. Will these home teams mail it in, or will they play with pride? Stay tuned…

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Five NFL matchups that mean something
Covers.com

Everyone wants to know if the New England Patriots will top the New York Giants and finish as the first team in NFL history with a 16-0 regular season record.

But really, who cares?

We all know how this is going to play out. The Giants won’t risk an injury in a useless exhibition when their first playoff game is a week away.

There are several matchups with playoff implications on the line. Here are five matchups worth wagering on:

Tennessee Titans at Indianapolis Colts

I call this the Jim Sorgi effect. The Colts get points at home as often a Spears uses birth control so it’s apparent the books don’t think Indy’s starters will see the field on Sunday.

“I know Jim Sorgi’s going to play at least a half,” Colts coach Tony Dungy told the Indianapolis Star of his backup quarterback. “I don’t know how early he’ll get in the game, if he’ll get in the first half.”

Recent history says Peyton Manning won’t play more than the first series. The All-Pro quarterback was on the field for just three plays for the final game of 2004 (against the Denver Broncos) and 2005 (against the Arizona Cardinals). Indy failed to cover the spread each time.

A Titans’ win will secure Tennessee with the final playoff spot in the AFC and end any chance of the Cleveland Browns sneaking in. The Titans couldn’t ask for a better scenario heading into the RCA Dome.

San Francisco 49ers at Cleveland Browns

The Browns are in a dicey situation because of last weekend’s loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Now the club’s fate is completely dependent on what Tennessee does against Indy.

Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson took much of the heat for the setback to the Bengals. He threw four interceptions (two inside the red zone) but don’t expect rookie Brady Quinn on the field against San Francisco.

“Derek’s been our quarterback all year and I don’t see why you would switch,” center Hank Fraley told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “He’s been playing well.”

“I think if we had it wrapped up and we were going to the playoffs, you might do something like that, just give (Brady) some game experience. But we’re still fighting since the beginning of the year and we’re playing as a team. “

The 49ers, on the other hand, could start their fourth different signal-caller this season. Recently signed Chris Weinke could start against the Browns because of third-stringer Shaun Hill’s sore back.

Hill missed practice on Wednesday but he’s confident he could play Sunday even without practicing all week.

“I’ve done that before,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle. “That’s part of life as a backup quarterback anyway. I’ll get mental reps.”

Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins

The Redskins are in the same position as the Titans: Win and they’re in. Kind of amazing if you remember three weeks ago Washington was two games below .500 (5-7).

It’s hard to imagine the Cowboys doing anything to help out a long-time rival but Dallas already has home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs secured.

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips isn’t sharing his plans for the playing of his starters this weekend.

“We haven’t finalized everything as far as who’s playing,” Phillips told reporters. “We have to see who’s healthy, see who’s ready to go. And then we’re gonna approach it like we’re gonna try to win the game. That’s what you play for.”

This could be a bluff from Dallas. The Cowboys certainly don’t want to risk another injury to a star player after Terrell Owens suffered a high ankle sprain Saturday.

Either way Washington is preparing for Dallas’ best performance.

“I expect them to come out here and play us,” Skins receiver Santana Moss told the Washington Post. “The rivalry speaks for itself. I think they’re going to be smart, but at the same time we’re going to be smart. We’ve got to go out there and try to win regardless of the situation.”

Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos

The Vikes seemed to be a sure thing in the NFC playoffs but a 32-21 setback to the Skins has Minnesota scrambling to continue its season.

The purple-people eaters need a victory and a Washington loss to creep into the NFL tournament. The Cowboys should expect gift baskets care of the Vikings if Dallas beats Washington.

Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson isn’t finding much room to run these days but the rookie back faces the league’s third-worst rushing defense this time out. The Broncos inability to stop the run has led to two embarrassing losses in which the club has been outscored 54-16.

“Obviously, (Peterson) wants to contribute, and you don’t begrudge him for that,” Vikings head coach Brad Childress told the Pioneer Press. “It’s just you don’t want him to get frustrated and see ghosts and go somewhere it doesn’t belong.”

New Orleans Saints at Chicago Bears

The Saints playoff chances are slim but still existent. A win over the Bears along with a Washington and Minnesota loss puts New Orleans back in the dance.

