Posted: Tuesday November 15, 2005 11:57AM; Updated: Tuesday November 15, 2005 2:10PM
Three up, three down
1. Minnesota -- Who needs Daunte Culpepper? The Vikings are 2-0 since their star quarterback went down and veteran Brad Johnson took over. Two games back with seven remaining, maybe Minnesota will have something to play for Jan. 1 at home against the Bears after all.
2. Green Bay -- There's no truth to the rumor that Packers head coach Mike Sherman made everyone in the Georgia Dome turn off their cell phones prior to kickoff. We're high on the Pack this week for two reasons: Samkon Gado, and in Atlanta they proved that on any given Sunday in the NFL ...
3. Seattle -- The NFL nation has largely ignored the Seahawks' success thus far this season, because, well, they've let us down before. But this is a Seattle team that has grown up a bit and learned how to put people away. Even with a huge lead, I'd be surprised if there's a letdown coming.
1. Atlanta -- Something tells me that Sunday's home loss to Green Bay is going to come back to haunt them. Atlanta now trails in the NFC South race and still has a bunch of tough games remaining: Tampa Bay, at Detroit on Thanksgiving, at Carolina, at Chicago, at Tampa Bay and Carolina again.
2. New York Giants -- In recent years this has been a team that, on some level, couldn't stand prosperity. That's why even when the Giants make the playoffs they're usually very good, but seldom great. New York did whatever it took to lose to Minnesota in Week 10.
3. Kansas City -- Go figure the Chiefs. Their offense is a thing of beauty when it's clicking, and yet you're never completely sure of what you're going to get from them week to week. On the bright side, there's one more road game (at Houston) before they end with four of six at Arrowhead.
1. Carolina has been bedeviled forever by division rival Atlanta, but this is the year the Panthers will get the best of the Falcons when it counts. The teams meet twice in the season's final five weeks: Dec. 4 in Charlotte and on New Year's Day in Atlanta. When the dust settles, Carolina will be your NFC South champ and the Falcons a wild-card entry.
2. With the Panthers and Falcons both having four or five pretty tough games left, Seattle is going to earn the NFC's No. 1 seed in the playoffs. The Seahawks are 7-2, tied with Carolina for the conference's best record, and their remaining schedule is fairly soft. They still have two games left against woeful San Francisco, and also face Tennessee and Green Bay (both 2-7) on the road. Of Seattle's three remaining difficult games, two of them are at home (against the Giants and Colts), where they are 5-0. The other is at Philadelphia.
3. After all the hand-wringing in New England, the Patriots are going to go 10-6 and win the AFC East by at least two games over Buffalo. No, it's not the same as logging another 14-2 and earning one of the conference's top two seeds, but it'll represent a 6-2 mark in the second half after that see-saw 4-4 opening.
One more thing
Some of my NFL reporter friends still insist that coaches should never let the outcome of a game rest on just one play, as Kansas City's Dick Vermeil and Tampa Bay's Jon Gruden have done the past two weeks (with winning results, we hasten to mention).
To that I once again say, why? Where is it written? If the play is a 1-yard run to win, with a big-bodied running back getting the call, and there's no guarantee you'll ever see the ball in overtime, going for it is the smart play. I'll take LarryJohnson and Mike Alstott from the 1, rather than cast my fate to the vagaries of the NFL's sudden-death overtime format. Every time.
Good for Vermeil and Gruden going away from the so-called book, which, we might add, no one has ever really read or even written. And while we're at it, let's be thankful for the NFL wisely adding the collegiate two-point conversion several years ago. What a welcome element of fun and strategy it adds to the league.