NFL : Sunday

NFL : Sunday

Game Preview for Saints vs Bears

(Sports Network) - The odds are against the New Orleans Saints and their quest for a second straight playoff appearance when they pay a visit to the Chicago Bears this Sunday afternoon at Soldier Field.

The Saints have dropped four of the last seven games and had their postseason chances put in jeopardy with last Sunday's 38-23 setback to the Philadelphia Eagles at the Superdome. In order for New Orleans to make it back to the playoffs for a second straight year, it must defeat Chicago and hope that both Washington and Minnesota lose on Sunday.

New Orleans will have to take care of business first in a venue where its Super Bowl hopes were dashed a year ago. The Saints suffered a 39-14 loss last January in their first-ever NFC championship game, although quarterback Drew Brees did all he could with 354 passing yards with a pair of touchdown passes along with an interception.

Brees is the leader of one of the most potent offenses in the league, but his club's 7-8 record doesn't show for it. Head coach Sean Payton will need Brees to have his best game of the season despite needing help from other teams. Not only is Payton's heart dedicated to New Orleans, it will also reserve a space for Dallas and Denver, who will be playing the Redskins and Vikings, respectively, on Sunday.

Payton has guided his team to seven wins in 11 games after a disastrous 0-4 start to the season. If the Saints can miraculously reach the postseason, it would mark the first time they advanced to the playoffs in consecutive years since the 1991 and 1992 seasons.

Chicago couldn't finish its tumultuous 2007 season any sooner. The Bears are just one year removed from their second Super Bowl appearance and have been plagued by more quarterback controversies and a lack of a running game this season. Rex Grossman battled through another rough campaign under center and was eventually benched in favor of Brian Griese and later Kyle Orton.

Grossman may be wearing a Chicago uniform for the final time on Sunday, with rumors circulating that he will be traded or even released during the offseason. Not all the blame goes to Grossman, however, as injured running back Cedric Benson can fairly be labeled a bust so far during his short stint in the NFL.

The Bears can make the season a little better to cope with if they can knock the Saints out of the playoff picture for a second straight year.

SERIES HISTORY

The regular-season series between the Bears and Saints is knotted at 11-11, with Chicago evening the series by virtue of a 20-17 victory in Baton Rouge in Week 9 of 2005. New Orleans had won the previous three games in the series, including a 20-13 home triumph in 2003, a 29-23 victory in the Bears' temporary home of Champaign in 2002, and a 31-10 triumph at Soldier Field in 2000. Chicago last earned a Soldier Field regular-season win over the Saints in 1999.

The teams have also met twice in the postseason, with the first resulting in a 16-6 Chicago win in a 1990 NFC First-Round Playoff, and the second a 39-14 Bears' blowout in last year's NFC Championship. Both games were played at Soldier Field.

Bears head coach Lovie Smith is 2-0 all-time against New Orleans. Payton is 0-1 against both Smith and the Bears as a head coach.

Payton was raised in Naperville, IL, played college ball at Eastern Illinois University and was a replacement player quarterback for the Bears in 1987. He also played for the Chicago Bruisers of the Arena Football League and was quarterbacks coach at the University of Illinois in 1996.

WHEN THE SAINTS HAVE THE BALL

Brees (4,108 passing yards, 25 TD, 16 INT) is coming off a rough performance against the Eagles in which he passed for 289 yards with an interception for a 75.1 rating. He was only sacked once, but the timing with his receivers was far off. In three games before playing Philadelphia, Brees had seven touchdown passes and no interceptions. He did, however, top the 4,000-yard passing mark for the second straight year. Brees has rebounded in a big way since the Saints' four-game losing streak to start the season, as he had just one touchdown pass and nine interceptions over that span. Since then Brees has thrown 24 touchdown strikes with seven picks. He needs just 11 more completions to break the NFL single-season record of 418 accomplished by former Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon in 2002. Brees also needs to burn Chicagos defensive backfield for 311 passing yards to break his own team record of 4,418 yards, established last season

Catching passes from Brees consistently for a second straight season is wideout Marques Colston (90 receptions, 1,108 yards, 9 TD). Colston was shut down against the Eagles, however, hauling in just three passes for 16 yards. In the two games before Sundays loss, he had three touchdown grabs and was coming off an eight-catch, 114-yard showing with a score against Arizona. He needs five more catches on Sunday to break the team season record of 94 receptions set by current Atlanta Falcon Joe Horn in both 2000 and 2004. David Patten (50 receptions, 3 TD) led the Saints with 55 yards on six catches last weekend and has been a big surprise in his first season with New Orleans. The veteran wideout has 248 yards and two scores over his last three games. Tight Billy Miller (24 receptions, 2 TD) has seen more action over the past two weeks and is a clutch receiver in pressure situations. Miller has 77 yards on six receptions over the previous two games and filled in nicely for injured starter Eric Johnson (44 receptions, 2 TD). Johnson has missed the last two contests with a nagging groin problem.

Saints multi-purpose back Reggie Bush (581 rushing yards, 4 TD) has been sidelined the last three weeks because of a knee injury. He has been rehabilitating a partial tear of his posterior crucial ligament and hasn't played since a December 2 loss to Tampa Bay. Bush is listed as questionable for Sunday's game but didn't practice during the early part of this week. He is also a threat catching passes out of the backfield, ranking second on the team with 73 receptions for 417 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Bush's backup Aaron Stecker (444 rushing yards, 5 TD) has been great for Payton, having carried the ball 55 times for 244 yards and four touchdowns in three games as a starter. Stecker, though, also missed practice time this week with turf toe and is also questionable for this pivotal game in the Windy City. If both Bush and Stecker are unable to play against Chicago, newly-signed running backs Artose Pinner and Chris Barclay will get a shot on Sunday. Both backs were brought in on Wednesday.

Chicago is coming off an impressive win over the NFC North-champion Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field last Sunday. The Bears held Brett Favre and company to 149 net passing yards, with defensive end Alex Brown (37 tackles, 3 1/2 sacks, INT) and linebacker Brian Urlacher (112 tackles, 5.0 sacks, 4 INTs) recording interceptions. Urlacher returned his pick 85 yards for a touchdown. Favre passed for just nine yards in the first half and 153 overall. If the Bears can play that way again in front of their fans to close out the season, Brees and the Saints will have a tough time coming out on top. Urlacher and linebacker Lance Briggs (95 tackles, 2 sacks) can shut the down the run and cover the pass like no other duo in the NFL. With New Orleans running backs Bush and Stecker nursing injuries, Chicago should have no problem defending the run on Sunday.

Veteran cornerback Charles Tillman (73 tackles, 2 INTs) leads a Chicago secondary ranked 24th against the pass, while defensive end Adewale Ogunleye (56 tackles, 9 sacks) anchors a tough front four. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris (32 tackles, 7 sacks) is second on the team in sacks and uses his 300- pound frame to push the pocket back. The Bears are 24th against the run this season and allowed Packers running back Ryan Grant to gain 100 yards on 14 carries, most of that total coming on a 66-yard touchdown sprint. Chicago will be without defensive end Mark Anderson (31 tackles, 5 sacks) after he was placed on injured reserve with a knee problem. Anderson missed the Green Bay game and will now have a full offseason to recover before training camp. Meanwhile, Briggs hopes to return after missing Sundays win with a hip injury.

WHEN THE BEARS HAVE THE BALL

Orton (285 passing yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) will make his third start in Sundays season finale and will face former college teammate Brees. Orton took over the starting job at Purdue after Brees was drafted by San Diego in 2001. In his first two starts this season, Orton has thrown for 285 yards with a touchdown and an interception for a 71.4 quarterback rating. He doesn't have the strongest arm on the team, but is very efficient in protecting and distributing the football for Chicago's 15th-ranked passing offense. Against the Packers, Orton passed for 101 yards and had a three-yard touchdown strike to tight end Desmond Clark (44 receptions, 4 TD). Clark has two touchdown receptions over his last four games, while wideout Bernard Berrian (67 receptions, 4 TD) hasn't reached the end zone in two games. Berrian is Chicago's leading receiver and best downfield threat. He hasn't thrived with Orton under center, however, recording just 37 yards on three catches in the quarterback's two starts. Veteran wideout Mushin Muhammad (37 receptions, 3 TD) did not play last Sunday due to an ankle injury and hasn't scored since a Week 7 win at Philadelphia. Rookie tight end Greg Olsen (37 receptions, 2 TD) had just one catch for 10 yards versus Green Bay and his last touchdown came during a Week 8 loss to Detroit. Olsen is already an excellent blocker and will be nice weapon for next season.

Chicago is only 31st in rushing this season thanks to the inept play of Benson (674 rushing yards, 4 TD) before he went down with a season-ending injury in November. Adrian Peterson (419 rushing yards, 3 TD) has filled in nicely under the spotlight, and the former Walter Payton Award winner had a huge game against Green Bay. After two mediocre performances against Washington and Minnesota, Peterson torched the Packers for 102 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 30 carries. The Bears like what they see in Peterson and will surely use the same approach this week against the Saints' 14th-rated run defense.

New Orleans is 30th overall against the pass, allowing 249.7 yards per game. Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb passed for 263 yards and three scores with no interceptions in last Sunday's rout at the Superdome. The Saints were burnt on many occasions and lost cornerback Mike McKenzie for the rest of the season because of a knee injury. McKenzie tried to recover a McNabb fumble near the goal line, but was unable to secure the football and injured his knee on the play, in which Philly wideout Kevin Curtis recovered the loose ball in the end zone for a score. Safety Roman Harper (85 tackles, 2 sacks, 3 INT) has an interception in three of the past five games and will be looking for another against the inexperienced Orton. New Orleans has two of the top defensive ends in the NFL in Will Smith (63 tackles, 7 sacks) and Charles Grant (46 tackles, 2.5 sacks). Smith owns an impressive 13 1/2 sacks over the past 22 games and posted one against the Eagles. Grant also took down McNabb and needs one more to move into the Saints' all-time top 10 list, joining such stars as Pat Swilling.

There is no doubt the New Orleans defense will be intense and hungry for a win on Sunday. It just has to fight the elements and block out the noise from the Soldier Field faithful.

FANTASY FOCUS

The Saints win the fantasy point battle this week with Brees, Colston and Bush and Stecker. The two running backs may miss the game, but each will do damage to Chicago if they are healthy enough to go. Stecker has emerged on the scene with Bush sidelined with a knee problem. When the run game is going for the Saints, it opens the offense for Brees to pick apart the defense. And Colston is Brees' main target when New Orleans' third-ranked passing attack is clicking on all cylinders. With Chicagos poor pass coverage, it's an easy decision to start the Saints' two weapons. Chicago has Peterson and Berrian as its two top fantasy scorers. Peterson is coming off a huge day against a tough Green Bay squad, while Berrian is due for a score this weekend. If you're desperate for a tight end, it wouldn't hurt to use Clark, since it seems that Orton likes to go to the veteran on many occasions.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Saints know they have to win and get help in order to capture the final NFC wild card berth. But it won't happen on Sunday, because the Bears are playing better football right now and will be delighted to knock Payton's Saints out of the postseason for a second consecutive year. Orton will outduel his former Boilermaker teammate in Brees on Sunday, while Peterson will cap off the season with another great performance. It also doesn't help New Orleans that Chicago has nothing to lose and the game will be played in front of a hostile Soldier Field crowd. It also doesn't look good if both Bush and Stecker miss the game, which would Brees to win the game by his right arm alone. The Bears have had a rough 2007 season and will be glad to put it behind them after Sunday's game. They have a lot of work to do for the 2008 campaign, as do the Saints. New Orleans made a triumphant comeback from an 0-4 start, but will close out its season on familiar grounds.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bears 27, Saints 17

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Saints aint making playoffs, finish up vs. Bears

It's a rematch of last year's NFC title game, but neither the Saints nor the Bears are headed back to the game in 2007. The Bears come off an upset win, while the Saints come off an upset loss as a disappointing season closes out for each team. Of note, the Saints are 5-2-1 ATS since 1996 vs. the Bears.

Oddsmakers currently have the Saints listed as 1½-point favorites versus the Bears, while the game's total has not yet been posted.

The Saints lost to Philadelphia 38-23 as a 3-point favorite in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (48).

Drew Brees completed 30-of-45 passes for 289 yards with an interception for New Orleans and Aaron Stecker rushed for 49 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 13 carries.

