By Peter King
December 30, 2010
NFL Week 17
Sunday, Jan. 2
1 p.m. ET (CBS) Miami Dolphins (7-8) at New England Patriots (13-2)
Not a lot riding on this game for the Patriots, obviously. And though Mike Lombardi reported this week on "Inside the NFL'' that Tony Sparano is safe in Miami, I still say Steven Ross is going to look at home losses to Detroit, Buffalo and Cleveland (I mean, how is that trifecta possible?) and give Sparano's future a long, hard look next week.
1 p.m. ET (Fox) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-6) at New Orleans Saints (11-4)
New Orleans is the NFC team that might be playing the best entering the tournament, but what I'd worry about here is a couple of things. The Bucs can get very physical with the Saints in a game Tampa's going to take very, very seriously. And New Orleans might be playing on a short week, on the road, on the first round of the playoffs. If form holds this weekend, best guess is New Orleans would have the Rams or Seahawks in a wild-card game Saturday.
1 p.m. ET (Fox) Carolina Panthers (2-13) at Atlanta Falcons (12-3)
With a loss, John Fox would exit Carolina with a 78-74 record, three playoff appearances in nine years, four straight road playoff wins at one point, and having scared the tar out of the Patriots in a 32-29 Super Bowl loss seven years ago. So don't just remember the bad, Pantherphiles.
1 p.m. ET (Fox) Minnesota Vikings (6-9) at Detroit Lions (5-10)
The Vikings' second game at Ford Field in 20 days will be a little more fun than the first -- a beatdown by the Giants -- but in the end, more of a sign of the Lions' progress than anything else. A Detroit win means they'd finish the year on a four-game winning streak, their first such streak since the Model T. The Lions are going to be pretty good next year, assuming Matthew Stafford's shoulder isn't made of glass.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) Oakland Raiders (7-8) at Kansas City Chiefs (10-5)
For the Chiefs to win the AFC West, and win it by either two or three games, and to be seven wins better than a year ago, and to be in position to host the Hard Knock Jets next week ... pretty good.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) Buffalo Bills (4-11) at New York Jets (10-5)
The only thing that truly matters in this game is that Ryan Fitzpatrick plays well enough to win the starting job for 2011. And he will. Chan Gailey walks off the field after the game and says to himself, "Scratch quarterback off the draft list, unless that Stanford feller is there for us, or unless we can get that Newton guy in the second round.''
1 p.m. ET (CBS) Cincinnati Bengals (4-11) at Baltimore Ravens (11-4)
Quoth the Ravens: Another chance to play Manning in Indianapolis! Oh boy! That's what it'll be for Baltimore if Pittsburgh wins the division. Last two Ravens games at Indy: Colts, 20-3, last year, and Colts, 31-3, in 2008. Uh-oh.
1 p.m. ET (CBS) Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4) at Cleveland Browns (5-10)
So now Eric Mangini waits to see if Mike Holmgren can get one of the Bob LaMonte clients to come coach for him. Jon Gruden? Marty Mornhinweg? We'll see.
4:15 p.m. ET (CBS) Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7) at Houston Texans (5-10)
Win one for Kubs! I don't exactly think you're going to hear that sound of support emanating from Gary Kubiak's troops Sunday, but I think it's more likely than not he retains his job because owner Bob McNair really likes Kubiak and thinks he's a defensive coordinator away from the Texans winning 10 games.
4:15 p.m. ET (Fox) Dallas Cowboys (5-10) at Philadelphia Eagles (10-5)
The Eagles need to rest Michael Vick here. Whoever plays quarterback for them this week, how ignaminious would it be to enter the playoffs having lost two straight home games to Joe Webb and Stephen McGee.
4:15 p.m. ET (Fox) New York Giants (9-6) at Washington Redskins (6-9)
If I were a Giants fan, I wouldn't be as concerned about the future of Tom Coughlin as the curtain comes down on this season. I'd be more concerned with Eli Manning, who I believe has regressed significantly this year in terms of taking care of the ball (obviously). I do think Couglin stays, by the way, unless Sunday at FedEx is an abject disaster.
4:15 p.m. ET (CBS) San Diego Chargers (8-7) at Denver Broncos (4-11)
I'm not saying anyone in the Rocky Mountain region should be thrilled over the last two seasons and what Josh McDaniels meant to the franchise. But I side with Cris Collinsworth on this one. My NBC colleague says sometimes a team just responds to a QB's leadership and approach, even if he's not the best player on the team at his position. Tim Tebow might not be. But if he wins this game, it's going to be very hard for some new coach to take the Denver job in 2011 and not give Tebow the starting QB job.
4:15 p.m. ET (Fox) Arizona Cardinals (5-10) at San Francisco 49ers">49ers (5-10)
Why anyone outside the Jim Tomsula family would care, I have no idea.
4:15 p.m. ET (Fox) Chicago Bears (11-4) at Green Bay Packers (9-6)
It's simple: The team with something big to play for wins.
4:15 p.m. ET (CBS) Tennessee Titans (6-9) at Indianapolis Colts (9-6)
If this is how it ends for Jeff Fisher, it ends poorly. But as bad as December has been for Fisher, he still should have a job within a month if Bud Adams fires him. You can't say the same thing for Randy Moss, can you?
8:30 p.m. ET (NBC) St. Louis Rams (7-8) at Seattle Seahawks (6-9)
What it comes down to at Qwest is that I have a lot more faith in Sam Bradford than Charlie Whitehurst. I'll leave the discussion of the worthiness of the NFC West winner to play a home game to my Friday Game Plan column.

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