Line of Scrimmage: Week 17 - Revisiting Preseason Predictions

Line of Scrimmage: Week 17 - Revisiting Preseason Predictions

Line of Scrimmage: Week 17 - Revisiting Preseason Predictions

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - See, I told you the Falcons were going to be brutal.

It was back on September 1st when I published a column outlining my predictions for the 2007 season, and I had Atlanta at 3-13 and at the bottom of the NFC South.

And, that is pretty much the extent of what I got right about the NFC in 2007.

My other last-place teams in the NFC were Washington, Minnesota, and Seattle. Two of those three are likely to be in the playoffs.

My first-place predictions were Philadelphia, Chicago, New Orleans, and San Francisco. Any of those four going to reach the postseason, Tony Moss of late summer '07? Doesn't look like it, you idiot.

I thought the Cowboys were a playoff team, but I had both the Packers and Buccaneers at 6-10. Both Green Bay and Tampa Bay are division winners - anyone see that coming?

The turned-upside-down nature of this year's NFC underscores, for the umpteenth time, that preseason predictions are basically worthless.

Unfortunately, in keeping with our current climate of narcissistic talking heads screaming loudly in order to get attention, the summer picks seem to be judged with more seriousness and scrutiny each year.

Which is why, when you visit this space just before Labor Day 2008, you'll read some more ultra-confident musings that turn out laughably wrong. And it's also why, in one calendar year from now, I'll be back to dump the mea culpas into your holiday stocking.

Here's some more checks and check-minuses from the preseason...

Hit: Like the rest of the world, I said the Patriots, Colts, and Chargers would be the best three teams in the AFC. San Diego looked a little shaky for a while, and Jacksonville (which I had as my top Wild Card in the AFC) can make a claim to be better than the Bolts, but this prediction has gone pretty much according to plan.

Miss: I had the Browns and Titans both finishing 5-11. Neither is exactly making Super Bowl plans, but one is going to the playoffs. If it's Cleveland, there will not have been a more shocking on-the-field NFL story this season.

Hit: I picked Tom Brady as both my Offensive Player of the Year and League MVP prior to Labor Day. Turns out the Patriots passing game is actually as good as it looked on paper.

Miss: Wait, does San Francisco's Mike Nolan still have a chance to win Coach of the Year honors? In reality, he's lucky the Niners are bringing him back for another year.

Hit: Carolina linebacker Jon Beason was my predicted NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Beason looks like a 10-year-starter in the league, and would be deserving of the above honor.

Miss: You might not believe this, but I was a bit worried about my prediction that the Ravens would be 11-5 and win the AFC North. I figured there was enough talent to at least make a run at the playoffs, however, never considering that this aging team would crumble under the weight of its injuries.

Hit: I listed Shaun Alexander as the first-round fantasy pick you'd regret. Bulls-eye on that one, as Alexander (685 yards, 3 TD) got hurt early and has been a "must bench" non-factor when he has been in the lineup.

Miss: One year after listing Marques Colston in this category, I was feeling good about my selection of Houston rookie receiver Jacoby Jones as the undrafted fantasy player you'd pick up. Jones has 14 catches and has yet to score his first NFL touchdown.

Hit: It didn't take a genius to figure out that the Chiefs, Raiders, and Dolphins were all going to finish with double-digit losses, but I got that one right.

Miss: Really liked both the Broncos and Rams to earn Wild Card berths this year. In Denver's case, I've never seen a Mike Shanahan-coached team play worse. St. Louis' injury mess started when Orlando Pace got hurt in Week 1, and had spiraled out of control by October.

Hit: Though I had the Steelers at 9-7 and out of the playoff money, I did identify Mike Tomlin as my "first-year head coach with a shot." Pittsburgh has faded a bit down the stretch, but Tomlin has done a terrific job of restoring confidence throughout the organization, and the Steelers are likely to win consistently under his tutelage.