The Bears defeated Green Bay 35-7 as a 7.5-point underdog in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (31.5).

Adrian Peterson rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries for Chicago, while Brian Urlacher returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown.


Team records:
New Orleans: 7-8 SU, 6-9 ATS
Chicago: 6-9 SU, 6-9 ATS


New Orleans most recently:
When playing in December are 5-5
When playing on grass are 5-5
After being outgained are 7-3
When playing outside the division are 4-6

Chicago most recently:
When playing in December are 6-4
When playing on grass are 5-5
After being outgained are 5-5
When playing outside the division are 4-6


A few trends to consider:
New Orleans is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games on the road
New Orleans is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games on the road
The total has gone OVER in 4 of New Orleans's last 5 games
The total has gone OVER in 4 of New Orleans's last 5 games when playing Chicago
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Chicago's last 5 games when playing New Orleans
The total has gone OVER in 14 of Chicago's last 19 games at home
Chicago is 17-8 SU in its last 25 games at home
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Chicago's last 6 games

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Game Preview for Panthers vs Buccaneers

(Sports Network) - Clearly, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't too concerned about what their record looks like entering next week's playoffs.

That's good news for the Carolina Panthers, who can finish off an otherwise disappointing season on a strong note when they visit Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.

One week after clinching the NFC South title in a 37-3 drubbing of the Atlanta Falcons, the Buccaneers did not quite go all out to beat the San Francisco 49ers last week. Head coach Jon Gruden removed starting quarterback Jeff Garcia and a number of other starters in the second half, a situation that would seem to have contributed to the struggling 49ers pulling out a 21-19 victory.

Given last week's approach, and the fact that Tampa Bay is locked into the No. 4 spot in the NFC and a First-Round matchup against the physical New York Giants next week, it does not seem likely that the Buccaneers would offer the Panthers their "A" game.

The only incentives for the Buccaneers to win this week would be to complete a sweep of the NFC South (Tampa Bay won home-and-homes against both the Falcons and Saints), and to avoid what would be a third loss in four games entering the playoffs.

Carolina, meanwhile, faces no such quandary.

The Panthers saw their slight playoff hopes officially disappear in last Saturday's 20-13 home loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the seventh defeat in the last nine games for John Fox's crew.

A loss this week would give the Panthers their worst record since Fox took over the team in 2002, and would also hand the organization its most dismal mark since Carolina finished 1-15 under George Seifert in 2001.

SERIES HISTORY

Carolina has an 8-6 lead in its all time series with Tampa Bay, but was a 20-7 home loser when it hosted the Bucs back in Week 4. The Panthers engineered a home-and-home sweep of the Buccaneers last season, including a 26-24 win at Raymond James Stadium in Week 3. That game was best remembered for the ruptured spleen suffered by Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms. Tampa Bay, which is just 2-7 against Carolina since 2003, is 0-4 in home games played in the series since last beating the Panthers in Tampa in 2002.

Gruden is 5-7 in his career against the Panthers, including a win for his Raiders in the 2000 season, while Carolina's Fox is 7-4 versus both the Buccaneers and Gruden as a head coach.

WHEN THE PANTHERS HAVE THE BALL

Carolina's revolving door at the quarterback position will finally come to a stop after Sunday's game, but not before rookie Matt Moore (556 passing yards, 1 TD, 4 INT) makes his third start under center for the Panthers. Moore is one of an NFL-record four quarterbacks (Jake Delhomme, David Carr, Vinny Testaverde) to open games for the team this year, and has gone 1-1 in a pair of starts. Moore threw for 182 yards and tossed his first pro touchdown on an 11-yard pass to Steve Smith (82 receptions, 7 TD) in the second quarter of last week's loss to the Cowboys. The play marked the first TD for the former Pro Bowler Smith, who ended with nine catches for 137 yards, since Week 6. Smith needs 46 receiving yards to go over 1,000 for the fourth time in the past five years. The Panther running game has never truly taken hold in 2007, thanks in large part to opposing defenses' lack of fear in regard to Carolina's passing attack. Running backs DeShaun Foster (830 rushing yards, 24 receptions, 4 TD) and DeAngelo Williams (596 rushing yards, 23 receptions, 3 TD) have both had their moments this year, but Carolina ranks just 17th in NFL rushing offense (109.6 yards per game), and is tied for last in the league in rushing touchdowns (5), along with the Rams.

Tampa Bay is tied for the NFL lead in scoring defense (15.9 points per game) along with New England as Week 17 begins, though that statistic won't have a great deal of meaning if the Buccaneers play a number of backups, as expected. Though the Bucs might play second-stringers on that side of the ball, not every member of that group will be of the no-name variety. Former Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter (5 tackles) was active for just the second time all year last week, and was credited with four tackles in the loss to the 49ers. Up front, defensive tackle Ryan Sims (11 tackles, 1 sack), a former first-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, played extensively and posted two tackles and a sack. End Jovan Haye (65 tackles) notched his sixth sack in the win, and former starting cornerback Brian Kelly (18 tackles) logged his second interception of the season.

WHEN THE BUCCANEERS HAVE THE BALL

Buccaneers QB Luke McCown (773 passing yards, 3 TD, 2 INT) couldn't maintain the 13-7 halftime lead that Garcia (2440 passing yards, 13 TD, 4 INT) had built for him last week, completing 18-of-32 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown but also coughing up a pair of key turnovers in the loss. With wideouts Joey Galloway (57 receptions, 6 TD) and Ike Hilliard (62 receptions, 1 TD) both spending much of their time on the bench last Sunday, McCown threw often to former starter Michael Clayton (17 receptions) and tight end Alex Smith (31 receptions, 3 TD), who combined for 11 catches and 150 yards, and tight end Jerramy Stevens (14 receptions, 3 TD), who scored both of the Bucs' TDs on the day. After the Buccaneers limited him to nine carries totaling 21 yards in San Francisco last Sunday, it does not appear that running back Earnest Graham (898 rushing yards, 10 TD, 49 receptions) will get the 102 yards he needs to reach 1,000 for the season this week. Veteran Michael Pittman (274 rushing yards, 25 receptions), who had 12 total touches for 70 yards last Sunday, figures to garner a number of attempts in Graham's place, and ex-Chief Michael Bennett (150 rushing yards, 1 TD) is likely to receive a significant opportunity as well.

A battered Carolina defense received more bad news this week, when it was forced to place defensive end Julius Peppers (38 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT) on season-ending injured reserve with a knee injury. Peppers had a disappointing 2007 season for a Panthers defense that ranks last in the NFL in sacks (19) as Week 17 commences. Carolina did not have a sack of Dallas' Tony Romo last Sunday, though linebacker Thomas Davis (84 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 INT) did manage an interception of Romo to go along with seven tackles and a forced fumble. The Panthers are a disappointing 18th in the league against the run (110.9 yards per game) despite the presence of a pair of talented front seven members in linebacker Jon Beason (130 tackles, 1 INT) and tackle Kris Jenkins (38 tackles, 2.5 sacks). Beason had a game-high 12 tackles against the Cowboys last Saturday, but Dallas managed 148 ground yards on the day. Cornerback Richard Marshall (80 tackles, 2 INT) led the secondary with 11 stops.

FANTASY FOCUS

It is difficult to imagine the few fantasy managers who will be engaging in Week 17 championship games paying much attention to this contest.

Any would-be fantasy plays on the Tampa Bay roster are too big of a risk given the Buccaneers' likely approach to personnel in this one, and Carolina has been far too inconsistent offensively to warrant any starters.

If there is one guy worth using in this game, it is probably Panthers wideout Smith, who has 1,000 yards in his sights and figures to see a decent amount of touches.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Buccaneers claim to be playing to win this game, though that statement is a bit misleading. Yes, the players on the field wearing Tampa Bay uniforms will be trying their best to perform well and beat the Panthers, it's just that they won't necessarily be the team's highest-quality players. Due to injury, Carolina is playing a lot of backups too, which is why this game figures to be close no matter who sees the field for the Bucs. But the Panthers will have more "number ones" in the lineup throughout, which is why they should be able to finish their campaign up with a victory.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Panthers 14, Buccaneers 10

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Bucs tune up for playoffs with date vs. Carolina

Tampa Bay heads to the playoffs with fresh losses to the 49ers and Texans on their resume. They won't want to add a loss to 6-9 Carolina to the list, but recent history suggests a roady victory. The road team has won five of the past six meetings between these NFC South foes.

Oddsmakers currently have the Panthers listed as 3-point favorites versus the Buccaneers, while the game's total is sitting at 36.

The Panthers were knocked down 20-13 by the Cowboys last time out, as 11-point home underdogs. The 33 points were UNDER the posted total of 42.5.

Steve Smith caught nine passes for 137 yards with the only touchdown in the loss.

The Buccaneers lost to San Francisco 21-19 as a 6.5-point favorite in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under (36.5).

Jeff Garcia completed 12-of-20 passes for 196 yards with a touchdown for Tampa Bay and Jerramy Stevens caught four passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns.


Team records:
Carolina: 6-9 SU, 7-8 ATS
Tampa Bay: 9-6 SU, 9-6 ATS


Carolina most recently:
When playing in December are 4-6
When playing on grass are 3-7
After being outgained are 5-5
When playing within the division are 7-3

Tampa Bay most recently:
When playing in December are 4-6
When playing on grass are 7-3
After outgaining opponent are 5-5
When playing within the division are 5-5


A few trends to consider:
Carolina is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Tampa Bay
Carolina is 7-2 SU in its last 9 games when playing Tampa Bay
The total has gone UNDER in 9 of Carolina's last 12 games
The total has gone UNDER in 10 of Carolina's last 14 games when playing Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games at home
Tampa Bay is 6-1 ATS in its last 7 games at home
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Tampa Bay's last 6 games
Tampa Bay is 5-2 SU in its last 7 games

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Game Preview for Seahawks vs Falcons

(Sports Network) - And this week's winner in the "Boy, you'd sure hate to play them in the playoffs" sweepstakes...the Seattle Seahawks.

Coach Mike Holmgren's team heads into Week 17 with the lion's share of NFC momentum, having won six of seven games to both clinch the conference's West Division title and the No. 3 seed in the upcoming six-team pre-Super Bowl free-for-all.

The latter status means Seattle will host a game next week against whichever of the three still-breathing teams ends up in the January mix, be it Minnesota, New Orleans or Washington.

The Seahawks sharpened their talons on the Baltimore Ravens last week, getting an efficient 199 yards through the air from Matt Hasselbeck and a respectable 73 on the ground from Shaun Alexander en route to a 27-6 victory that improved them to 10-5 overall.

Wide receiver Bobby Engram caught five balls for 69 yards, reaching 90 catches for the season to eclipse Darrell Jackson's single-season franchise record.

Seattle has lost just once since the season's midway point, which found them at a disappointing 4-4 following an overtime loss at Cleveland in early November.

Consecutive wins over San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Arizona followed, interrupted only by a 13-10 stumble in Carolina on Dec. 16.

"I thought our rhythm and tempo was good," said Hasselbeck, after the defeat of the Ravens, in which he reached a career-best 27 passing touchdowns on the season. "It felt like we controlled the tempo on offense. Each game we have to keep improving but it's great that we get to host a playoff game."

Meanwhile, in Atlanta...the end can't come soon enough.

The Falcons have lost six straight games since a brief two-game win streak in mid-November, piling additional misery onto a season that began with the legal problems of quarterback Michael Vick and has since included the sudden departure of coach Bobby Petrino and an 11th-hour change of heart from Bill Parcells, who'd reportedly been on the verge of signing a deal to join the team's front office.

Injuries have also played a role as of late, leaving nine players listed as "questionable" for the Seattle game.

SERIES HISTORY

Seattle holds a 8-2 lead in its all-time series with Atlanta, and has won four straight against the Falcons dating back to 2000, including a 21-18 home triumph in Week 2 of the 2005 season. The Hawks also won in their last two trips to the Georgia Dome, including a 30-24 overtime triumph in 2002. Atlanta's most recent win in the series came in Seattle during the 1997 season, and their only home victory against the Seahawks came in 1991 at Fulton County Stadium.

Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren is 6-1 against Atlanta in his career, including a win for his Packers over the Falcons in a 1995 NFC First-Round Playoff. Holmgren has won six straight against Atlanta since his Green Bay team lost to the Falcons in the 1992 season. Falcons interim man Emmitt Thomas will be meeting both Holmgren and the Seahawks for the first time as a head coach.

WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL

Hasselbeck was selected to the Pro Bowl based largely on those 27 scoring passes, which are good for second in the conference. He is 3-0 lifetime against Atlanta, throwing for five touchdowns and a 111.2 passer rating. Alexander has averaged 117 yards against the Falcons in three games and comes in one rushing touchdown away from 100 for his career. Veteran wideout Deion Branch has a scoring reception in three of his last five games and had eight catches for 107 yards in his only meeting with Atlanta, while he was with New England in 2005.

The Falcons have surrendered 345.8 yards per game this season, though their turnover ratio is a respectable plus-1. Defensive end John Abraham leads the team with eight sacks, and outspoken defensive back DeAngelo Hall has five interceptions. Linebacker Keith Brooking had a sack in the team's last meeting.

WHEN THE FALCONS HAVE THE BALL

Journeyman Chris Redman has called the signals as of late for Atlanta, which has also featured Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich under center in Vick's absence. Redman has completed 72-of-122 passes for 828 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions, and has at least two TD passes in three of four games. Wideout Roddy White is third in the conference with a career-high 1,140 receiving yards, and had 12 catches for 141 yards in last week's overtime loss at Arizona. Veteran Warrick Dunn has struggled carrying the ball this year, posting 648 yards on 216 attempts - a 3.0-yard average. He is, however, one of only three backs in NFL history to reach 10,000 yards at 5-foot-9 or less.

Ex-Falcon standout Patrick Kerney has resurfaced in Seattle and leads the league with 14.5 sacks. He was a first-round pick of Atlanta in 1999 and played there through 2006. Cornerback Marcus Trufant is tied for first in the NFC with seven interceptions, and will join Hasselbeck, Kerney, linebackers Julian Peterson and Lofa Tatupu and offensive tackle Walter Jones in the Pro Bowl. Peterson has 19.5 sacks in his last 31 games.

FANTASY FOCUS

The Seahawks have several numbers-worthy players, but will probably be conservative in their use this week in a meaningless game. Expect Alexander to at least aim for the milestone touchdown as a way to close out a less-than- scintillating regular season. For the Falcons, White is the lone player who warrants much attention.

OVERALL ANALYSIS


If all players were likely to play four quarters, a blowout would be an easy call for the Seahawks. The fact that second-stringers will see time at key spots for a good portion of the game, however, will keep it close. Still, the Seahawks presumably want to continue their momentum, and should do so against a team looking for an end to its 2007 nightmare.

Sports Network predicted outcome: Seahawks 20, Falcons 7

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Seahawks visit low-flying Falcons in season finale

Seattle has won four straight meetings with Atlanta, but don't have much to play for as they head to the Georgia Dome to finish the season. Seattle has long ago clinched the NFC West and the Falcons, despite a gallant effort against the Cardinals in Week 16, are just waiting for the season to be over.

Odds aren't yet posted for this game, so check back later for the opening line and total.

The Seahawks defeated Baltimore 27-6 as a 13.5-point favorite in Week 16. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (39).

Matt Hasselbeck passed for 199 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for Seattle, while Shaun Alexander rushed for 73 yards on 13 carries and caught a touchdown passes in the win.

The Falcons lost to Arizona 30-27 in overtime as an 11-point underdog in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (43.5).

Chris Redman completed 28-of-42 passes for 315 yards with two touchdowns and an interception and Roddy White caught 12 passes for 141 yards.

Current streak:
Atlanta has lost 6 straight games.


Team records:
Seattle: 10-5 SU, 9-5-1 ATS
Atlanta: 3-12 SU, 7-8 ATS


Seattle most recently:
When playing in December are 6-4
When playing on turf are 9-1
After outgaining opponent are 5-5
When playing outside the division are 5-5

Atlanta most recently:
When playing in December are 2-8
When playing on turf are 2-8
After being outgained are 0-10
When playing outside the division are 2-8


A few trends to consider:
Seattle is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games
Seattle is 6-1 ATS in its last 7 games
Seattle is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing Atlanta
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Seattle's last 6 games on the road
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Atlanta's last 5 games
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Atlanta's last 7 games at home
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Atlanta's last 6 games when playing Seattle
Atlanta is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games when playing Seattle

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Game Preview for Steelers vs Ravens

(Sports Network) - Hey...didn't this used to be a rivalry?

Instead, as the final scheduled step toward one team's playoff trip and another's run for the off-season bus, the annual late-year get-together between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens doesn't have quite the same juice.

The Steelers are limping into the regular-season finale even after a 41-24 defeat of St. Louis ended a two-game skid last Thursday night. Problem is, it also cost the team starting running back Willie Parker, who was lost for this week - and the playoffs - with a broken leg.

"Our heart goes out to him because he's a competitor and a warrior," coach Mike Tomlin said. "We're not going to throw a pity party. It's part of the game. People get hurt. We'll adapt and improvise and move forward. It's something we've said all year, everybody in a helmet is a playmaker, and we mean it. We've got some capable guys, and we'll move forward."

Pittsburgh enters at 10-5 and has clinched the AFC's North Division title, but has yet to slot itself into the playoff bracket with finality.

Tomlin's team could wind up seeded third - which means it would host the final conference qualifier, be it Cleveland or Tennessee, next week - or wind up fourth, where red-hot No. 5 Jacksonville awaits.

The Jaguars defeated Pittsburgh, 29-22, at Heinz Field on Dec. 16.

A win over the Ravens, combined with a San Diego (10-5) loss to Oakland (4-11), would give the Steelers the No. 3 slot. If both teams win or lose, however, the Chargers would take the better seed based on a superior in- conference record.

In Baltimore, the team on the field resembles the Ravens in uniform only.

Injuries have ravaged the group as of late, leaving nine players listed "questionable" for the Pittsburgh game, in addition to quarterback Kyle Boller's "doubtful" status and the already confirmed "will not play" prospects of running back Willis McGahee.

Defensive backfield standouts Samari Rolle and Chris McAlister are already on injured reserve and out for the season, as is veteran quarterback Steve McNair.

The absences at quarterback led to last week's first NFL start by Troy Smith, who completed 16-of-33 attempts against Seattle in his first start since the 2007 BCS Championship Game Bowl with Ohio State.

Baltimore has lost a franchise-record nine straight games since a promising 4-2 start.

SERIES HISTORY

The Steelers hold a 14-9 edge in the all-time regular season series with the Ravens, and drilled Baltimore by a 38-7 count when the teams met at Heinz Field for a Monday night game in Week 9. Pittsburgh was blown out in two meetings against their AFC North rival last season, dropping a 27-0 decision at Mamp;T Bank Stadium in Week 12 and a 31-7 setback at Heinz Field in Week 16. The Steelers are 0-4 in Baltimore since last winning there in 2002.

Pittsburgh won the only postseason meeting between the teams, a 27-10 triumph in a 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff at home.

Ravens head coach Brian Billick is 8-10 overall against Pittsburgh, while the Steelers' Tomlin is 1-0 against both Billick and Baltimore as a head coach.

WHEN THE STEELERS HAVE THE BALL

Running back Najeh Davenport will continue in his newfound role as feature back, in which he went for 123 yards on 24 carries last week against the Rams. He's averaging 5.0 yards per carry in 2007 on 95 attempts. Overall, the Steelers are second in the AFC and third in the NFL with 141.5 rushing yards per game. Elsewhere, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is playing well, completing 50-of-84 passes for seven TDs and no interceptions in his last three games. Wideout Santonio Holmes caught four passes for a career-best 133 yards against St. Louis.

Strength matches strength on the ground, where the Ravens have surrendered an average of just 77 yards per game - second-best in the NFL. Pass rushing remains a statistical forte as well, providing the Ravens a 31-9 mark since 2003 in games where the defense has posted at least three sacks. Defensive end Terrell Suggs has six career sacks against the Steelers, his second-highest total against any opponent. And in the backfield, safety Ed Reed leads all NFL players at his position with 34 interceptions since 2002. He's aiming for his third straight game with at least one INT against the Steelers.

WHEN THE RAVENS HAVE THE BALL

Smith was effective in spots for the Ravens in his first prolonged action since his Heisman Trophy-winning days with the Buckeyes. He connected on a touchdown pass and posted a 77.7 passer rating against the Seahawks. In McGahee's absence, the running load will shift at least in part to veteran Mike Anderson, who's averaged 4.4 yards over 919 career carries. Also, Musa Smith has gone for 64 yards on 12 attempts in his last two games. Wideout Derrick Mason is third in the NFL with his career-best 97 receptions, and has scored in three of his last four games.

The Steelers enter the final week as the top yards-allowed defense in the league, surrendering 261.9 per week. Linebacker James Harrison leads the team with 8.5 sacks, helping continue a run that has seen Pittsburgh go 22-7 since 2004 when it records at least three sacks in a game. Cornerback Ike Taylor has a team-best three interceptions, including his first return for a touchdown last week against the Rams.

FANTASY FOCUS

For as long as they play, the Steelers' stars will have the statistical edge, though without Parker a good deal of the predictability is lost. Expect Roethlisberger and veteran wideout Hines Ward to appear sparingly, especially with a physically demanding encore with the Jaguars possibly on tap for the following week. For the Ravens, Smith will be auditioning both for a starting gig with the Ravens and a place in the fantasy world next season.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

Bad blood and close-game histories don't factor in as much in a year where the teams are heading in different directions and one is almost unrecognizable due to injuries. It's unlikely to get too far out of hand with the Steelers obviously playing for next week, but they should score first and control matters nonetheless.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Steelers 17, Ravens 13

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Steelers visit Ravens, leagues worst ATS team

You think 4-11 is bad. Try 2-13 ATS. Baltimore ends a nightmare season at home to the hungry Steelers, who will be without running back Willie Parker. They will try to avenge a brutal 38-7 loss back in November and try to keep Pittsburgh out of a home Wild Card game.

Oddsmakers currently have the Steelers listed as 3½-point favorites versus the Ravens, while the game's total has not yet been posted.

Ben Roethlisberger threw three touchdown passes, as the Steelers roughed up the Rams in a 41-24 last time out. The Steelers easily covered the 8-point spread, while the 65 points sailed OVER the posted total of 43.5.

Roethlisberger completed 16-of-20 pass attempts for 261 yards, and Najeh Davenport rushed for 123 yards with a touchdown in the win.

The Ravens lost to Seattle 27-6 as a 13.5-point underdog in Week 16. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (39).

Troy Smith completed 16-of-33 passes for 199 yards with a touchdown for Baltimore and Derrick Mason caught five passes for 98 yards with a touchdown.

Current streak:
Baltimore has lost 9 straight games.


Team records:
Pittsburgh: 10-5 SU, 8-7 ATS
Baltimore: 4-11 SU, 2-13 ATS


Pittsburgh most recently:
When playing in December are 7-3
When playing on turf are 6-4
After outgaining opponent are 6-4
When playing within the division are 8-2

Baltimore most recently:
When playing in December are 6-4
When playing on turf are 3-7
After being outgained are 3-7
When playing within the division are 4-6


A few trends to consider:
Pittsburgh is 14-6 SU in its last 20 games
The total has gone OVER in 9 of Pittsburgh's last 13 games when playing Baltimore
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Pittsburgh's last 6 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Pittsburgh's last 6 games on the road
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Baltimore's last 6 games
Baltimore is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Pittsburgh
Baltimore is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Pittsburgh
Baltimore is 14-6 SU in its last 20 games at home

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Game Preview for Titans vs Colts

(Sports Network) - The chance for a playoff berth comes down to the final week of the regular season for the Tennessee Titans, who will take on the AFC South-rival Indianapolis Colts Sunday night at the RCA Dome.

Tennessee stayed alive in the postseason hunt after it defeated the New York Jets by a 10-6 score last Sunday, coupled with a Cleveland Browns loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. So now all the Titans have to do is beat Indianapolis for their first trip to the postseason since the 2003 campaign. That's easier said than done, but the Titans can also clinch a playoff spot with a tie and a Browns loss to the San Francisco 49ers this weekend.

If both Cleveland and Tennessee win, the Titans have the tiebreaker advantage. However, if Tennessee loses on Sunday, the Browns will go to the playoffs no matter what their outcome is against San Francisco.