Of course Chicago is the same team that beat New Orleans on Soldier Field in the NFC Championship game last season. The Bears aren’t playing anywhere close to the level they were last season and are just looking to end their miserable campaign.

“The season seems like it has just drawn on long for us,” Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher told the Chicago Tribune earlier this week.

The Saints play before Washington and Minnesota, so bettors shouldn’t expect any type of second-half letdown because of an out-of-town score.

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Brodie Croyle figures to start at QB for Chiefs on Sunday
ASSOCIATED PRESS

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Brodie Croyle was able to throw without any problem Thursday, and he will probably start Sunday when the Kansas City Chiefs try to snap an eight-game skid in their season finale at the New York Jets.

Croyle missed most of last week's game at Detroit when he bruised his throwing hand while trying to tackle a defender who was running back an interception for a touchdown.

He was not able to throw the ball effectively Wednesday and was listed as questionable.

''It went good. The hand's feeling better; the grip's better,'' the second-year pro said. ''Hopefully, we'll give it a whirl. It's by far the best it's felt since it happened. The swelling's down, and it's getting better.''

In eight games, including five starts, Croyle has had some impressive moments in an audition for Kansas City's quarterback of the future. He has a strong arm and a quick release and has hit 107 of 181 passes for 1,032 yards with five touchdowns and six interceptions.

His rating is a lowly 70.5, but of greater concern to the Chiefs is his tendency to get hurt. Coach Herm Edwards said as much Wednesday when asked if he had seen enough this year to know whether Croyle is the quarterback he wants to build around.

During an otherwise productive college career at Alabama, injuries dogged Croyle and caused him to drop into the third round of the 2006 draft. Croyle bristles when asked about the injury-prone tag that seems to have attached itself to his slender frame.

''Whatever,'' he said with a shrug of his shoulders. ''There's only one way to get rid of that, and that's to play a whole season without being hurt and without missing any time. Hopefully, next year the 16th week we're not sitting here talking about the same thing, we're talking about going to the playoffs.''

He said he's not feeling any pressure to prove to anyone he can stay healthy.

''No, I want to play. There's nobody on this team that enjoys competing more than I do,'' he said.

He was hurt in the Lions game doing something quarterbacks are taught not to do after they've thrown an interception.

''That's probably half the reason I end up getting hurt, because I don't really think that through all the time,'' he said. ''Like trying to tackle somebody when I knew I had no chance. Hindsight's 20-20. It would have been easier to let him go. But that's something I have a tough time with.''

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Jets' Clemens likely to start

Quarterback's health is improving

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Though no official announcement was made about the Jets' quarterback situation yesterday, it is expected that Kellen Clemens will start the season finale against the Chiefs Sunday, barring any setbacks.

Neither Clemens nor Jets coach Eric Mangini gave a definitive answer -- Mangini said he won't know until Sunday -- but Clemens said he has "made some strides healthwise," three days after he was healthy enough to be the team's No. 2 option against Tennessee.

Clemens was injured on the Jets' first play against the Patriots on Dec. 16, but since he took over the starting job in Week 9, Mangini has maintained that Clemens is the No. 1 quarterback and will play if he is healthy.

"I've been improving," said Clemens, who was limited in practice yesterday. "I'm just continuing to get treatment, and I'm doing my best to play, at least to be ready to play."

Former starter Chad Pennington has taken over since Clemens' left shoulder was driven into the turf when he was sacked by New England's Richard Seymour. The team has said Clemens' ribs were injured on the play.

In last Wednesday's practice, Clemens, 2-5 as a starter, was barely able to throw the football and favored his left shoulder. But yesterday, he seemed to be fully mobile and engaged in all the team's passing drills during the 30 minutes of practice open to the media.

Several times this season, veteran cornerback Ty Law of Kansas City has left Jets rookie Darrelle Revis a voice-mail tutorial on defending the NFL's primo receivers. The hometown friends plan to chat this week, too, but Revis isn't expecting any pointers: On Sunday, Revis will compete against his mentor for the first time.

"It's going to be fun," Revis said yesterday. "I always watch him and see him; now I'm actually going to be on the field with him, too."