Miss: Called Donovan McNabb my Comeback Player of the Year. McNabb hasn't been Daunte Culpepper-in-Miami bad, but he's still had perhaps the worst season of his career for a disappointing non-playoff entity.

Let's take a look at the week that will be in the National Football League:

WEEKLY SEED REPORT


An up-to-date ranking of where teams lie in the playoff race.

AFC 1 - New England (15-0) 2 - Indianapolis (13-2) 3 - San Diego (10-5) 4 - Pittsburgh (10-5) 5 - Jacksonville (11-4) 6 - Cleveland (9-6)

NFC 1 - Dallas (13-2) 2 - Green Bay (12-3) 3 - Seattle (10-5 4 - Tampa Bay (9-6) 5 - N.Y. Giants (10-5) 6 - Washington (8-7)

FANTASY - FIVE TO START

Tom Brady, QB, New England (at N.Y. Giants) - You know he'll throw at least two touchdown passes.

Adrian Peterson, RB, Chicago (vs. New Orleans) - In what could be the final start of his NFL career, he'll run wild on the soft Saints' front seven.

Brandon Jackson, RB, Green Bay (vs. Detroit) - Packers will use him a ton in the second half as they rest Ryan Grant.

Randy Moss, WR, New England (at N.Y. Giants) - Needs one to tie Jerry Rice's single-season TD catch record, two to break it.

Tennessee Defense (at Indianapolis) - You have to like their chances against Jim Sorgi and Kenton Keith.

FANTASY - FIVE TO BENCH

Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis (vs. Tennessee) - This is why most fantasy finals are in Week 16.

Marion Barber III, RB, Dallas (at Washington) - No way the Cowboys will put him in harm's way after he reaches 1,000 yards.

Terry Glenn, WR, Dallas (at Washington) - Yeah, he's back, but Brad Johnson will probably be doing most of the throwing.

Donald Lee, TE, Green Bay (vs. Detroit) - One of a number of Green Bay starters who are unlikely to see a full complement of snaps.

Denver Defense (vs. Minnesota) - Might get a turnover or two off of Tarvaris Jackson, but will have no answer for the Vikings running game.

SUICIDE POOL PIX

1. New England (at N.Y. Giants) - They want 16-0 and they'll get 16-0.

2. Cleveland (vs. San Francisco) - It's actually a relatively meaningless game for the Browns, but they'll come out with fire following last week's disaster.

3. Philadelphia (vs. Buffalo) - Eagles' strong play has come too little, too late, but a .500 mark will be enough incentive for them to remain focused.

THE GAMES

A decent Week 16 for yours truly, as I finished 12-4 straight up and 11-4-1 against the spread. The records are 154-86 (.642) and 107-122-11 (.469) for the year, and all I need is a 16-0 week with the line to finish above .500 for the regular season. Last week would have been a difficult one in Vegas for my soon-to-be 1-year-old daughter, who went just 4-11-1 while walking the line. Her record dropped to 123-106-11 (.535) heading into Week 17, three better than any of The Sports Network's group of 16 "Pigskin Prognosticators."

New England (15-0) at N.Y. Giants (10-5), Saturday, 8:15 (New England -14)

Storylines: New England vying to become the first team to finish 16-0 in the regular season since the NFL expanded its schedule in 1978...Giants are locked into the No. 5 spot in the NFC, and will travel to play Tampa Bay in the opening playoff round...Patriots (551 points) are five points off the league record for single-season scoring, set by the 1998 Minnesota Vikings...New England quarterback Tom Brady (48 touchdown passes) needs one TD pass to tie Peyton Manning for first place on the single-season list in that category, and wideout Randy Moss (21 touchdown receptions) needs one TD catch to tie Jerry Rice on that chart...Giants running back Brandon Jacobs (ankle), who needs 58 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the first time in his career, is expected to play...New York wideout Plaxico Burress needs 59 yards for his fourth career 1,000-yard season...Pats are 6-0 at the Meadowlands since last losing there, to the Jets, in 2001...Brady leads the NFL in passing yards (4450), TD passes (48), and passer rating (117.2), Moss paces the league in touchdowns (21), New England tops the NFL in total offense (412.7 yards per game), passing offense, and scoring offense (36.7 points per game), and has also lost an NFL-low 15 turnovers on the season...Patriots and Buccaneers are tied for the NFL lead in scoring defense (15.9)...Giants lead the league in sacks (52).