The Titans have won three of their last four games to stay alive and have been relying on their stingy defense. Quarterback Vince Young is having a rough year despite the fact Tennessee is enjoying its best season since going 12-4 in 2003. Young must have a good game against the defending Super Bowl champions, because Colts head coach Tony Dungy will have his players ready.

Indianapolis has already clinched the AFC's No. 2 seed and a fifth straight AFC South title. But that didn't stop the Colts from handing the division- rival Houston Texans a 38-15 loss at home last Sunday.

The Colts recorded a season-high 458 yards of offense against the Texans and tied a franchise record with 33 first downs. Dungy is well aware that this week's game is very important to Tennessee, but may still rest his starters after a few quarters of play.

Indianapolis, which is riding a six-game winning streak after a two-game slide, has its eyes on another Super Bowl run. Losing out before the playoffs, though, may put the Colts a step back from the rest of the AFC contenders. New England and Jacksonville are playing fine football right now and pose as huge threats to dethrone the reigning NFL champions.

The Colts and Titans are meeting for the second time this season after Indianapolis earned a 22-20 win in Nashville on September 16.

SERIES HISTORY

Indianapolis holds a 15-10 lead in its all-time regular season series with Tennessee, including the above-mentioned 22-20 win at LP Field in Week 2. The Colts have now won eight of the last nine in the series, with the only loss during that stretch a 20-17 affair in Nashville in Week 13 of last season. The Colts were 14-13 home winners when the teams met at the RCA Dome in Week 5 of last year. The Titans are 0-4 in Indianapolis since last winning there in 2002.

The only postseason meeting between the two was in a 1999 AFC Divisional Playoff, when Tennessee scored a 19-16 road victory en route to a Super Bowl appearance.

The Titans' Jeff Fisher has a 4-8 record against Indianapolis, including the aforementioned playoff victory. Dungy is 8-5 against both Fisher and Tennessee all-time, including an 0-2 mark during his tenure in Tampa Bay.

WHEN THE TITANS HAVE THE BALL

Tennessee's playoff chances rest solely on the shoulders of Young (2,389 yards, 9 TD, 17 INT), who has been inconsistent the entire 2007 season and has only one game with a passer rating of 100 or more. In Sunday's close win over the Jets, Young threw for 166 yards with no touchdown passes and an interception. Over his last five games, he has four scoring strikes to go along with five interceptions. The offense has been struggling to score as well, recording more than 20 points just once in Tennessee's last nine games. The Titans have scored more than 26 points one time this season, while Young has completed 61.5 percent of his passes with just nine touchdowns and 17 picks. He will have to outduel Indy's top-rated pass defense with a bunch of average receivers in Roydell Williams (49 receptions, 4 TD), Justin Gage (48 receptions, 2 TD) and tight end Bo Scaife (43 receptions, 1 TD). Williams is the best of the bunch and led Tennessee with 54 yards on four catches last Sunday.

Indianapolis is holding opponents to an NFL-best 167.1 passing yards a game this season. In last weekend's victory over the Texans, the Colts held the high-powered Houston offense to just 233 yards through the air. Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders (91 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 INT) had one of three Colts interceptions on the day. Sanders is a big hitter in the secondary and can also help stuff the run in certain packages. Safety Matt Giordano and rookie reserve Melvin Bullitt also had interceptions against Houston. Top cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden (80 tackles, 3 INT) and Marlin Jackson (84 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 INT) will be relied on to stop Young and the Tennessee receivers.

The Titans have one of the best ground attacks in the NFL and are ranked fifth in the league in that category thanks to second-year running back LenDale White. White (1,063 rushing yards, 7 TD) had 103 yards on 23 carries against the Jets for his first 1,000-yard rushing season. He eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark in a game for the fifth time this season. Veteran Chris Brown chipped in 15 yards and a score on five touches last week and has 440 yards rushing and four touchdowns this season.

The Colts are just 17th against the run this season, allowing 107.5 rushing yards per game. They did a nice job in shutting down Houston rookie tailback Darius Walker, who had 66 yards on 19 carries in the game. Indianapolis has missed All-Pro defensive end Dwight Freeney since he went down with a season-ending foot injury a few weeks ago, and have been rotating on the line ever since. Sack master and defensive end Robert Mathis (32 tackles, 7 sacks) has missed the last two games because of injury, but rookie defensive tackle Ed Johnson (37 tackles, 1 sack) has been playing well the last few games. Pro Bowl snub Gary Brackett (110 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 4 INT) leads the team in tackles from his middle linebacker spot and posted three against the Texans. Brackett, along with fellow linebackers Freddy Keiaho (78 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 INT) and Rocky Boiman (51 tackles, 2 INT), is a vital cog in the run defense. Keiaho and Boiman combined for 10 tackles in last Sunday's win.

WHEN THE COLTS HAVE THE BALL

Indy's offensive weapons may not play the full 60 minutes on Sunday, starting with quarterback Peyton Manning (3,945 passing yards, 31 TD, 14 INT). Manning passed for 311 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions against the Texans and is closing in on the eighth 4,000-yard season of his career. Manning, who has started the first 159 regular-season games of his career, hit the 300-yard passing mark for just the third time this season. His last game with 300 or more passing yards was during a loss to San Diego in Week 10. He has been doing fine without All-Pro wideout Marvin Harrison (20 receptions, 1 TD), who missed his ninth straight game on Sunday with a knee injury. Reggie Wayne (92 receptions, 1,423 yards, 10 TD) caught 10 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown against Houston. He has increased his receptions total in each of his seven years in the NFL and has more than 1,000 yards receiving in each of the last four seasons. Rookie wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez (37 receptions, 3 TD) and tight end Dallas Clark (57 receptions, 11 TD) are also at Manning's disposal. Gonzalez has emerged on the scene in his first year, while Clark leads the Colts with 11 touchdown receptions.

The Titans are 11th against the pass and will face a tough test with a playoff spot on the line at the RCA Dome. Tennessee gave up 228 yards through the air against a lowly Jets team, as New York's Jerricho Cotchery burned the secondary for 152 yards and a score on eight catches. If Cotchery can put up those type of numbers, imagine what Wayne and Gonzalez will do. The Titans' defensive backfield is highlighted by cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan (91 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) and Nick Harper (72 tackles, 3 INT). Harper missed the Jets game because of injury and was replaced by Reynaldo Hill (17 tackles, INT), who came away with one of two interceptions on the afternoon. Safety Calvin Lowry (55 tackles, 2 INT) is a big hitter who posted three tackles last weekend.

Colts running back Joseph Addai (1,045 rushing yards, 10 TD) is headed to the Pro Bowl and has been a nice addition to Indy's offense since he was drafted last year. Addai, who has already reached the 1,000-yard rushing mark, came away with a season-low 26 yards and a touchdown on six carries versus Houston before leaving the game with back and shoulder injuries. If he plays this week, he will try to penetrate a Tennessee defensive line loaded with talent. Led by defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (40 tackles, 6 sacks), the Titans sport the sixth-rated run defense in the NFL. Jets quarterback Chad Pennington was sacked six times last week and running back Thomas Jones was held to 58 yards on 21 carries. Defensive end and sack leader Kyle Vanden Bosch (59 tackles, 12 sacks), who was voted to this year's Pro Bowl, had three sacks against the Jets and has six over his last three games. He has developed into one of the NFL's best pass rushers this season. Haynesworth is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year and finished with four tackles last week. Tennessee also has defensive tackle Tony Brown (50 tackles, 4 sacks) and ends Antwan Odom (19 tackles, 6 sacks) and Travis LaBoy (11 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 INT). Brown and Odom each had a sack against the Jets.

FANTASY FOCUS

It will be a tough call to start any Indianapolis players for this week's meaningless game. If your team is in the fantasy Super Bowl this weekend, rolling out either Manning, Addai or Wayne is a big risk. The same goes for Gonzalez and Clark against a determined Titans squad aiming for a playoff berth. As for the Titans, White and the Tennessee defense are the best choices, since Young has been battling through a rough season statistically. The elusive quarterback, though, may be a better choice than Manning this week if Dungy opts to sit his prized signal caller after halftime.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The Colts will not lay down and allow the AFC South-rival Titans to reach the playoffs, even if their starters get an early rest. Indianapolis would fare much better in the postseason if it didn't have to face a division foe and a team that knows Dungy's tendencies. Young must have a big game on the road, but his season will be wrapped up in a microcosm inside the boisterous RCA Dome. He will have to be flawless in order to beat the Colts, but has five interceptions over his last five games. White will keep the pressure off of Young with his bruising style of play. Unfortunately it won't be enough for the Titans to earn their first playoff berth since the 2003 campaign.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Colts 27, Titans 20

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Must-win Titans rare favorites at Indy

Normally, the Titans would never be favored at the RCA Dome. But with the Titans controlling their destiny for an AFC Wild Card and with the Colts resting their battered roster for the playoffs, the roadies come in as chalk. The last three meetings have been decided by a field goal or less and all three were Titan covers and UNDER plays.

Oddsmakers currently have the Titans listed as 4½-point favorites versus the Colts, while the game's total is sitting at 39½.

The Titans defeated the Jets 10-6 as an 8.5-point favorite in Week 16. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (37.5).

LenDale White rushed for 103 yards on 23 carries for Tennessee, while Chris Brown rushed for 15 yards and a touchdown on five carries in the win.

The Colts defeated Houston 38-15 as a 6.5-point favorite in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (45).

Peyton Manning threw for 311 yards with three touchdowns for Indianapolis, while Dallas Clark caught six passes for 60 yards with two touchdowns in the win.

Current streak:
Tennessee has won 2 straight games.
Indianapolis has won 6 straight games.


Team records:
Tennessee: 9-6 SU, 7-8 ATS
Indianapolis: 13-2 SU, 9-6 ATS


Tennessee most recently:
When playing in December are 7-3
When playing on turf are 3-7
After being outgained are 8-2
When playing within the division are 7-3

Indianapolis most recently:
When playing in December are 6-4
When playing on turf are 9-1
After outgaining opponent are 9-1
When playing within the division are 7-3


A few trends to consider:
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Tennessee's last 5 games when playing Indianapolis
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Tennessee's last 6 games when playing on the road against Indianapolis
Tennessee is 10-4 ATS in its last 14 games on the road
Tennessee is 7-3 SU in its last 10 games on the road
Indianapolis is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Indianapolis's last 5 games when playing Tennessee
Indianapolis is 16-1 SU in its last 17 games at home
Indianapolis is 8-1 SU in its last 9 games when playing Tennessee

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Game Preview for Jaguars vs TEXANS

(Sports Network) - The Jacksonville Jaguars will get one last tune-up before the postseason this Sunday, when they head to Houston's Reliant Stadium to battle the Texans.

The Jaguars clinched the AFC's first wild card spot with last weekend's 49-11 victory over the Oakland Raiders. However, despite an 11-4 record, Jacksonville will be on the road when the postseason starts due to the Indianapolis Colts (13-2) winning the AFC South.

The playoff bid is the second in three seasons for Jacksonville and sixth in team history.

No matter where the club plays in the opening round of the playoffs, Jacksonville is sure to put up a fight, as the club is getting it done both offensively and defensively.

The Jaguars are scoring an average of 25.5 points per game (fifth in the NFL) while giving up just 17.5 (sixth overall). Last week, Jacksonville set team records for points (49) and touchdowns (seven) in its win against Oakland.

Due to the inability to change their seeding, the Jaguars will likely rest a bunch of key players this weekend. That means quarterback David Garrard and running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew are unlikely to see a lot of time on the field.

A win for Jacksonville on Sunday would match the second-best mark in team history. The club went 14-2 in 1999 and 12-4 in 2005. The Jaguars are also 5-2 on the road this season.

Meanwhile, Houston will be trying to finish the regular season with the best record in club history. The Texans went 7-9 in 2004, the franchise's best record to date. The team enters this game with a 7-8 mark.

Houston finished the road portion of its schedule last Sunday, falling to the Colts in Indianapolis by a 38-15 score. The club now returns home, where it is developing a knack for winning. Houston's five home wins this season are a franchise best and the team is currently riding a three-game home winning streak. The Texans have also won their last four games at Reliant Stadium in December dating back to last year.

