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Week 14

'Anything can happen' in season's final month

Posted: Wednesday December 12, 2001 2:15 PM

Direct Snaps
Flags, Flattery

By B. Duane Cross,

As the NFL enters the stretch run, this much is certain: Four teams -- Chicago, Oakland, Pittsburgh and St. Louis -- can clinch at least a playoff berth with a victory. As for the other 24 teams still in the running for a postseason berth, let the playoffs begin. Buffalo, Carolina and Detroit have been eliminated from contention.

"We're at the stage in the season where you push that final push," says Philadelphia head coach Andy Reid, whose Eagles can clinch the NFC Eastern Division title with a win at Washington. "You hit the last quarter of the season and you have to push. Your urgency level has to be up. The players will get themselves ready and be revved up and ready to go."

Adding to the complexity of this season's playoff chase is that seven clubs have winning percentages of .750-or-better, tying 1968 for the most ever at this point in a season. The teams at .750-or-better: Pittsburgh (10-2), St. Louis (10-2), Chicago (9-3), Green Bay (9-3), Miami (9-3), Oakland (9-3) and San Francisco (9-3).

With all teams having played at least 12 games, what are the chances of clubs with .500-or-below records, like Atlanta (6-6), making the playoffs? Looking at the past eight years, it ain't over by a long shot. In seven of the past eight seasons, 13 clubs with a record of 6-6 or below have gone on to earn a playoff spot.

"There's still four games left," says Falcons head coach Dan Reeves. "Anything can happen."

  • NFL Playoff Standings | Week 14 Playoff Scenarios | Tiebreaker System

    Oakland @ San Diego -- 5 p.m. EST Saturday
    Raiders lead all-time series 51-30-2. Chargers have an NFL-best 7-2 record on Saturdays since 1970 (min. 5 games). Oakland is 5-5 in Saturday games since 1970, and has won four of the past five games at San Diego.
    Tampa Bay @ Chicago -- 1 p.m. EST
    Bears lead all-time series 32-15. In the past three games, Buccaneers' defense has held Chicago to 682 total yards. Bears' 172 points allowed rank second in the NFC; on pace to yield 229, fewest since 215 in 1988.
    Miami @ San Francisco -- 4:05 p.m. EST
    Dolphins lead all-time series 4-3. Miami QB Jay Fiedler is 20-8 all-time (.714) as starter. In the past four games at home, 49ers WR Terrell Owens has 31 catches for 415 yards (three 100-yard games) and seven 7 TDs.
    Philadelphia @ Washington -- 4:15 p.m. EST
    Redskins lead all-time series 72-55-5. Eagles' RB Brian Mitchell has 19,978 career yards and needs 22 to join Walter Payton (21,803) and Jerry Rice (20,674) as the only players in history with 20,000 yards.
    Pittsburgh @ Baltimore -- 8:30 p.m. EST
    Steelers lead all-time series 7-4. Under head coach Brian Billick, the Ravens have won 21 of 25 games after Nov. 1 (including playoffs). Steelers QB Kordell Stewart has won five of his past six December starts.
    St. Louis @ New Orleans -- 9 p.m. EST Monday
    Rams lead all-time series 35-28. In the past two home games, Saints RB Ricky Williams has 342 scrimmage yards (222 rushing, 120 receiving) and one TD. He ranks second in the NFC with 1,539 scrimmage yards.

    Cardinals QB Jake Plummer needs 25 passing yards for his second career 3,000-yard season. He needs two TD passes to tie career high of 17 set in 1998, and his 81.2 passer rating is also on pace for career best.
    'X' Marcus the spot
    Colts' Marcus Pollard has 15.6 yards-per-catch average -- tops among TEs with at least 30 catches. He also leads AFC TEs with six TDs and ranks second among NFL TEs with nine catches of 20-plus yards.
    Seminole reunion
    Bengals-Jets matchup -- the first meeting in New York since 1993 -- features three former Florida State receiving teammates: Cincinnati's Ron Dugans and Peter Warrick and New York's Laveranues Coles.
    Seattle slew
    Seahawks WR Darrell Jackson has four 100-yard receiving games and needs one to tie Steve Largent (1984) and Brian Blades (1989) for the second-most in a season in club history (Largent, 6 in 1979).
    Last rites
    Chiefs' RB Priest Holmes, the NFL rushing leader, has five 100-yard rushing games and needs one to break a tie with Joe Delaney for second most by a Chief in a season (Christian Okoye, 8 in 1989).
    Leader of the Pack
    In two games vs. the AFC this year, Packers QB Brett Favre has 699 passing yards with six TDs vs. 0 INTs for a 122.6 passer rating. Favre is 2-0 in his career vs. Oilers/Titans and has a 105.3 passer rating.