Fast Fact: Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is 2-0 head-to-head against the Patriots' Bill Belichick, with both wins coming for his Jaguars against Belichick's Browns in 1995.

Prediction: Patriots will do whatever it takes to get their records and keep 19-0 a possibility. Patriots 35, Giants 13.


Seattle (10-5) at Atlanta (3-12), Sunday, 1:00 (Atlanta -3)

Storylines: NFC West champion Seahawks are locked into the No. 3 seed in the conference, and will host Minnesota, New Orleans, or Washington in the First- Round...Seahawks' starters expected to see limited action...Falcons likely to be playing their final game under interim head coach Emmitt Thomas, who has gone 0-2 since Bobby Petrino resigned to take the head job at Arkansas...Chris Redman likely to make his fourth consecutive start at quarterback for Atlanta, which has lost six in a row...Falcons wideout Roddy White had 12 catches for 141 yards in last week's loss to Arizona, becoming the team's first 1,000-yard receiver since Terance Mathis in 1999...Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney, who recorded 58 sacks as a member of the Falcons between 1999 and 2006, leads the NFL in sacks (14.5), and is vying to become the first Seattle player to lead the league in sacks since Michael Sinclair in 1998...Seattle leads the NFL in fewest passing touchdowns allowed (11)...Seahawks have won four straight over Atlanta.

Fast Fact: Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren has won six straight games against Atlanta since his Green Bay team lost to the Falcons in the 1992 season.

Prediction: Seahawks rarely play well when traveling cross-country as it is, and who knows what starters will see significant time. Falcons 24, Seahawks 20.


New Orleans (7-8) at Chicago (6-9), Sunday, 1:00 (New Orleans -2)

Storylines: Rematch of 2006 NFC Championship, won by the Bears, 39-14...Saints can qualify for the playoffs with a win and losses for both the Redskins (vs. Cowboys) and Vikings (at Broncos)...New Orleans running back Reggie Bush (knee) considered questionable after missing the team's last three games... Bears quarterback Kyle Orton won his first start since 2005 in last week's 35-7 win over the Packers...New Orleans has allowed a league-low 13 sacks on the season...Chicago wideout Bernard Berrian needs 80 receiving yards to go over 1,000 for the first time in his career...Saints' 29 passing touchdowns allowed are tied for the most in the league along with the Lions...Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher has interceptions in three of his last four games, including an 85-yard INT return for a touchdown against the Packers last week...Chicago's Devin Hester has a league-best five returns for touchdowns this season...Bears are last in the league in yards per carry (3.1).

Fast Fact: The Bears' last Soldier Field loss in December against a team that plays its home games exclusively in a dome came on Dec. 26, 1993, against the Detroit Lions.

Prediction: Saints were never that good, and will prove as much by falling in a must-win situation this week. Bears 20, Saints 16.


San Francisco (5-10) at Cleveland (9-6), Sunday, 1:00 (Cleveland -10)


Storylines: Browns will make playoffs for the first time since 2002 with a Titans loss (at Colts) or a Cleveland win and a Titans tie...Cleveland is 6-0 at home since an opening-week loss against Pittsburgh, and can finish with its best home record since the 1957 Browns went 6-0 within friendly confines... Browns quarterback Derek Anderson is 6-0 in home starts this season...San Francisco quarterback Shaun Hill is 2-0 since taking over starting duties... Niners are last in NFL total offense (240.8 yards per game), passing offense (149.8 yards per game), and scoring offense (14.1 points per game)...Wideout Braylon Edwards and tight end Kellen Winslow are the first teammates in Browns history to go over 1,000 receiving yards in the same season...Edwards owns the team single-season record for touchdown receptions with 15...San Francisco rookie inside linebacker Patrick Willis leads the NFL in tackles and was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team...Browns' Joshua Cribbs leads the league in kickoff return average (30.7).