Now the Texans just need to get better against the very tough AFC South. Houston is 0-5 against the division this year, and its two 2007 losses at home were against Indianapolis and Tennessee.

SERIES HISTORY

Houston leads the all-time series with the Jaguars, 6-5, but was a 37-17 road loser when the teams met in Week 6. The Texans scored a home-and-home sweep of Jacksonville in 2006, including a 27-7 home win in Week 7, The Jaguars last won in Houston in 2005.

Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio is 4-5 versus the Texans all-time, including 1-3 in Houston. The Texans' Gary Kubiak is 2-1 against both Del Rio and the Jaguars as a head coach.

WHEN THE JAGUARS HAVE THE BALL

The Jaguars put the Raiders to bed early last week, so to speak. Taylor busted off a 62-yard touchdown run on Jacksonville's first play from scrimmage, and Jacksonville led 28-3 at the half. Taylor (1,202 rushing yards, 5 TD) ended with 111 yards on just seven carries, while Jones-Drew (768 rushing yards, 9 TD, 40 receptions) added 44 yards on 10 carries and a touchdown in addition to six catches for 96 yards. The Jaguars are ranked second in the league on the ground, averaging a solid 153 rushing yards per game. Taylor and Jones-Drew are important to Jacksonville's Super Bowl chances, meaning Greg Jones should get extended time in the backfield in this game. Jones had five rushes against Oakland and also caught a TD pass. Garrard (2,509 passing yards, 18 TD) had another solid game, completing 11-of-18 pass attempts for 199 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw just his third interception of the season and scored his first rushing touchdown of the year. Quinn Gray relieved Garrard against Oakland and should get time under center again this weekend. He completed 5- of-8 attempts in the game and also threw a pair of scoring passes. Matt Jones, Reggie Williams and Richard Angulo all pulled in touchdown catches for the Jags last week. with Williams (35 receptions, career-high 9 TD) making three catches for 49 yards in all. Jacksonville's leading receiver, Dennis Northcutt (44 receptions, 4 TD), was held to just one catch for 18 yards.

Jacksonville has scored 383 points on the season, 14 shy of breaking the franchise record of 396 set in 1999. The Jaguars have totaled 400-plus yards in five straight games, including 437 yards last week against Oakland, and are averaging 33.8 points over the last five games.

The Texans continue to get better on defense as the year goes on, and it begins with 2006 No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams. Many called for the franchise to be disbanded when it took the defensive end over Reggie Bush after the Texans felt they would be unable to sign the more expensive Bush. However, Williams (55 tackles) is turning into a dominating pass rusher, as he leads the AFC with 14 sacks on the season and has at least one sack in six straight games. Houston has posted at least one sack in 16 straight games dating back to last season, a team record. As Mario Williams continues to grow alongside second-year linebacker DeMeco Ryans and 20-year-old rookie defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, the Texans will have a defense to be reckoned with. Ryans leads the Texans with 123 tackles to go along with two sacks, though he had just a pair of tackles against the Colts and missed some practice time this week due to a knee injury. Okoye (32 tackles, 6 sacks) was also limited to just two tackles in the game. Rookie corner Fred Bennett (60 tackles, 3 INT) saw a lot of balls come his way against the Colts, as he made 11 tackles along with a forced fumble. In all, Indianapolis posted 458 net yards against Houston, getting 338 of that through the air. Texans linebacker Morlon Greenwood (109 tackles, 1 sack) posted nine tackles in the loss, while safety C.C. Brown (79 tackles, 1 INT) and corner Von Hutchins (86 tackles, 1 INT) each had seven.

WHEN THE TEXANS HAVE THE BALL

Houston's offense has also started to hit its stride. The club needs to score just one more touchdown to establish a team record with 38 on the season and 82 net yards to break the team mark of 5,128, set in 2004. With wideout Andre Johnson missing a chunk of this season due to a knee injury, the club has seen receiver Kevin Walter emerge as a go-to-target. Walter leads the team with 65 catches and 800 receiving yards and has scored four touchdowns on the season. One of those came against the Colts last week to go along with four catches and 69 yards for Walter. However, it is still Johnson who teams need to contain. He has 54 catches and 777 receiving yards on the year and a team- high eight TD's despite playing in just eight games this season. Johnson made a team-leading seven catches versus the Colts for 74 yards and a score. Tight end Owen Daniels (62 receptions, 2 TD) added two catches for 27 yards. His catch total and 739 receiving yards are both franchise highs for a tight end in a season. Running back Darius Walker, a 2007 undrafted free agent, ran for 66 yards on 19 carries last week in addition to compiling six catches for 44 yards. Quarterback Matt Schaub (2,241 passing yards, 9 TD, 9 INT) was inactive for the game due to a left shoulder injury, with Sage Rosenfels starting in his place. Rosenfels (1,556 passing yards, 14 TD, 11 INT) threw for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but was also intercepted three times. Schaub is again unlikely to play this weekend, but running back Ron Dayne should be able to go after not participating last week due to an ankle problem.

The Jaguars are 11th in the NFL in total defense, allowing 315.4 yards per game, and have only given up 193.7 yards per contest over the last three weeks. That includes holding the Raiders to a mere 215 yards on Sunday. Jacksonville has also held opponents to 17 points or less in 10 of 15 games this year, tied with New England for most in the NFL. The Jags posted four sacks, three interceptions and a recovered fumble against Oakland, with defensive end Bobby McCray (16 tackles, 3 sacks) getting to the quarterback a career-high tying two times. Linebacker Justin Durant (45 tackles) and tackle Rob Meier (25 tackles, 4 sacks) also had a sack each. Jacksonville's secondary forced Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell into a lot of mistakes, with rookie safety Reggie Nelson, corner Terry Cousin (47 tackles, 1 sack) and safety Jamaal Fudge each picking off a pass each. For Nelson (61 tackles, 1 sack), it was his team-leading fifth interception of the season, which ties him for first among NFL rookies. Finally, defensive end Brent Hawkins (11 tackles, 4 sacks) recovered McCray's forced fumble, giving the Jaguars their 10th recovery of the season. The club only had four last year. Safety Sammy Knight and Durant led the team with eight tackles each against Oakland, while cornerback Brian Williams added six. Knight leads the team with 91 tackles on the season.

FANTASY FOCUS

With Jacksonville locked in for the playoffs, few starters will see extended time this weekend. So if your league goes until Week 17, get ready to raid the waiver wire if you have either Jones-Drew or Taylor. Greg Jones should get a lot of carries versus the Texans, though Gray isn't a good option at quarterback and should be avoided. For Houston, its starters should play a lot, so Walter, Daniels and Johnson should all be in starting lineups for this weekend. With Dayne slowed, Walker could get the bulk of carries this weekend, but the Jags do have a very good run defense. That could mean big numbers for Rosenfels.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

This game comes down to who wants it more. That should be Houston. No team wants to enter the postseason off a loss, but the Jaguars aren't going to risk their health just to win what is a meaningless game for them. If Jacksonville is going to win, it will be behind the second team offense and defense. The Texans, meanwhile, are playing in front of their home crowd and are developing into a tough team to play in Houston. The club can also set a team record for most regular season wins, so it does have something to play for. In an "upset", Houston's starters top the Jags' reserves.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Texans 24, Jaguars 20

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Jags clinch, will rest at Houston in finale

Why would the hot 11-4 Jaguars be road dogs to the lowly Texans? Motivation. Jacksonville has none heading into the final week with their Wild Card spot secure. The Texans, however, play the Jags tough and are 7-3 ATS against them the past 10 games.

Oddsmakers currently have the Texans listed as 6½-point favorites versus the Jaguars, while the game's total is sitting at 41.

The Jaguars defeated Oakland 49-11 as a 14-point favorite in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (40).

David Garrard threw for 199 yards with two touchdown passes while also running in for a score for Jacksonville and Fred Taylor rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on seven carries in the win.

The Texans lost to Indianapolis 38-15 as a 6.5-point underdog in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (45).

Sage Rosenfels completed 22-of-36 passes for 233 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions for Houston and Andre Johnson had seven receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown.

Current streak:
Jacksonville has won 3 straight games.


Team records:
Jacksonville: 11-4 SU, 11-4 ATS
Houston: 7-8 SU, 7-8 ATS


Jacksonville most recently:
When playing in December are 6-4
When playing on grass are 9-1
After outgaining opponent are 6-4
When playing within the division are 4-6

Houston most recently:
When playing in December are 5-5
When playing on grass are 5-5
After being outgained are 3-7
When playing within the division are 3-7


A few trends to consider:
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Jacksonville's last 5 games
Jacksonville is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Jacksonville's last 5 games on the road
Jacksonville is 6-1 ATS in its last 7 games on the road
Houston is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games at home
Houston is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing at home against Jacksonville
Houston is 7-2 ATS in its last 9 games at home
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Houston's last 8 games when playing Jacksonville

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Game Preview for Bills vs Eagles

(Sports Network) - A pair of teams vying to avoid a losing season will conclude their respective 2007 campaigns this Sunday at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles lock horns with the Buffalo Bills in an interconference encounter.

Both clubs enter the finale with identical 7-8 records, but wildly different perceptions regarding their overall seasons. The Bills can view the year as a mild success for the way they were able to recover from a 1-4 start and a rash of early injuries to make a run at a playoff berth. For the Eagles, a team that had reached the postseason in six of the seven previous years, a possible .500 finish falls well short of expectations.

Philadelphia does have the opportunity to close out the year strong, though. The Eagles return home off two notable road victories, including a 10-6 decision over NFC front-runner Dallas in Week 15, and will be aiming for their first three-game win streak since they emerged triumphant in the final five regular-season contests of 2006.

The Eagles are fresh off last Sunday's 38-23 victory over playoff-hopeful New Orleans at the Superdome. Quarterback Donovan McNabb threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns, while Pro Bowl running back Brian Westbrook rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries to lead an impressive afternoon for the Philadelphia offense.

Westbrook now has a league-leading 2,005 yards from scrimmage on the season and needs just two more to break Wilbert Montgomery's franchise record in that category, set in 1979.

Buffalo fell out of the AFC postseason picture with an 8-0 setback at Cleveland two weeks ago in a game played in blizzard-like conditions, then failed to hold onto a late lead in a 38-21 home loss to the New York Giants last Sunday. The Bills were outscored 21-0 in the fourth quarter, with the Giants getting two late touchdowns off interception returns of Buffalo rookie Trent Edwards and another on an 88-yard run by reserve running back Ahmad Bradshaw.

The Bills also lost their lone representative in this year's AFC Pro Bowl squad, offensive tackle Jason Peters, to a groin injury during the first half of last week's defeat. The standout lineman will not participate in Sunday's test, which ends a string of 40 consecutive starts for Peters.

One other storyline pertaining to this game involves McNabb and whether Sunday's tilt will be his last in a Philadelphia uniform. Speculation has run rampant in recent weeks that the Eagles will explore the option of trading the nine-year veteran and his massive contract during the offseason, since the team feels it has a potential long-term answer at the position in untested rookie Kevin Kolb.

SERIES HISTORY

The all-time series between the Eagles and Bills is split, 5-5, with Philadelphia evening things up by virtue of a 23-13 win at Ralph Wilson Stadium back in 2003. Buffalo won the previous meeting, a 26-0 home blanking of the Birds in 1999. The Bills are 2-1 in Philadelphia all-time, with wins there in 1993 and 1996 and the only loss coming in 1987.

Eagles head coach Andy Reid is 1-1 in his career against the Bills. Buffalo's Dick Jauron is 0-4 against both Reid and the Eagles all-time, with all of those games dating back to his tenure with the Bears (1999-2003). That mark includes a 33-19 loss for Chicago in a 2001 NFC Divisional Playoff.

WHEN THE BILLS HAVE THE BALL

Compiling yards and points has been a season-long issue for the Bills, who enter the final week ranked 31st in total offense (277.5 ypg) and 27th in both scoring (16.2 ppg) and third-down conversions (34.4 percent). Still, the organization has been pleased with the play of rookie quarterback Trent Edwards (1497 passing yards, 7 TD, 8 INT), who's 5-3 as a starter and has shown to be an effective game-manager. The Stanford product has struggled greatly in a pair of poor-weather games over the last two weeks, however, including an ugly 9-for-26, 161-yard, three-interception outing against the Giants. As usual, Edwards will be looking often in the direction of wideout Lee Evans (54 receptions, 5 TD), Buffalo's lone big-play threat in the passing game, as well as possession receiver Josh Reed (50 receptions), although the latter's status for Sunday is in question due to a stiff back. He'll also have a new blind-side protector, as Kirk Chambers is slated to make his first career start at left tackle in place of Peters.

