It's bizarre to have the top two seeds in a conference all but wrapped up by Thanksgiving, but that's the story of the NFC in 2004. The Eagles (9--1) can clinch the NFC East on Sunday with a win over the Giants, and the Falcons (8--2) have a four-game lead in the NFC South. With only one of its final six games against a team above .500 (the Packers on Dec. 5, at home), Philadelphia is a heavy favorite to host its third straight NFC Championship Game. The question is, Can Atlanta give the Eagles a game if that's the matchup on Jan. 23? Only if daredevil quarterback Michael Vick (above) is still upright come January (no sure thing), if an unpredictable blitz can bug Eagles QB Donovan McNabb (it can) and if a precocious rookie corner, DeAngelo Hall, can slow the Terrell Owens Express (doubtful).
BY THE NUMBERS
Dan Snyder's handpicked greatest coaches of all time, Steve Spurrier and Joe Gibbs, are a combined 15--27 (.357). The coach Snyder just couldn't bear anymore after a lone 8--8 season in 2001, Marty Schottenheimer (left), went to a bare cupboard of a team, the Chargers, where he's 19--23 (.452). Since 2002, the Redskins have one more win than the Bengals.
November 29, 2004
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
Miami at San Francisco. How amazing is it that these two teams will go down the stretch as front-runners for the right to select the first player in next April's draft--which, in all likelihood, will be USC quarterback Matt Leinart? The teams that entered this season with the best records since the 1970 merger trail their divisions with the worst records in the NFL this year (both are 1--9). A.J. Feeley and Tim Rattay are expected to square off under center on Sunday. That's a far cry from the Dan Marino--Joe Montana matchup 20 years ago in Super Bowl XIX.
1. Terrell Owens (right) calls himself a religious man. I wonder what book of the Bible says, Thou shall lift and spin naked women salaciously in prime time.
2. Is it my imagination, or does Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks make one absolutely lamebrain play every week? A couple of weeks ago it was the idiotic backward pass; on Sunday it was the underhanded flip that Broncos linebacker Al Wilson intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Brooks is doing everything he can to put coach Jim Haslett on the unemployment line.
3. No rookie trio is having as big an impact as Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald, linebacker Karlos Dansby and defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. --Peter King
Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback, every week at SI.com/football.