Fast Fact: The 49ers have not ended a regular season with a three-game winning streak since 1992, when they won their final eight games en route to a 14-2 finish.

Prediction: Browns are unlikely to make the playoffs, but will head into the offseason with a flourish. Browns 38, 49ers 7.


Detroit (7-8) at Green Bay (12-3), Sunday, 1:00 (Green Bay -3)

Storylines: Packers are locked into the No. 2 position in the NFC, and will host either the Seahawks, Buccaneers, or Giants in the Divisional Playoff round...Green Bay can finish with its best record since going 13-3 in 1997...Since winning at Lambeau Field in 1991, the Lions are 0-16 in away games against Green Bay...Detroit trying to avoid its seventh consecutive losing season...Lions have allowed an NFL-high 54 sacks on the year...Green Bay running back Ryan Grant needs 101 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season...Lions will be without running back Kevin Jones (knee), who was injured in last week's win over the Chiefs...Packers wideout Greg Jennings needs 80 receiving yards to go over 1,000 for the first time...Lions are last in NFL total defense (376.5 yards per game) and scoring defense (27.3 points per game), and their 29 passing touchdowns allowed are tied for the most in the league along with the Saints...Packers kicker Mason Crosby leads the league in scoring (131 points)...Green Bay was a 37-26 winner at Detroit on Thanksgiving Day.

Fast Fact: The last Lions QB to win a road start against the Packers was Erik Kramer, who completed 14-of-29 passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-17 win at Lambeau Field on Dec. 15, 1991.

Prediction: Under similar circumstances in Dallas last season, the Lions played their best game of the year. Lions 21, Packers 20.


Jacksonville (11-4) at Houston (7-8), Sunday, 1:00 (Houston -6)

Storylines: Jaguars are locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC, and will travel to play either the Steelers or Chargers in the First-Round next week...Texans looking to avoid their sixth losing season in six years of existence... Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor has rushed for better than 100 yards in five consecutive games, his longest personal streak since topping the century mark nine straight times during the 2002 season...Houston quarterback Sage Rosenfels, who is 3-1 in four starts this season, expected to open his fifth game of the year in place of the injured Matt Schaub (shoulder)...Texans defensive end Mario Williams (14 sacks) is a half-sack behind Seattle's Patrick Kerney for the NFL sack lead, and has recorded at least one sack in six consecutive outings...Jacksonville end Bobby McCray has three sacks in his past two games... Jaguars safety Reggie Nelson is tied for first among NFL rookies with five interceptions...Jaguars were 37-17 home winners over Texans in Week 6.

Fast Fact: Jaguars running back Fred Taylor (five consecutive 100-yard games) has been held under 100 rushing yards in eight of 10 career meetings against the Texans.

Prediction: Texans really want 8-8, and Jaguars are already playing for next week. Texans 23, Jaguars 15.


Cincinnati (6-9) at Miami (1-14), Sunday, 1:00 (Cincinnati -3)

Storylines: Dolphins trying to avoid NFL's first 1-15 season since the Panthers recorded the mark in 2001, and also attempting to avoid becoming the first AFC team to finish with one win since San Diego in 2000...Bengals wideout T.J. Houshmandzadeh leads the NFL in receptions (103)...Miami is last in the league in rushing defense (158.6 yards per game)...Bengals QB Carson Palmer needs 185 passing yards to top 4,000 for the second consecutive season...Cincinnati placed running back DeDe Dorsey (ankle), center Eric Ghiaciuc (foot), and safety Madieu Williams (quadriceps) on season-ending injured reserve Wednesday...Cincinnati wideout Chad Johnson needs 124 receiving yards to surpass his previous single-season-best of 1,432 yards... Bengals cornerback Leon Hall is tied for first among NFL rookies with five interceptions...Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter has totaled three sacks in his last two games combined.

