Thursday December 21st, 2006

Week 16 Matchups
Minnesota (6-8) at Green Bay (6-8)
Signs at Lambeau implore Brett Favre not to retire, and he plays like the 30-year-old dude he still thinks he is: 21 of 29, two touchdowns, zero picks, 245 yards.
Green Bay 20, Minnesota 13
Kansas City (7-7) at Oakland (2-12)
Dick Vermeil in the booth for NFL Network. Dick Vermeil disciples on the field. Dick Vermeil guys in the coaches' booth. Just win, Chiefies.
Kansas City 30, Oakland 16
Carolina (6-8) at Atlanta (7-7)
Mike Vick hobbles onto the field before the game and whispers in Jim Mora's ear: "Coach, I got your back." Vick really likes Mora. But he'll have to win through much of January to keep that relationship going into next season.
Atlanta 27, Carolina 12
New Orleans (9-5) at New York (7-7)
I get the tap on my shoulder midway through the third quarter from David Neal, my NBC "Football Night in America" honcho, and he says: "See if you can get Drew Brees on the phone after the game. Ask him how he feels about competing with his fellow Texan and buddy LaDainian for the MVP."
New Orleans 27, New York 20
Chicago (12-2) at Detroit (2-12)
Detroit defensive line coach Joe Cullen gets suspended for one week, with a $20,000 fine, for driving while naked through a Wendy's drive-through. On HBO's Inside the NFL, Dan Marino opined: "That was a pretty stiff sentence."
Chicago 30, Detroit 7
Tennessee (7-7) at Buffalo (7-7)
The dream dies for the plucky Titans in murky Orchard Park, which has forgotten what real winter looks like. The only thing stranger in the AFC this year than the Jets entering Week 16 very much alive in playoffville is the Buffalo Bills with eight wins on Christmas day.
Buffalo 19, Tennessee 10
New England (10-4) at Jacksonville (8-6)
How amazing is this: A loss by New England in Florida, and the Patriots fly home not sure if they're going to win the AFC East, not even sure if they're going to make the playoffs.
Jacksonville 20, New England 17
Tampa Bay (3-11) at Cleveland (4-10)
Look in Webster's for the phrase "meaningless game," and there's a picture of this game next to the definition.
Cleveland 17, Tampa Bay 6
Indianapolis (11-3) at Houston (4-10)
I shudder to think what David Carr's going to feel like when he pokes his head out of the tunnel at Reliant Stadium. My one piece of advice to the Texans: Don't introduce the offensive starters in the pregame this week of next week, as another bad year winds down.
Indianapolis 27, Houston 16
Baltimore (11-3) at Pittsburgh (7-7)
The best story in the NFL in Week 17 would be the Super Bowl Steelers having some microscopic chance to reprise their playoff run of last year, when they entered the playoffs as the sixth seed and won the Big One. "It's felt like last year for the last couple of weeks around here," Hines Ward told me. "We play better when we know every game's like a playoff game." The end of the fairy tale comes in a flurry of punishment from the Ravens' defense.
Baltimore 29, Pittsburgh 17
Washington (5-9) at St. Louis (6-8)
You know who's playing really well and not getting any credit? Andre Carter, the Redskins' first-year defensive end. He chased Drew Brees all over the field last week, and Marc Bulger will get a sniff of that this week.
Washington 25, St. Louis 20
Arizona (4-10) at San Francisco (6-8)
Follow me on this one: Niners beat Cards, Seattle loses to San Diego. Both pretty possible, right? If this happens, the San Francisco 49ers will enter the last week of the NFL season with a chance to win the NFC West.
San Francisco 23, Arizona 20
San Diego (12-2) at Seattle (8-6)
I mean, come on now. Is there really a chance the Seahawks could NOT make the playoffs? It's not a very good one, but under my scenario, a Seattle loss at Tampa (not likely) and a San Francisco win at Denver (not likely) in Week 17 puts Seattle in the Wild Card fray with a bunch of 8-8 teams ... and a poor 6-6 conference record for the tiebreaker.
San Diego 31, Seattle 21
Cincinnati (8-6) at Denver (8-6)
There's only one reason to pick the Broncos, as you well know. Quarterback Jay Cutler's hometown. Santa Claus, Ind. "Everyone puts their lights up and has a good time around Christmas," Cutler revealed exclusively to the Denver media this week. Oooh, tell us more about the great traditions of Christmas in Indiana, Jay!
Denver 24, Cincinnati 20
Philadelphia (8-6) at Dallas (9-5)
This game illustrates exactly how hard it is to pick quarterbacks in the NFL these days. First-rounders Eli Manning and Jason Campbell quarterback the Giants and Redskins (combined record: 12-16) this weekend. Two guys off the street -- literally -- quarterback the game of the year in the NFC East. Tony Romo's an undrafted free agent who signed with the Cowboys after the draft in 2003. Jeff Garcia was cut adrift after bad free-agent experiences in Detroit and Cleveland, free to sign with anyone in the league. The Eagles took him, strictly as a backup. And now it's Garcia versus Romo, with the winner the prohibitive favorite to win the NFC East.
Dallas 27, Philadelphia 17
New York (8-6) at Miami (6-8)
This is Miami's playoff game, and I can't help but wonder if a few Jets with families are going to be wondering Sunday night: What am I doing on Christmas Eve in the Westin Hotel in Fort Lauderdale?
Miami 17, New York Jets 16

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