The Bills do possess a solid ground attack keyed by 2007 first-round draftee Marshawn Lynch (1010 rushing yards, 7 TD), who became the first Bills rookie since 1984 to surpass the 1,000-yard rushing mark in a season during the Giants game. Fellow youngster Fred Jackson (284 rushing yards, 16 reception) has provided a strong change of pace for the league's 15th-rated rushing offense (110.8 ypg) and displayed good receiving skills out of the backfield as well.

A rugged Philadelphia defense that is yielding an impressive 92.7 rushing yards per game (5th overall) will be looking to hold Buffalo's rookie tandem in check on Sunday. The Eagles do come in with some concerns at linebacker, though, as weakside starter Takeo Spikes suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the Week 15 win at Dallas and leading tackler Omar Gaither (94 tackles, 1 INT, 8 PD) sat out much of the New Orleans game with a bruised quadriceps. Stewart Bradley (15 tackles) did fill in ably for Gaither in the middle, as the rookie recorded six tackles, a sack and an interception against the Saints. He could make his first NFL start this week, with Gaither shifting to Spikes' usual spot provided he's able to go.

Injuries will alter the look of the Eagles' secondary as well, with longtime free safety Brian Dawkins (37 tackles, 1 INT) not expected to play this week due to a sprained foot and cornerback Lito Sheppard (51 tackles, 2 INT) a question mark because of a lingering knee problem. The possible absence of both stalwarts could very well hurt a defense that ranks 21st overall against the pass (221.4 ypg) and is tied for last in the league with 11 interceptions. Look for Philadelphia to get pressure on Edwards, as end Trent Cole (69 tackles, 12.5 sacks) has been a consistent havoc-wreaker up front and won't have to go up against Peters on Sunday.

WHEN THE EAGLES HAVE THE BALL

It's no secret that the focal point of the Philadelphia offense is Westbrook (1291 rushing yards, 12 total TD), who recorded his sixth 100-yard rushing output of the season last week and leads all NFL backs with a career-best 86 receptions. The Eagles average 127 rushing yards per game (8th overall) and piled up 184 yards on the ground versus the Saints despite being without their top run-blocker, guard Shawn Andrews. The two-time Pro Bowl honoree should be back in action for this contest after missing last Sunday's matchup with a knee sprain. Correll Buckhalter (295 rushing yards, 4 TD) had a 20-yard touchdown run in the New Orleans game and is averaging a healthy 5.6 yards per carry as Westbrook's understudy.

The much-maligned McNabb (2979 passing yards, 18 TD, 6 INT) has played well since coming back from a sprained ankle that caused him to sit out two weeks, as the star signal-caller has completed better than 63 percent of his passes and not thrown an interception in three games following his return. McNabb's presence seemed to benefit receivers Kevin Curtis (70 receptions, 1048 yards, 6 TD) and Reggie Brown (56 receptions, 4 TD) last Sunday, as the duo combined for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 12 catches in win over the Saints. The Eagles' sixth-ranked offense (355.9 ypg) will likely be without tight end L.J. Smith (22 receptions, 1 TD) for a third straight game as the impending free agent continues to recover from a knee injury.

Westbrook is probably salivating over the idea of facing a Buffalo defense that allowed a whopping 291 rushing yards to the Giants a week ago, with two New York backs each amassing over 145 yards individually. Stopping the run has been a recurring problem for the Bills, who are 27th in the league in that category (128.4 ypg) and lack bulk along the interior line. The Bills do possess two active linebackers in Angelo Crowell (122 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) and John DiGiorgio (109 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) as well as a talented young strong safety in Donte Whitner (89 tackles, 1 INT). DiGiorgio was credited with 11 stops in last week's loss.

Buffalo has been more effective against the pass, as cornerbacks Terrence McGee (72 tackles, 4 INT, 21 PD) and Jabari Greer (41 tackles, 2 INT, 14 PD) have generally held their own despite the team often failing to establish a consistent pass rush. The Bills have posted just 22 sacks for the year, although end Aaron Schobel (53 tackles, 6.5 sacks) has registered one in each of the last four weeks. Buffalo is surrendering an average of 232.8 yards per game through the air (27th overall) but has a respectable total of 17 interceptions.

FANTASY FOCUS

If you have Westbrook on your roster and happen to be playing in your league championship this week, it's safe to assume that the do-everything back is a big reason why you've gotten this far. Those in that very situation are in luck this week, as Westbrook draws a great matchup in a Buffalo defense coming off a steamrolling by the Giants. With the weather not expected to be much of a factor on Sunday, it's safe to use McNabb or Curtis in your lineups as well. Brown has been a productive receiver for the Eagles as of late, but still carries a risk factor due to his tendency toward inconsistency.

Buffalo's safest fantasy play for this week appears to be Evans, who's always a threat to break off a long gainer and will be taking on a banged-up Philadelphia secondary. Although Lynch has delivered a solid debut season for his owners, the young running back isn't a great option against a tough Eagles run defense. Sit any other Bills offensive players, including Edwards. For leagues with individual defenders, Crowell and DiGiorgio figure to pile up a lot of tackles on Sunday.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

It's now too little and too late, but the Eagles are playing their best football of the season and are noted for being a prideful bunch, so this should be a team motivated to avoid the dubious distinction of a losing campaign. Reid has the luxury of turning Westbrook loose without an upcoming game to worry about, and a Buffalo defense that suffered a host of breakdowns in last week's loss to the Giants won't be able to stop Philadelphia's premier offensive weapon. Look for the Eagles to control the line of scrimmage on both sides and jump out to a sizeable lead that will allow most of the starters to get their vacations off to an early start.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Eagles 27, Bills 14

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Re: NFL : Sunday

McNabb playing for respect, his job in 2008

Philly's erratic season will come to close at home against the mercurial Bills. The Eagles come off a pair of impressive road upsets to close the season at home as big favorites. The running game is likely to decide this one, as the Eagles rank fourth in home efficiency while the Bills rank 28th in defending the run on the road.

Oddsmakers currently have the Eagles listed as 8-point favorites versus the Bills, while the game's total is sitting at 37½.

The Bills lost to the Giants 38-21 as a 2.5-point underdog in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (32).

Trent Edwards completed 9-of-26 passes for 161 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions for Buffalo and Marshawn Lynch rushed for 70 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown.

The Eagles defeated New Orleans 38-23 as a 3-point underdog in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (48).

Donovan McNabb threw for 263 yards with three touchdowns for Philadelphia, while Kevin Curtis caught six passes for 78 yards with a touchdown and he also recovered a fumble in the end zone in the win.

Current streak:
Buffalo has lost 2 straight games.
Philadelphia has won 2 straight games.


Team records:
Buffalo: 7-8 SU, 9-6 ATS
Philadelphia: 7-8 SU, 8-7 ATS


Buffalo most recently:
When playing in December are 5-5
When playing on grass are 4-6
After being outgained are 4-6
When playing outside the division are 3-7

Philadelphia most recently:
When playing in December are 7-3
When playing on grass are 4-6
After outgaining opponent are 3-7
When playing outside the division are 5-5


A few trends to consider:
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Buffalo's last 5 games on the road
Buffalo is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Philadelphia
Buffalo is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games when playing Philadelphia
Buffalo is 8-4 ATS in its last 12 games
Philadelphia is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 games
The total has gone OVER in 6 of Philadelphia's last 9 games
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Philadelphia's last 9 games at home
Philadelphia is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games at home

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Game Preview for Bengals vs Dolphins

(Sports Network) - The Miami Dolphins don't have to worry anymore about missing out on the No. 1 overall pick of next year's draft. Now the team can concentrate solely on making a good impression on Bill Parcells when it hosts the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday in a matchup between clubs seeking to end disappointing seasons on a positive note.

The 1-14 Dolphins ensured themselves of the top selection in the 2008 draft with last Sunday's 28-7 loss to the still-unbeaten New England Patriots. But despite having earned that somewhat coveted distinction, Miami still should have plenty to play for in its season finale.

That's because the team knows that Parcells, hired by the Dolphins' last week as its executive vice president of football operations, will be watching closely. The legendary former head coach's new position puts him in charge of all of Miami's football-related personnel decisions, and it's a near certainty that Parcells will be doing plenty of house-cleaning during the offseason.

One member of the Dolphins' organization who's clearly under the microscope is Cam Cameron, but the first-year head coach can make a strong case to return to the sidelines next year with a victory on Sunday. That sense of urgency is one reason why Cameron recently put his plan to develop rookie quarterback John Beck on hold and re-inserted the more experienced Cleo Lemon into the starting role, stating that the move gave Miami a better chance to win.

The switch paid off two weeks ago, as Lemon threw for a career-high 315 yards to help direct the Dolphins to their only triumph of the 2007 campaign, a 22-16 overtime decision over slumping Baltimore. He couldn't match that success against the mighty Patriots last Sunday, completing just 18-of-41 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown.

Cincinnati's 6-9 record on the year is considered a significant letdown for a team that entered the season with postseason aspirations. The Bengals have played better as of late, however, recording victories in three of their five most recent games and handing playoff-hopeful Cleveland a potentially- crippling 19-14 defeat last Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

Kenny Watson matched a career-high with 130 rushing yards for the Bengals, while the Cincinnati defense picked off Browns quarterback Derek Anderson four times on the afternoon.

The victory was the third in a row at home for the Bengals, but they've had trouble finding success on the road as of late. Cincinnati brings a 1-6 away mark into Sunday's tilt and has dropped eight of nine as the visitor dating back to last season.

SERIES HISTORY

Miami has a 12-4 edge in the all-time regular season series with Cincinnati, but had a nine-game winning streak in the series snapped with a 16-13 loss at Paul Brown Stadium when the teams last met, in 2004. The Dolphins were 9-0 against the Bengals between 1978 and 2000, including 4-0 in games played in south Florida. Cincinnati's only win in Miami all-time came in 1968, and the franchise is 0-6 there since.

The only postseason meeting between the Dolphins and Bengals came in a 1973 AFC Divisional Playoff, when Miami won a 34-16 decision en route to a Super Bowl title.

Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis is 1-0 against the Dolphins, while Cameron will be meeting both Lewis and Cincinnati for the first time as a head man.

WHEN THE BENGALS HAVE THE BALL

Cincinnati boasts one of the NFL's most feared passing offenses even though quarterback Carson Palmer (3815 passing yards, 23 TD) has endured a wildly inconsistent season. The two-time Pro Bowl honoree threw a pair of interceptions in the Bengals' win over Cleveland, giving him a career-high 19 on the year, and mustered just 115 yards on 11-of-21 passing in last week's tough windy conditions. Palmer does have plenty of talented receivers to work with, as T.J. Houshmandzadeh (1053 yards, 12 TD) leads the league with a franchise-record 103 catches and the flashy Chad Johnson (89 receptions, 1309 yards, 6 TD) has eclipsed 1,300 receiving yards in three straight seasons. There's also dangerous No. 3 wideout Chris Henry (19 receptions, 2 TD), who's averaging 16.8 yards per grab, while Watson (51 receptions) is also a key contributor to Cincy's seventh-ranked aerial attack (246.4 ypg).

Watson (694 rushing yards, 6 TD) has also taken advantage of an injury-plagued year by regular running back Rudi Johnson (497 rushing yards, 4 total TD) to lead the Bengals in rushing. The versatile sixth-year pro will likely get the bulk of the ball-carrying duties again on Sunday, with Johnson still bothered by a hamstring problem and speedy reserve DeDe Dorsey (183 rushing yards) out with a high ankle sprain.

Stopping the run has been a major liability for the Dolphins during this disastrous season, as Miami is allowing a league-worst 158.6 rushing yards per game and was shredded for 156 yards on just 14 carries by the Patriots' Laurence Maroney last week, including a 59-yard touchdown burst in the second quarter. An injury-depleted linebacking corps is headed by veteran Joey Porter (62 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 2 INT), while weakside starter Derrick Pope (55 tackles, 1 INT) had a team-best eight tackles along with an interception in the New England game.