Fast Fact: Cincinnati's only win in Miami all-time came in 1968, and the franchise is 0-6 there since.

Prediction: Don't look for the soon-to-be-vacationing Bengals to show up in this one. Dolphins 26, Bengals 22.


Buffalo (7-8) at Philadelphia (7-8), Sunday, 1:00 (Philadelphia -7)

Storylines: Bills trying to avoid first three-year stretch of losing seasons since finishing under .500 four years in a row from 1984-87...Eagles trying to avoid their second losing season in the last three years...With a loss Eagles would be 2-6 at home in 2007, their worst mark since going 1-7 in 1983... Philadelphia running back Brian Westbrook leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage (2005) and first downs (101), and paces all league running backs in receptions (86)...Bills will be without Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters (groin)... Eagles are last in the league in takeaways (19)...Buffalo wide receiver Lee Evans needs 153 yards to become first back-to-back 1,000-yard receiver in Bills history...Philadelphia wide receiver Kevin Curtis went over 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career in last week's road upset of the New Orleans Saints...Buffalo's Roscoe Parrish leads the NFL in punt return average (17.7).

Fast Fact: Buffalo head coach Dick Jauron is 0-4 against both Eagles and head coach Andy Reid, with all of those games dating back to Jauron's tenure with the Bears (1999-2003).

Prediction: Eagles haven't played great at home this year, but they'll do enough to take down the young Bills. Eagles 16, Bills 13.

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Re: Line of Scrimmage: Week 17 - Revisiting Preseason Predictions

Carolina (6-9) at Tampa Bay (9-6), Sunday, 1:00 (Carolina -3)

Storylines: NFC South champion Buccaneers are locked into the No. 4 position in the conference, and will host the Giants in the First-Round next week... Carolina trying to avoid its first double-digit-loss season since John Fox took over in 2002...Panthers end Julius Peppers (knee) was placed on season- ending injured reserve Wednesday...Tampa Bay running back Earnest Graham needs 102 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season...Rookie Matt Moore expected to make his third consecutive start at QB for Carolina...Panthers wideout Steve Smith needs 46 receiving yards to go over 1,000 for the fourth time in the past five years...Buccaneers have thrown a league-low seven interceptions on the year...Tampa Bay is tied for the NFL lead in scoring defense (15.9 points per game) along with New England...Panthers are tied for last in the league in rushing touchdowns (5), along with the Rams...Carolina is last in the NFL in sacks (19)...Buccaneers were 20-7 winners at Panthers in Week 4.

Fast Fact: The Panthers are 4-0 in road games against the Buccaneers since last losing there in 2002.

Prediction: Bucs didn't play to win last week, and won't do so on Sunday either. Panthers 14, Buccaneers 10.


Dallas (13-2) at Washington (8-7), Sunday, 4:15 (Washington -9)

Storylines: With a win, Redskins will earn the second of two Wild Card berths in the NFC and travel to Seattle for the opening playoff round...Washington can also earn bid at 8-8 with losses for both Minnesota (at Denver) and New Orleans (at Chicago)...Cowboys can record best mark in 38-year team history with a win...Dallas wide receiver Terrell Owens (ankle) will not play, but veteran wideout Terry Glenn (knee) expected to make his first appearance of the season...Dallas center Andre Gurode (knee) and safety Pat Watkins (ankle) not expected to play...Todd Collins (2-0 as a starter) will make his first home start for the Redskins...Cowboys running back Marion Barber III needs 19 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the first time in his career...Washington rusher Clinton Portis needs 142 rushing yards to go over 1,300 for the fifth time in his career...Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs has three interceptions in his last three games...Dallas was a 28-23 home winner over Washington in Week 10.

Fast Fact: The Redskins and Cowboys have met seven times in a regular season finale, and the home team has won six of those matchups.

Prediction: Cowboys would be foolish to play to win against a physical Redskins team, and they know it. Redskins 20, Cowboys 7.