Revis and Law, a former Jet, both grew up in Aliquippa, Pa., a small town northwest of Pittsburgh. Law is more than a decade older than Revis but grew up playing sports with Revis' uncle, Sean Gilbert, a former professional defensive lineman.

They are among the professional athlete fraternity of Aliquippa, including Mike Ditka and Tony Dorsett, and are both known for their physical play. Revis has an impressive 82 tackles, 16 pass deflections and three interceptions in his first pro season.

"I think it was bred in both of us from our hometown," said Law, a five-time Pro Bowler. "As he gets more mature in the game, and as he learns to pick on nuances throughout, you're looking at an All-Pro."

Mangini said the decision to use punter Jeremy Kapinos against the Titans instead of Ben Graham was based on Graham's up-and-down season.

"The consistency needs to improve, and Ben knows that and is working at that," Mangini said. "With Jeremy doing as well as he's done, it was time for him to get a chance."

Third-year nose tackle Sione Pouha, who made his first start in Week 14, had a career-high eight solo tackles against the Titans. Pouha missed last season after tearing his ACL in training camp and said it wasn't until after the bye week this year that he understood how he fit into the Jets' 3-4 defense.

"It comes in segments," Pouha said. "(Earlier this year), I was more of a one step, two step kind of a guy. I think later in the season, after the bye week, I've become more of an instinctive player."

The Jets placed linebacker Jason Trusnik on injured reserve yesterday with a foot injury. The rookie played in six games this season, with six tackles on special teams. The Jets also signed OL Wayne Hunter, a fifth-year pro, to their practice squad.

starledger.com

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Schaub may play in finale

Although Matt Schaub took most of his reps with the scout team Wednesday, he showed enough to revive hopes that he will play against Jacksonville in the Texans' final game Sunday.

"As I've said all along, I'm hoping that he is able to play," coach Gary Kubiak said. "At the same time, he's only going to play if I think he's 100 percent."

No matter how things play out against the Jaguars, though, Schaub later confirmed for the first time that he will have surgery to repair his dislocated left shoulder after the season.

"We don't have anything set in stone. I want to get through the season first," he said. "But it's something that's going to happen. I've heard multiple doctors tell me it's the best option and the only way to go. They know more about it than I do."

Schaub, acquired last offseason in a trade with Atlanta to replace David Carr, admits he has never had an operation of any kind, but he didn't sound apprehensive about going under the knife.

"I'm only losing sleep over not being able to play," he said.

Schaub last played against Tennessee on Dec. 2, going out in the first quarter when he fell awkwardly on a sack.

chron.com

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Roethlisberger likely to sit vs. Ravens
December 27, 2007

Associated Press

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger didn't practice with the starting offense for the second day in a row Thursday, a sign he is unlikely to play in the team's final regular-season game Sunday in Baltimore.

With the Steelers (10-5) already assured of playing a home playoff game Jan. 5 or 6, it appears unlikely coach Mike Tomlin will risk Roethlisberger aggravating the right ankle he sprained late in the team's 41-24 win at St. Louis on Dec. 20.

Charlie Batch took the snaps with the starters again Thursday and is expected to start for the fourth time in the last three seasons. He was 2-0 as a starter in 2005 and 1-0 last season, but hasn't started since the Steelers' 2006 opener against Miami -- when Roethlisberger sat out after having his appendix removed four days before.

Until Roethlisberger was hurt, he was in position to start all 16 regular season games for the first time in his four-season career.

Earlier Thursday, Roethlisberger was chosen as the AFC offensive player of the week for going 16-of-20 for 261 yards and three touchdowns against St. Louis. He also had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 for the second time this season.

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Colts' Harrison practices after 10-game hiatus
December 27, 2007

Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Eight-time Pro Bowl receiver Marvin Harrison returned to practice with the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday after missing 10 games.

Harrison took part in a full practice Thursday and may be available for limited work against Tennessee on Sunday night.

Harrison has not played since Oct. 22 because of a left knee injury. The lingering injury that he suffered against Denver on Sept. 30 has forced Harrison to miss 10 games this season, the last nine in a row. It has been unclear whether Harrison would play again this season.