The Dolphins have done a better job defending teams through the air, although their No. 4 overall ranking in passing yards allowed (180.2 ypg) has been aided by opponents' preference to attack Miami via the run. The defense does possess two outstanding pass rushers in perennial Pro Bowl end Jason Taylor (55 tackles, 11 sacks) and Porter, who's coming off a two-sack effort against the Pats. Cornerback Will Allen (58 tackles, 2 sacks, 13 PD) has also turned in a good season and spearheads a decent secondary that also features second- year safety Jason Allen (55 tackles), the team leader with three interceptions.

WHEN THE DOLPHINS HAVE THE BALL

With Miami's season-long instability at quarterback and the Bengals having struggled in run defense much of the year, it would be no surprise if the Dolphins come out pounding the ball on the ground behind a rebuilt line that's actually done a pretty solid job in 2007. The stocky Jesse Chatman (473 rushing yards, 1 TD, 25 receivers) has been a serviceable fill-in at running back after starter Ronnie Brown went down to a season-ending knee injury, but don't be surprised if rookie Lorenzo Booker (92 rushing yards, 21 receptions) gets more of a look on Sunday. The former Florida State standout compiled a season-best 56 yards on eight carries last week and shown very good receiving skills in limited time.

The Dolphins come in ranked just 28th in the league in total offense (284.3 ypg) and 26th in passing yards (185.4 ypg), and those poor numbers reflect the team's shaky quarterback play and lack of a go-to guy among the receivers. Veteran Marty Booker (49 receptions, 1 TD) is a reliable possession wideout but hardly a big-play threat, while youngsters Ted Ginn Jr. (27 receptions, 1 TD) and Derek Hagan (27 receptions, 1 TD) have yet to deliver the impact Miami has been expecting from the pair. Lemon (1650 passing yards, 5 TD, 6 INT) has shown the ability to provide a spark under center, but he may yield to the highly-regarded Beck (424 passing yards, 0 TD, 3 INT) if the score is one- sided in the second half.

Injuries to safeties Madieu Williams (74 tackles, 2 INT, 2 sacks) and Dexter Jackson (72 tackles, 2 INT, 0.5 sacks) forced the Bengals to field a secondary consisting of three rookies and a second-year player last week, but the inexperienced backfield more than held its own against the Browns' high- powered pass game. First-year pro Chinedum Ndukwe (40 tackles, 3 INT, 2 sacks) had two interceptions and a pair of passes defensed in place of Jackson, while cornerbacks Leon Hall (65 tackles, 5 INT, 12 PD) and Johnathan Joseph (57 tackles, 4 INT, 14 PD) each picked off Anderson once in the win. The youngsters may have to hold their own again this week, as Williams was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday, Jackson is questionable to return and Cincinnati doesn't rush the passer well, having posted just 21 sacks as a team on the year.

The Bengals own just the NFL's 23rd-best run defense (120.5 ypg) and surrendered a rather high total of 136 rushing yards to Cleveland last Sunday. One bright spot among Cincinnati's pedestrian front seven has been weakside linebacker Dhani Jones (84 tackles, 1 sack), who racked up 11 tackles against the Browns and has played well since being installed as a starter in midseason. Cincinnati also has a couple of quality stoppers up front in end Justin Smith (75 tackles, 2 sacks) and second-year tackle Domata Peko (50 tackles, 1.5 sacks).

FANTASY FOCUS

For those still competing in the fantasy ranks during this final week of the regular season, the spotlight player of this otherwise insignificant matchup could be Watson, who should get plenty of carries in the Cincinnati backfield and faces a woeful Miami run defense. Chad Johnson and Houshmandzadeh are every-week starts and Palmer is a good choice as well, although keep in mind that the former No. 1 overall pick has struggled lately and the Dolphins gave Tom Brady a bit of a challenge last week. Sit Rudi Johnson but keep using Bengals kicker Shayne Graham, who is tied for second in the NFL with 30 field goals.

The Dolphins haven't offered much from a fantasy perspective all year long, and that doesn't figure to change on Sunday. Lemon is not starting material at quarterback and Chatman's value is lowered due to the possibility of Miami using a committee approach in the backfield to evaluate some of its young players. Lorenzo Booker has some sleeper potential but is still too unproven to be anything more than a flier here. One Dolphin who has quietly had an excellent year is kicker Jay Feely, who makes for a worthy play at that position.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

There are some reasons to like the Dolphins in this matchup, as one would expect Miami to the hungrier of the two squads and Cincinnati has been pretty lousy on the road throughout the season. Still, it's hard to have a lot of faith in a one-win team that's averaged barely over 10 points over the last eight games and doesn't have near the offensive capability of the Bengals. Although Cincinnati isn't much on defense, its unit isn't any worse than Miami's and has actually performed at a pretty solid level in recent weeks. As long as the Bengals don't completely pack it in, they should be able to prevent Cameron from getting the resume' builder he could really use.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Bengals 24, Dolphins 16

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Dolphins have chance for second win at home to Bungles

Miami can finish its franchise-debacle season with two wins if it can beat the woeful Bengals in Week 17. History suggests they have a chance, as they have beaten Cincy eight of the past nine times.

Oddsmakers currently have the Bengals listed as 3-point favorites versus the Dolphins, while the game's total is sitting at 45.

The Bengals defeated Cleveland 19-14 as a 3-point underdog in Week 16. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (43.5).

Kenny Watson rushed for 130 yards on 30 carries with a touchdown for Cincinnati, while Carson Palmer completed 11-of-21 passes for 115 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.

The Dolphins lost to New England 28-7 as a 22-point underdog in Week 16. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (45).

Cleon Lemon completed 18-of-41 passes for 171 yards with a touchdown for Miami, while Greg Camarillo caught two passes for 26 yards and a touchdown.


Team records:
Cincinnati: 6-9 SU, 5-9-1 ATS
Miami: 1-14 SU, 5-8-2 ATS


Cincinnati most recently:
When playing in December are 4-6
When playing on grass are 3-7
After being outgained are 5-5
When playing outside the division are 3-7

Miami most recently:
When playing in December are 3-7
When playing on grass are 1-9
After being outgained are 1-9
When playing outside the division are 1-9


A few trends to consider:
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Cincinnati's last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Cincinnati's last 6 games on the road
Cincinnati is 6-12 SU in its last 18 games
Cincinnati is 4-9-1 ATS in its last 14 games
Miami is 8-1 SU in its last 9 games when playing Cincinnati
Miami is 6-1 ATS in its last 7 games when playing Cincinnati
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Miami's last 7 games at home
Miami is 5-8-2 ATS in its last 15 games

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Game Preview for 49rs vs Browns

(Sports Network) - The game doesn't mean a whole lot to the Cleveland Browns, but you can be sure that Romeo Crennel's team will play as if it does.

The Browns will welcome the San Francisco 49ers to the banks of Lake Erie for both teams' regular season finale, and Cleveland figures to bear the look of a frustrated football team.

Crennel and company experienced a disastrous Week 16, watching as control of their own playoff fate slipped through their collective fingers. The Browns went to Cincinnati and were dealt a 19-14 setback, and that defeat coupled with Tennessee's narrow win over the Jets effectively gave the Titans (9-6) control of the No. 6 position in the AFC.

A superior record over common opponents would give Tennessee the tie-breaking edge in the event of a 10-6 or 9-7 deadlock with the Browns.

Barring either the Browns/49ers or Titans/Colts contest resulting in the NFL's first tie since 2002, Cleveland will need Tennessee to fall in Indianapolis on Sunday night in order for the Browns to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2002.

Given their assured status as the No. 2 seed in the AFC, it is unknown to what extent the Colts (13-2) will play their starters in that contest, and history suggests that head coach Tony Dungy will rest many of his key players.

Though things don't look good for the Browns on Sunday, a win would at least give Cleveland the consolation prize of having put up its best record since returning to the NFL following a three-year hiatus in 1999.

The 9-7 record recorded by the 2002 team currently stands as the "new" Browns' best finish.

With what would be a seventh consecutive home win, Cleveland will also secure its best single-season record within friendly confines since the 1957 club won all six of its home games,

San Francisco, meanwhile, travels to Ohio having won back-to-back games over the Bengals (20-13) and Buccaneers (21-19).

Mike Nolan's squad, which has already been assured of a third-place finish in the NFC West, is attempting to give San Francisco its first three-game win streak to end a regular season since 1992.

SERIES HISTORY

The Browns have a 10-6 edge in their all-time series against the 49ers, including wins in their last two head-to-head matchups with San Francisco. Cleveland was a 13-12 road winner when the teams last met, in 2003, and was a 23-13 victor in the previous matchup, at Municipal Stadium, in 1993. The Niners' most recent triumph against the Browns came in 1990 at Monster Park, and they last won at Cleveland in 1984.

Crennel and Nolan will be meeting each other, as well as their counterpart's respective franchise, for the first time as head coaches.

WHEN THE 49ERS HAVE THE BALL

Looking to move to 3-0 as an NFL starter will be 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill (501 passing yards, 5 TD, 1 INT), the former third-stringer who has surprisingly served as the team's most effective QB this year. In three extended appearances, the former University of Maryland signal-caller has a glistening 101.3 passer rating, and has experienced particular chemistry with wideout Darrell Jackson (43 receptions, 2 TD) and tight end Vernon Davis (50 receptions, 4 TD). Jackson had a season-best eight-catch, 86-yard performance against the Bengals in Week 15, and last Sunday scored his first touchdown since Week 7. Davis, the former first-round draft pick, has scored a TD in each of Hill's two starts. Arnaz Battle (47 receptions, 6 TD) continues to lead San Francisco in receiving yards (581) but was held without a reception against Tampa Bay last Sunday. The work of the passing attack has helped open things up for Frank Gore (1008 rushing yards, 51 receptions, 6 TD), who last week went over 1,000 yards for the year with a 21-carry, 89-yard day. Despite their recent renaissance, the Niners remain 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).

Hill, Gore and company will be operating against a Cleveland defense that has allowed just two touchdowns in its last two games but is still capable of a fatal defensive lapse. The Browns were able to contain the Cincinnati passing game for the most part last week, intercepting Carson Palmer twice and allowing him to throw just one TD pass, but Cleveland failed to get the job done against Bengals rusher Kenny Watson. Watson piled up 130 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries against the Browns defense. Inside linebackers Andra Davis (65 tackles) and D'Qwell Jackson (92 tackles, 1 INT) had a quiet day with just nine combined tackles, though Shaun Smith (55 tackles, 2 sack) and Orpheus Roye (37 tackles, 0.5 sacks) were active in the trenches with 14 combined stops. Cornerback Leigh Bodden (85 tackles, 6 INT) had both interceptions of Palmer, and safety Sean Jones (93 tackles, 5 INT) posted a team-best nine tackles. The lack of a pass rush has been a constant issue for the Browns all year. Crennel's squad is 28th in the league in sacks (23), and did not get to Palmer last Sunday. The team enters Week 17 ranked 29th against the pass (240.5 yards per game), 28th versus the run (130.7 yards per game), and 30th in touchdown passes allowed (28).

WHEN THE BROWNS HAVE THE BALL

In what had otherwise been a breakout season for Derek Anderson (3635 passing yards, 28 TD, 18 INT), it was last week that the Browns quarterback finally broke down. Anderson helped sink Cleveland with his first four-interception day of 2007, although he was able to mount something of a rally by throwing a pair of touchdown passes to move the Browns within striking distance of a comeback. Both of Edwards' TD passes went to Pro Bowl wideout Braylon Edwards (77 receptions, 15 TD), while tight end Kellen Winslow (78 receptions, 5 TD) chipped in with seven grabs and a game-high 73 yards. Edwards and Winslow are the first teammates in Browns history to go over 1,000 receiving yards in the same season. Cleveland running back Jamal Lewis (1176 rushing yards, 29 receptions, 11 TD) continued a productive first season with the Browns by carrying 21 times for 92 yards and adding 42 yards on five catches out of the backfield last Sunday. Lewis has 90+ ground yards in five of his last six outings. Cleveland is eighth in NFL total offense (350.9 yards per game) as Week 17 commences.