    Flattery: Receiving praise
    Raiders WR Jerry Rice became the first NFL player to amass more than 20,000 yards receiving in his career. Rice is more than 6,000 yards ahead of James Lofton (14,004), second on the career yardage list.
    Flag: Biggest bust?
    Jaguars WR R. Jay Soward, a first-round draft pick in 2000, was suspended indefinitely Monday for breaking team rules, making it even less likely he will ever play for the team again.
    Flattery: cc: Moss
    Dolphins WR Chris Chambers has seven TDs, including two against Indianapolis on Monday night, making him the first rookie to catch seven scores since the Vikings' Randy Moss had 17 in 1998.
    Flag: Apathy
    The announced crowd -- 44,549 -- for the Panthers-Bills game Sunday was Buffalo's lowest attendance for a non-strike game since Dec. 7, 1986, despite a halftime ceremony honoring former head coach Marv Levy.
    Flattery: Picked off
    The Browns are tops in the NFL with 27 INTs (tied for AFC-high three INT-return TDs) and need five to match season record (32 in 1968). Defense has allowed 17 TDs -- second in AFC (Steelers, 16).
    Flag: Bungled
    With their loss to Jacksonville, the Bengals now have 11 consecutive seasons in which they not posted a winning record. The record is 20, set by the Saints from 1967-86. The Bucs are second (14, 1983-96).'s James Quintong says this is the final week of the regular season for many fantasy football leagues, so it's time to gear up for the playoff hunt. This is when you go with your top players and don't worry too much about matchups. Check out this week's Fantasy File.

    Users sounded off on which position is most critical to a team's success:

    Fullback -- You need a great fullback to succeed, someone who can block for his running back and pick up the blitz, someone who can also run and catch out of the back field.
    Julian, Silver Spring, Md.

    Offensive lineman -- If you don't control the line of scrimmage, you're going nowhere. You need other quality players, but it begins here.
    Dennis, Oneida, N.Y.

    Pass-rushing defensive lineman -- A QB who must unload early or get dropped, gives the defensive team opportunities to get picks.
    Jack, Dallas

    Kick returner -- Sounds ridiculous, right? But when the Packers won the Super Bowl a few years back, Desmond Howard's influence could not be understated. All year long the offense was taking over with only 50 yards to go for a touchdown. A great kick returner can have an impact on a team almost as large as a good QB.
    Mike, Milwaukee

    Quarterback -- He is the leader of the team. The captain of the ship. Without him not much a team could do. You can't run the ball forever and expect to win. A great defense can't do the job. Without a decent Quarterback teams would not go anywhere.
    Robert, Berwick, Maine

    Kicker -- They win and lose more games than anybody. Nothing is more intense than a kick with the game on the line.
    James, San Francisco

    Running back -- In today's game, with even a decent quarterback, a truly superior running back can take over the offensive game. Think Marshall Faulk. He's more than an MVP; he's a prototype.
    Tony, Minot, N.D.

    Linebacker -- Pass defense, run defense, and sacks, these guys have to do it all. Defense wins championships and LBs make defenses.
    Jonathan, Buckhannon, W. Va.

    Head coach -- Buffalo is a great example how a coach can take a winning team and turn it into a loser over night.
    Joseph, New Orleans

    Punter -- Field position is key!
    Javier, Clovis, Calif.

    This week's topic: Which teams should make a head-coaching change -- and who would you hire as the replacement?

    Your name:
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    Your hometown:

    Your take here (in 25 words or less)


    Related information
    SI's Dr. Z: NFL Week 14 Forecast
    SI's Dr. Z: NFL Week 14 Power Rankings's NFL Week 14 Burning Questions
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