"We would like for Marvin to be able to go and get some playing time in. That's our hope. We'll see if it materializes," coach Tony Dungy said earlier this week.

Whether Harrison plays Sunday may dictate how many snaps Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning gets. On Monday, Dungy said if Harrison played this week he might keep Manning in the game longer to work on their timing.

Offensive tackle Ryan Diem (knee) sat out Thursday's workout and is not expected to play this week. Also sitting out were middle linebacker Gary Brackett (team decision), defensive tackle Raheem Brock (rib), wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (foot), cornerback Kelvin Hayden (illness), cornerback Tim Jennings (concussion), defensive end Robert Mathis (knees), defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock (groin), cornerback Keiwan Ratliff (hamstring), safety Bob Sanders (team decision), and tight end Ben Utecht (shoulder).

Brackett, Sanders and Hayden are all expected to start against Tennessee.

Safety Antoine Bethea (knee), running back Luke Lawton (illness) and defensive end Josh Thomas (illness) all returned to practice and also could play against the Titans.

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Shaq, Jason Williams day-to-day for Heat
December 27, 2007

Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) -- Heat center Shaquille O'Neal and point guard Jason Williams were listed as day-to-day Thursday, after both had nagging injuries checked out by Miami team doctors.

O'Neal got treatment on his achy hips. Tests performed on Williams' sore left knee did not reveal any major problems, and both may be available when the struggling Heat (8-21) host the Orlando Magic on Friday.

O'Neal, who has played this season with a sore thigh muscle, said he aggravated the hip problem by diving for a loose ball last Saturday in a win over the Utah Jazz. He has played in both of Miami's games since, although he managed only five points in Wednesday's loss at Philadelphia.

Williams' injury is believed to be a flareup of tendinitis, something he's battled often in recent years. He underwent right-knee surgery to relieve the problem after Miami won the 2006 NBA championship.

In other injury news, the Heat are not certain if backup point guard Chris Quinn will be available Friday.

Quinn is no longer wearing the walking boot on his sprained left ankle, but the team doesn't know if the second-year player from Notre Dame is ready for a return to game action.

Without Williams and Quinn, Miami played in Philadelphia without any available point guards. The team's third point, Smush Parker, has not been with the Heat in several weeks following an altercation with a female valet parking attendant.

If none of the three can play Friday, Miami coach Pat Riley indicated that rookie Daequan Cook may start at point guard.

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Raiders place Culpepper, Fargas on IR
December 26th, 2007

Oakland, CA (Sports Network) - The Oakland Raiders on Wednesday placed quarterback Daunte Culpepper and running back Justin Fargas on injured reserve.

Culpepper has not played since a week 12 triumph over Kansas City after sustaining a strained quadriceps.

In seven games this season, featuring six starts, Culpepper completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 1,331 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions.

Fargas suffered a right medial collateral ligament sprain on December 16 in a 21-14 setback against Indianapolis.

For the season, Fargas rushed for 1,009 yards on 222 carries with four touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 188 yards out of the backfield.

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Buccaneers: Garcia unlikely to play

Jeff Garcia confessed on Wednesday that he doesn't expect so see much playing time this week. "I'm preparing like I'm going to play, but (Jon Gruden) has expressed the possibility of certain guys not being on the field on Sunday," Garcia told the St. Petersburg Times. Luke McCown will get the majority of the work, if not the start on Sunday.

Packers: Favre wants to play entire game

Brett Favre told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that he would like to play the entire game on Sunday against the Lions. However, he also conceded that Mike McCarthy will make the call on his playing time.

Saints: Bush to be game-time call

Reggie Bush did not participate in the team portion of practice on Wednesday. He told the New Orleans Times-Picayune that he expects to be a game-time decision for Sunday's game against the Bears. He has missed the last three games with a partially torn PCL in his right knee.

Steelers: Big Ben might sit out finale   

Ben Roethlisberger (ankle) hasn't done much this week and it looks likely that he'll sit the finale at Baltimore, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Charlie Batch is the next in line for Pittsburgh.

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Outlook for NFL weekend

In past years the final Sunday of the NFL regular season has been a nightmare for handicappers to keep track of playoff scenarios and whether or not teams have anything to play for. But this year, assuming there will be no ties, everything is very simple.