Pittsburgh (10-5) at Baltimore (4-11), Sunday, 4:15 (Pittsburgh -3)

Storylines: AFC North Champion Steelers will earn No. 3 seed in conference with a win and a loss for the Chargers at Oakland...With a Pittsburgh loss or San Diego win, Steelers will host Jacksonville in the opening playoff round...Ravens currently riding a franchise-worst nine-game losing streak, the longest current skid in the league...Steelers will play their first game without running back Willie Parker (broken fibula), who was injured against the Rams last Thursday...Pittsburgh re-signed running back Verron Haynes on Tuesday...Steelers left tackle Marvel Smith (back) will not play Sunday and could miss the postseason as well...Rookie quarterback Troy Smith expected to make second consecutive start for Ravens...Steelers lead the NFL in total defense (261.9 yards per game) and rushing touchdowns allowed (4)...Ravens are last in the league in turnovers (39), lost fumbles (25), lost fumbles forced (5) and turnover margin (-19)...Steelers were 38-7 home winners against Baltimore in Week 9.

Fast Fact: The Steelers are 0-4 in Baltimore since last winning there in 2002, and have lost those games by an average margin of 12.5 points each.

Prediction: Steelers need some positive momentum before they reach the postseason, and are lucky to be playing the Ravens and their rookie QB. Steelers 24, Ravens 3.


St. Louis (3-12) at Arizona (7-8), Sunday, 4:15 (Arizona -6)

Storylines: Cardinals trying to avoid a ninth consecutive losing season, Rams seeking to sidestep worst mark since finishing 3-13 as the Los Angeles Rams in 1991...St. Louis takes the field for the first time since a 41-24 loss to Pittsburgh last Thursday night, a game in which head coach Scott Linehan and wide receiver Torry Holt engaged in a heated sideline confrontation...Rams have thrown a league-worst 25 interceptions on the year...St. Louis is tied for last in the NFL in rushing touchdowns (5), along with Carolina...Rams running back Steven Jackson needs 53 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the third consecutive year...Arizona's Darnell Dockett leads all NFL defensive tackles with eight sacks on the season...Cardinals were 34-31 winners at St. Louis in Week 5...Holt has a touchdown catch in his last five games against the Cardinals, while Arizona wideout Larry Fitzgerald has a TD grab in each of his last four outings versus St. Louis.

Fast Fact: The Rams are 4-1 in their last five trips to Arizona, and the road team has won the last five games in the series overall.

Prediction: Rams can't wait to get this nightmare season over with, while Cardinals can boast measurable progress with a win. Cardinals 33, Rams 14.


Minnesota (8-7) at Denver (6-9), Sunday, 4:15 (Minnesota -3)

Storylines: Vikings will earn second of two NFC Wild Card berths and a trip to Seattle in the opening playoff round with a win and a loss or tie for the Redskins (vs. Cowboys)...Minnesota had a five-game win streak snapped in Sunday's 32-21 loss to the Washington Redskins, losing control of its playoff destiny in the process...Loss would make Broncos match their worst record since finishing 5-11 in 1990...Broncos last went 6-10 in 1999...Denver has totaled 16 points in back-to-back losses to the Texans and Chargers since a 41-7 thrashing of the Chiefs on Dec. 9...Vikings lead the NFL in rushing offense (164.1 yards per game), rushing touchdowns (22), and yards per carry (5.3)...Vikes rusher Adrian Peterson leads the league in ground yards per game (100.4)...Minnesota is No. 1 in the league in rushing defense (70.5 yards per game)... Vikings are last in the league in passing defense (266.1 yards per game), but have an NFL-best six interception returns for touchdowns this season.

Fast Fact: The Vikings are 3-2 in Denver all-time, but have never played there later than Nov. 18th.

Prediction: It's a good matchup for the Vikings, who should run all over the Broncos and make enough big plays defensively. Vikings 25, Broncos 20.


