NFL: Today’s previews
For most of the season, the Tennessee Titans was the dominant team in the NFC.
Today, the Titans will be playing to lock up a top seed, a position that have become precarious after being considered a given since midseason. The Titans are at home against their primary rival for home-field advantage: Pittsburgh (11-3).
Right now, the Steelers are surging, the Titans are faltering.
“We’ve got some tangible, big-time goals to achieve in front of us here in the regular season,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin says. The Titans will be without DT Albert Haynesworth, their best defensive player, who injured his knee at the end of last week’s loss in Houston. Still, they clinch home-field advantage if they win; if the Steelers win, they will get the tiebreaker for the top seed with a week to go, but could blow that spot by losing their finale against Cleveland.
Four of the eight divisions have been decided entering the weekend, with the Giants, Titans and Steelers winning theirs and Arizona the champion of the weak NFC West.
Minnesota can clinch the NFC North if it beats Atlanta at home on Sunday or Chicago loses at home Monday night to Green Bay.
Denver can win the AFC West if it beats Buffalo at home or if San Diego loses at Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay, Atlanta and/or Dallas can clinch NFC wild-card spots with wins and a combination of losses by other teams.
The Indianapolis Colts clinched an AFC wild-card berth with a 31-24 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night. It was the seventh straight time the Colts (11-4)
In other games today, New Orleans is at Detroit; Miami at Kansas City; Arizona at New England; San Francisco at St. Louis; Cincinnati at Cleveland; the New York Jets at Seattle; Houston at Oakland; and Philadelphia at Washington.
Miami (9-5) at Kansas City (2-12)
New York Jets (9-5) at Seattle (3-11)
Arizona (8-6) at New England (9-5)
There’s a three-way tie at the top of the AFC East, where the Patriots could finish 11-5 and still miss the playoffs.
In fact, if the Dolphins and Jets both win this week, the Pats will be close to elimination for the division race. Miami is at the Jets next week and would have to tie while New England wins out.
Some interesting turns here.
Brett Favre made the Pro Bowl and Chad Pennington didn’t. But Pennington, cut by the Jets when Favre arrived, is the main reason the Dolphins have rebounded into contention after finishing 1-15 last season. The Jets, who lost two straight before their narrow escape against Buffalo last week, are 0-3 on the West Coast against three losing teams: Oakland, San Francisco and San Diego. This will be the final home game as head coach of the Seahawks for Mike Holmgren, who groomed Favre in Green Bay.
“I can honestly say that I would not be here today if it were not for Mike Holmgren,” Favre says.
Atlanta (9-5) at Minnesota (9-5)
The Vikings are close to the playoffs and will continue at quarterback with Tarvaris Jackson, who threw four TD passes in Arizona last week replacing the injured Gus Frerotte.
Philadelphia (8-5-1) at Washington (7-7)
The loser of the final game scheduled for Texas Stadium might be out of the playoffs. The winner might be, too, as the season ends with some of the tightest wild-card races of the decade.
Buffalo (6-8) at Denver (8-6)
San Diego (6-8) at Tampa Bay (9-5)
It seems like forever that the Broncos have had a magic number of “one” to clinch the AFC West ó one win or a Chargers loss.
New Orleans (7-7) at Detroit (0-14)
Houston (7-7) at Oakland (3-11)
San Francisco (5-9) at St. Louis (2-12)
Cincinnati (2-11-1) at Cleveland (4-10)Notes on non-contenders.
Can Detroit win a game? Maybe, perhaps even this one.
The Texans went 8-8 last season and could finish above .500 for the first time ever if they beat the Raiders and then Chicago. But they always get started too late.
The 49ers might be at .500 if Shaun Hill had been the quarterback from the start of the season, a change Mike Singletary made when he took over as coach.
The best that can be said for Cincinnati is that it’s played well against the tough NFC East, beating Washington, tying Philadelphia, taking the Giants to overtime and scaring Dallas.
Green Bay (5-9) at Chicago (8-6) (Monday night)The Packers routed the Bears 37-3 at Lambeau on Nov. 16, but have lost four straight since. In fact, that was their only win in seven games that dropped them from the playoff race.