Sunday morning there is only one meaningful game. New Orleans needs a win to stay alive for the remaining NFC Wild Card berth. Even though Cleveland has not clinched an AFC spot, because of playoff tie-breakers it doesn't matter what the Browns do.

In the afternoon Washington owns the advantage for that last NFC slot, and Minnesota will by playing for position in case the Redskins falter. San Diego needs a win to lock up the AFC No. 3 seed and avoid playing blistering hot Jacksonville, while Pittsburgh faces Baltimore with the faint hope of a San Diego loss, and probably without injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The night game is definitely meaningful. If Tennessee wins, the Titans are in the playoffs. If they lose, Cleveland gets in.

Of course Saturday night there will be one other important game, but not for playoff purposes, as New England attempts to complete the first unbeaten regular season since Miami in 1972. Any team can go through a season, play like crap and lose every game. But for the Patriots to avoid all the pitfalls and go 16-0, especially in this salary cap era, it would be an unbelievable achievement.

And thanks to Commissioner Roger Goodell, we can all watch it on television, too. New England was scheduled to play only on the NFL Network, but in his wisdom Goodell arranged it so the game will be simulcast on CBS and NBC. The Sunday game time changes were also excellent moves.

The NFL Network is not available in 74 million American homes, including those subscribing to our local cable company. Sure, NFL is a new network, so you'll catch them making rookie mistakes, like displaying the wrong down and distance during games and showing touchdown replays during important extra points, but any broadcast is better than no broadcast. Plus, overall for the die-hard fan, the NFL Network has many shows that make having it worthwhile.

nevadaappeal.com

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Re: NFL Week 17 News and Notes

Four Cowboys starters inactive for finale at Washington
ASSOCIATED PRESS

IRVING, Texas -- Wide receiver Terrell Owens and cornerback Terence Newman were among four Dallas starters declared inactive Friday for the Cowboys' regular-season finale at Washington.

Backup safety Patrick Watkins (ankle) will also sit out Sunday for Cowboys, who have clinched home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

Wide receiver Terry Glenn, whose has missed every game this season with a right knee injury, was listed as probable.

Center Andre Gurode (knee) and nose tackle Jay Ratliff (knee) are inactive along with Owens (ankle) and Newman (knee). Owens has not practiced this week as Dallas wants to rest his sprained ankle before its first playoff game.

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NFL game day buzz: Week 17 notes
ASSOCIATED PRESS

New England at N.Y. Giants

New York has previously knocked off a team pursuing perfection late in a season and it came at Giants Stadium, handing a 13-0 Denver team its first defeat on Dec. 13, 1998.

Buffalo at Philadelphia

Philadelphia closes a regular season with Donovan McNabb under center for the first time in four years when it meets the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in a matchup of teams trying to finish at .500.

Carolina at Tampa Bay

Carolina and Tampa Bay have developed a rivalry in the NFC South, and the Buccaneers will be trying to beat the Panthers twice in a season for just the second time and first since 2002. Carolina has won seven of nine against the Bucs and four straight in Tampa Bay since then.

Cincinnati at Miami

The Bengals have lost all six of their games at Miami, including one playoff matchup, since winning their first visit there in 1968. The Dolphins lead the all-time series 12-4, though they lost 16-13 at Cincinnati in 2004 in the most recent meeting.

Detroit at Green Bay

Overall, the Packers have won 12 of their last 14 games against the Lions, including a 37-26 win on Thanksgiving. Brett Favre's 700 completions and 8,155 passing yards against Detroit are his best against any team.

Jacksonville at Houston

Houston has enjoyed more success versus Jacksonville than against its other division rivals, going 6-5 and only being swept once. The Texans, however, weren't too competitive in a 37-17 road loss to the Jaguars on Oct. 14.

Seattle at Atlanta

Atlanta has dropped four straight against the Seahawks since a 24-17 road win on Nov. 30, 1997.

San Francisco at Cleveland

This is the 49ers' first visit to Cleveland since 1993. The teams are meeting for the first time since the Browns won 13-12 on Sept. 21, 2003.