San Diego (10-5) at Oakland (4-11), Sunday, 4:15 (San Diego -8)


Storylines: With a win or Steelers loss at Baltimore, AFC West champion Chargers will earn No. 3 seed and an opening-round date with either the Browns or Titans...Rookie Raiders quarterback and No. 1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell expected to make his first NFL start...Raiders have lost eight straight to the Chargers since last beating them in 2003...Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson (1418 rushing yards) is 103 yards ahead of his healthiest competitor for the NFL rushing crown, and is on the verge of becoming the league's first back-to-back rushing champion since Edgerrin James in 1999-2000...Tomlinson also leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns (15)... Chargers tight end Antonio Gates is 78 receiving yards shy of his second career 1,000-yard season...San Diego cornerback Antonio Cromartie leads the NFL in interceptions (10), and Chargers top the league in takeaways (44), interceptions (29), and turnover margin (+21)...Raiders are last in the NFL in rushing touchdowns allowed (24) and yards per carry allowed (4.9)...Chargers were 28-14 winners at Oakland in Week 6.

Fast Fact: The Chargers' eight-game winning streak over the Raiders is the longest period of dominance in the series since Oakland finished out a 16-0-2 stretch against San Diego by winning 10 straight between 1972 and 1977.

Prediction: Just not enough to suggest that Russell can get it done against a tough Chargers defense. Chargers 19, Raiders 10.


Kansas City (4-11) at N.Y. Jets (3-12), Sunday, 4:15 (N.Y. Jets -6)


Storylines: Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards makes return to the Meadowlands to face the Jets team he guided from 2001 through 2005...Kansas City has lost eight in a row, the second-longest current skid in the NFL, and with another loss will match the longest losing streak in franchise history (9 in 1987)... Loss would give Jets their worst mark since finishing 1-15 under Rich Kotite in 1996...Chad Pennington expected to make second consecutive start at quarterback for Jets...Kansas City's Brodie Croyle (hand) regarded as questionable for Sunday...Chiefs are last in NFL rushing offense (79.7 yards per game), and will be without running back Larry Johnson (foot) again on Sunday...Kansas City rookie wideout Dwayne Bowe needs 18 receiving yards to go over 1,000 for the season...Former Jets cornerback Ty Law makes his return to the Meadowlands along with Edwards...New York's Leon Washington leads the NFL in kickoff returns for touchdowns (3).

Fast Fact: Since going 7-2 (.778) on the road in his first season as a head coach (2001), the Chiefs' Herm Edwards is 16-35 (.314) in away games since.

Prediction: Kansas City will play hard in its head coach's return to the old stomping ground, but won't have enough offensive punch to produce the win. Jets 20, Chiefs 17.


Tennessee (9-6) at Indianapolis (13-2), Sunday, 8:15 (Tennessee -6)

Storylines: With a win, Titans will earn No. 6 playoff seed in the AFC and an opening-round trip to either San Diego or Pittsburgh...With a Tennessee loss, Cleveland will win the No. 6 seed...AFC South Champion Colts are locked into No. 2 position in the conference, and will host either San Diego, Pittsburgh, or Jacksonville in the Divisional Round...Colts' starters are expected to see limited time on Sunday night...Tennessee last reached the playoffs in 2002...Indianapolis attempting to go 14-2 for the second time in the last three years...Colts wideout Reggie Wayne leads the NFL in receiving yards (1423)...Titans have thrown a league-low nine touchdown passes on the season...Colts are No. 1 in the league against the pass (167.1 yards per game)...Indianapolis has lost a league-low four fumbles on the year... Indianapolis has allowed a league-worst four touchdowns off of punt or kickoff returns this season...Colts were 22-20 winners at Tennessee in Week 2.

Fast Fact: The Titans are 0-4 in Indianapolis since last winning there in 2002, and have lost by an average margin of 21.5 points in those games.

Prediction: Sorry, Cleveland fans, the Colts don't care a heck of a lot about your playoff fate. Titans 28, Colts 10.

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