A Niners defense that has been inconsistent at best for most of 2007 caught a major break when Tampa Bay took quarterback Jeff Garcia out of harm's way in the second half of last week's contest. Garcia's replacement, Luke McCown, coughed up two key turnovers that enabled San Francisco to win the game. Cornerback Nate Clements (90 tackles, 4 INT, 1 sack) notched a pick off of McCown, while safety Mark Roman (60 tackles) recovered a fumble that had been forced by linebacker Patrick Willis (162 tackles, 3 sacks). The rookie Willis, who leads the NFL in tackles and is headed to the Pro Bowl, had a monster game with 20 stops, a pair of sacks, and a forced fumble. A pass rush that has been non-existent for much of the season managed four sacks on the day, including one each for Tully Banta-Cain (39 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and Ray McDonald (3 tackles, 1 sack). The Niners enter the regular season finale ranked 24th in the league in total defense (345.4 yards per game), including 26th against the pass (229.9 yards per game) and 22nd versus the run (115.5 yards per game).

FANTASY FOCUS

Most fantasy league championship games took place last week, but any that will occur in Week 17 could be impacted greatly by this contest.

The Browns will play their starters throughout, meaning guys like Anderson, Edwards, Winslow, and Lewis are all must-plays against a suspect San Francisco defense.

On the 49ers side, managers will want to consider starting the likes of Gore, Davis, and possibly even Hill against a weak Cleveland defense, though you can't expect any of the above to be as productive in a cold-weather road game as they have been at home in the past couple of weeks.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

After last week's untimely misstep, you can expect the Browns to get their focus back in a big way against the 49ers. San Francisco doesn't have the defensive personnel to slow the Cleveland attack for four quarters, and you can expect Anderson to be much more protective of the football than he was last Sunday. For the Niners, Hill has been a positive addition to the lineup, but you can't expect someone of his limited experience to continue to play at a high level in a road game against a quality opponent. Look for Cleveland to roll to win number 10.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Browns 38, 49ers 7

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Browns need win and help from Colts to make playoffs

A crippling loss Cincy imperiled the playoff hopes of long-suffering Browns fans, but they can still get in by handling the 49ers in Week 17. They still need the Titans to lose in Indy. The 49ers have inexplicably won two in a row after a nine-game losing streak. Of note, the number was bet down quickly after opening at -12.5 for the Browns.

Oddsmakers currently have the Browns listed as 10-point favorites versus the 49ers, while the game's total has not yet been posted.

The 49ers defeated Tampa Bay 21-19 as a 6.5-point underdog in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (36.5).

Shaun Hill passed for 123 yard with three touchdowns and an interception, while Frank Gore rushed for 89 yards on 21 carries and caught a touchdown pass in the win.

The Browns lost to Cincinnati 19-14 as a 3-point favorite in Week 16. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (43.5).

Derek Anderson completed 29-of-48 passes for 251 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions for Cleveland, while Braylon Edwards caught eight passes for 52 yards and two touchdowns.

Current streak:
San Francisco has won 2 straight games.


Team records:
San Francisco: 5-10 SU, 5-9-1 ATS
Cleveland: 9-6 SU, 11-4 ATS


San Francisco most recently:
When playing in December are 5-5
When playing on grass are 3-7
After being outgained are 0-10
When playing outside the division are 3-7

Cleveland most recently:
When playing in December are 3-7
When playing on grass are 6-4
After outgaining opponent are 3-7
When playing outside the division are 6-4


A few trends to consider:
The total has gone OVER in 4 of San Francisco's last 6 games on the road
San Francisco is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games
San Francisco is 3-10 SU in its last 13 games
San Francisco is 1-5 SU in its last 6 games on the road
Cleveland is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games at home
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Cleveland's last 5 games
Cleveland is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home
Cleveland is 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Game Preview for Lions vs Packers

(Sports Network) - The last 16 times the Detroit Lions have been the road team in a matchup with the Green Bay Packers, the Lions have traveled back to the Motor City as losers.

Be it in Green Bay or Milwaukee, regular season or playoffs, Detroit hasn't won a road game against the Packers since way back in 1991, or one year before a guy named Favre entered the public consciousness.

On Sunday, the Lions will have a chance to both end that dubious streak and halt its current run of losing seasons at six consecutive, when it faces a Green Bay club that might choose to rest certain personnel in preparation for the postseason.

The NFC North champion Packers are locked into the No. 2 slot in the conference, carving out that position for themselves after they followed up Dallas' win at Carolina on Saturday night with a miserable performance in a 35-7 loss at Chicago on Sunday.

Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters earlier this week that the Packers will play to beat Detroit, though whether that's just a case of vaguely-worded rhetoric remains to be seen.

One has to believe that the Lions wouldn't be greatly disappointed to see Green Bay's backups for a majority of the contest.

A .500 season would represent major progress for an organization that went a combined 24-72 (.250) between 2001 and 2006, and would give Rod Marinelli's club an excellent springboard towards what will be an important 2008 for his staff.

The Lions, who started the season 6-2 before dropping six in a row to fall out of the playoff picture, reclaimed a spot in the win column with last Sunday's 25-20 triumph over the Kansas City Chiefs.

Win or lose on Sunday, Detroit will have posted its best campaign since going 9-7 in 2000.

SERIES HISTORY

The series between the Lions and Packers dates back to the 1930 season, with Green Bay holding a 83-64-7 regular season edge. The Pack was a 37-26 winner at Ford Field on Thanksgiving Day, and has now won six of its last seven with the Lions. Detroit's only win during that stretch came by a 17-3 count in Week 1 of the 2005 campaign in the Motor City.

The Lions are 0-12 in regular season games played at Lambeau Field since last winning there in 1991, and are 0-15 in away contests during that time frame when three matchups in Milwaukee are factored in.

In addition to the regular season series, the clubs have met twice in the postseason, with Green Bay winning NFC First-Round Playoff matchups in the 1993 and 1994 seasons. The '94 matchup was played in Green Bay.

McCarthy leads the series with both the Lions and Marinelli, 3-0.

WHEN THE LIONS HAVE THE BALL

Sunday's game could mark the final game in the era of Mike Martz's high-flying offense, as Martz was recently noncommittal about his future with the team when speaking to reporters. The Lions are eighth in NFL passing offense this season (242.1 yards per game), but Martz's attack has been criticized for being too one-dimensional and subject to turnovers. Quarterback Jon Kitna (3822 passing yards, 17 TD, 18 INT) has not experienced a particularly strong second half of the season, and a Lions offensive line that has allowed a league-high 54 sacks on the year has not shown enough improvement. Kitna's main targets this week will be Shaun McDonald (74 receptions, 5 TD) and rookie Calvin Johnson (44 receptions, 5 TD), who combined for four of Kitna's scant nine completions in the Kansas City game. With wideout Roy Williams and running back Kevin Jones both down for the year due to knee injuries, bruising rusher T.J. Duckett (306 rushing yards, 3 TD) has seen more touches of late. Subbing most of last week for the injured Jones, Duckett carried 15 times for 102 yards and a touchdown in his best game as a Lion to date.

The Packers enter Week 17 ranked 10th in NFL total defense (314.7 yards per game), but come off a week in which they allowed "the other" Adrian Peterson and a poor Bears running game to churn up 139 yards and set the offensive tone. The Green Bay linebacking corps of Nick Barnett (130 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 INT) in the middle and Brady Poppinga (47 tackles, 1 INT) and A.J. Hawk (103 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) on the flanks might receive only limited time this week, but will have to make more of an impact while in the lineup. Up front, Packers fans are likely to see a great deal of rookie tackle and first-round draft choice Justin Harrell (14 tackles), who has garnered more extensive time of late and chipped in with five stops against the Bears. If McCarthy is intent on holding key defensive players out, he will likely start with end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (24 tackles, 9.5 sacks) and cornerback Charles Woodson (63 tackles, 4 INT), both of whom have experienced injury problems this season. End Aaron Kampman (64 tackles, 12 sacks), who was last week named to his second straight Pro Bowl, could also be limited for precautionary reasons.

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

Green Bay's dangerous passing game was hampered by cold and inclement weather in Chicago last Sunday, and this week's Lambeau Field forecast (32 degrees with snow showers) does not suggest that Brett Favre (4056 passing yards, 26 TD, 15 INT) and company will be flying up and down the field. Favre is unlikely to play the entire game before yielding to Aaron Rodgers (218 passing yards, 1 TD, 0 INT), and wideouts Donald Driver (82 receptions, 2 TD) and Greg Jennings (53 receptions, 12 TD) figure to see less time than the likes of James Jones (45 receptions, 2 TD), Koren Robinson (17 receptions), and Ruvell Martin (15 receptions, 3 TD). Packers first-year running back Ryan Grant (899 rushing yards, 7 TD, 30 receptions) is within 101 yards of the 1,000-yard plateau, but given the circumstances of the game, it seems unlikely that he'll garner enough touches to reach the milestone. Rookie and second-round draft choice Brandon Jackson (154 rushing yards, 1 TD, 14 receptions), who carried three times for 25 yards in Chicago last Sunday, figures to receive his most extensive carries since early in the season.

A Lions defense that ranks last in NFL total defense (376.5 yards per game), scoring defense (27.3 points per game), and has allowed a league-high-tying 29 passing touchdowns could certainly use a belated Christmas gift in the guise of the Packers' second-string attack this week. Last Sunday, the Lions allowed the formerly-deficient Chiefs passing game to pile up 374 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Detroit did manage four sacks of Kansas City QB Damon Huard, including two from disappointing tackle Shaun Rogers (35 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 1 INT), and linebacker Paris Lenon (111 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT) came up with the play of the day when he intercepted a Brodie Croyle pass and returned it 61 yards for a Lions touchdown. Detroit is a middle-of-the-pack 19th in the NFL against the run (112.9 yards per game), but held the Chiefs to just 63 yards on the ground last Sunday. Linebacker Ernie Sims (127 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) has been the club's most reliable tackler throughout the year.

FANTASY FOCUS

This game is a prime example of why fantasy football championships generally take place on Week 16 rather than Week 17. There is simply no assurance that any of the Packers' offensive stars will play consistent minutes on Sunday, meaning you're taking a major risk in starting Favre, Driver, Jennings, Grant, or even NFL scoring leader and rookie kicker Mason Crosby.

The Lions' first-string will play the entire game, but it doesn't seem likely that the team will display any aerial proficiency given the expected conditions. If there's a player to start, it might be Duckett, who should see between 15-20 carries and might be facing a depleted defense.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

We already know that the Packers are far superior to the Lions based on the result when these teams met on Thanksgiving, but the circumstances of this week's contest make predicting an outcome problematic. Detroit never plays well in Green Bay, but given that the game should mean more to the Lions, and that the Packers are probably going to play a lot of backup personnel, Kitna and company really should come out of Lambeau Field with a victory.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Lions 21, Packers 20

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Re: NFL : Sunday

Lions wrap up disappointing campaign at Lambeau

A .500 season in Detroit would be considered heavenly had the Lions not started the year 6-2. Now they try to salvage a .500 record at Green Bay in a game that means nothing to the Packers. The Lions have only covered three of their past 17 trips to Green Bay and they bring some of the league's worst road defense stats to the finale.

Oddsmakers currently have the Packers listed as 5-point favorites versus the Lions, while the game's total has not yet been posted.

The Lions defeated Kansas City 25-20 as a 6-point favorite in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (43.5).

T.J. Duckett rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries for Detroit and Jon Kitna completed 9-of-16 passes for 115 yards with an interception.

The Packers lost to Chicago 35-7 as a 7.5-point favorite in Week 16. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (31.5).

Brett Favre completed 17-of-32 passes for 153 yards with two interceptions for Green Bay, while Ryan Grant rushed for 100 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown.


Team records:
Detroit: 7-8 SU, 6-8-1 ATS
Green Bay: 12-3 SU, 11-3-1 ATS


Detroit most recently:
When playing in December are 3-7
When playing on grass are 2-8
After being outgained are 5-5
When playing within the division are 3-7

Green Bay most recently:
When playing in December are 6-4
When playing on grass are 8-2
After outgaining opponent are 8-2
When playing within the division are 8-2


A few trends to consider:
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Detroit's last 7 games when playing on the road against Green Bay
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Detroit's last 5 games
The total has gone OVER in 6 of Detroit's last 8 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Detroit's last 6 games when playing Green Bay
Green Bay is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Detroit
Green Bay is 8-1 SU in its last 9 games at home
Green Bay is 6-1 SU in its last 7 games when playing Detroit
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of Green Bay's last 7 games when playing at home against Detroit

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