New Orleans at Chicago

This is the first time the Saints have visited Chicago during the regular season since 2002. Including last year's playoff victory, the Bears have won two straight over the Saints after losing the previous three in a row.

Minnesota at Denver

The Vikings have won two straight and five of the last seven meetings against the Broncos.

San Diego at Oakland

The Raiders have been outscored 77-31 in three straight home losses to the Chargers.

St. Louis at Arizona

A loss will send the Rams to their worst season since 1991. St. Louis, though, has won four of its last five in Arizona.

Kansas City at N.Y. Jets

This will be the first meeting between Kansas City and New York since Sept. 11, 2005, when the Chiefs won 27-7.

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

The Ravens have won their last two home games against the Steelers, and are trying to avoid being swept by them in a season series for the first time since 2002.

Dallas at Washington

The Redskins have won the rivals' last two games at FedEx Field.

Tennessee at Indianapolis

Tennessee hasn't won at Indianapolis since 2002, losing four in a row by a combined 133-47. The Titans, however, have given the Colts problems the last three times they've played them overall. They lost 22-20 in Nashville in Week 2 this season, but beat Indianapolis at home last season 20-17 on a 60-yard field goal by Rob Bironas, their only win in the last nine games of the series.

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Re: NFL Week 17 News and Notes

Panthers S Harris doubtful for game at Bucs with neck injury
ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Panthers starting strong safety Chris Harris is doubtful for Sunday's game at Tampa Bay after sitting out a third straight practice Friday with a sore neck.

Harris missed much of last week's loss to Dallas after being injured. Veteran Marquand Manuel and rookie C.J. Wilson would likely split time at strong safety in Carolina's season finale if Harris can't play.

Harris, acquired in a trade with Chicago during training camp, leads the NFL with eight forced fumbles and is second on the team with 96 tackles.

Tackle Jordan Gross (ankle) practiced for a second straight day and is listed as probable.

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Re: NFL Week 17 News and Notes

Galloway out, Hilliard questionable for Bucs
December 28th, 2007

Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Joey Galloway is going to miss the team's regular season finale Sunday.

The team has decided to keep Galloway out as a precaution. The Bucs have already wrapped up the fourth seed in the NFC playoff race.

Hilliard has a banged up knee. It is unlikely he will play, but if he does it will probably be limited.

Hilliard has caught 62 passes for 772 yards and one touchdown this season, while Galloway has 57 receptions for 1,04 yards and six scores.

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Bush ruled out for Week 17   

Reggie Bush, still recovering from a partial tear of the posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, has been ruled out for this weekend's matchup with the Bears, according to the AP.


Weinke tabbed as Sunday's starter   

With Alex Smith on IR and Shaun Hill dealing with back spasms, Chris Weinke will start Sunday's game for the 49ers. "Chris Weinke will start in the game," coach Mike Nolan said to Sports Network. "The backup will be Drew Olson. The third quarterback will come out of either Arnaz (Battle) or Michael Robinson. Hopefully, we'll just stay with Chris Weinke there for the entire game." In three games last season with the Panthers, Weinke completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 625 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions.

Harrison to start Sunday   

Marvin Harrison will start Sunday's game after practicing for a second straight day Friday. Coach Tony Dungy wouldn't commit to how many plays Harrison, who has been out since Oct. 22 with a knee injury, would be in on. "But he'll start the game and we'll see how it goes," Dungy said in the AP.

Kennison ruled out   

Chiefs wide receiver Eddie Kennison (ribs) has been ruled out of Week 17.


Jennings unlikely to play

It appears as though Greg Jennings will not play in Sunday's game against the Lions, according to Friday's Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. He is resting an ankle injury.

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Re: NFL Week 17 News and Notes

Bills safety Donte Whitner to miss finale at Philadelphia
ASSOCIATED PRESS

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Bills starting safety Donte Whitner will miss Buffalo's season finale at Philadelphia on Sunday because of the flu.

Whitner did not travel with the team to Philadelphia, the Bills said Saturday.

This will be the first game Whitner has missed this season. He started the first 15 and was third on the team with 102 tackles.

The Bills (7-8), who have been eliminated from playoff contention. They are trying to finish with at least eight wins for the fourth time this decade. wink

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