The jets are going to upset the Colts in Indianapolis. There, I said it. And if the Colts run up another one of their big scores, I can always go back to driving my taxi.
The Jets are 4-6. Only Bill Parcells thinks they still have a playoff shot, even though they play good teams all the way down the stretch. He likes to remind us about 1994, when his Patriots started 3-6, then won their last seven to earn a wildcard berth. The first victory in that streak came in overtime against the Vikings, the eventual NFC Central champ, and the Pats were down 20-0 in that one.
The Jets are coming off consecutive upsets of AFC East heavies New England and Buffalo. In both games Bill Belichick's defense unhinged a quality quarterback, first Drew Bledsoe and then Doug Flutie. Last week little Dougie was constantly running for his life as Belichick's blitzers came after him in waves, a switch from their game on Oct. 17, when New York basically laid back in coverage. But that's the thing about a Belichick defense: You're seldom going to get the same thing twice.
Flutie was getting the ball to his hot reads, but New York's defensive backs, particularly strong safety Victor Green, were sound in clamping down on the receivers. The Buffalo running game went nowhere, just as New England's hadn't the week before. The front three in the Jets' base defense—Rick Lyle, Jason Ferguson and Anthony Pleasant—are solid, and inside linebacker Marvin Jones has been showing great run-stuffing instincts.
But Indy, with the triumvirate of Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James, has been putting up numbers like crazy. Against the Eagles, James ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns—in the first quarter. The Jets had the Colts on the ropes in their first meeting but let them escape when Ray Lucas's short goal-line pass was intercepted late in a tie game. New York still held Indy to a season-low 318 yards, and I think Belichick will give Manning the full package this time: blitzes, two-lineman sets, four-man fronts in the base defense, inside backers dropping into deep coverage, anything to screw the kid up.
Lucas is a mobile quarterback, with a none-too-complicated package. He'll do O.K. I think Curtis Martin will put up decent numbers on the ground, but the big concern for the Jets is the line, now down to its third right tackle, Ian Rafferty, a late pickup off the Titans' practice squad. I like the Jets anyway. We need a major upset every week, right?
The Packers will beat the 49ers in the Monday-nighter. Brett Favre righted his ship against the Lions, and he'll get even healthier against San Francisco's defense. Arizona, which at 4-6 seems to be climbing back into the NFC East hunt, has already beaten the Giants this season, but its playoff hopes will end in New York. The Giants will take a low-scoring affair, with turnovers being the key.
Seattle plays the kind of zone defense that defies you to go downfield. Teams have to be patient against the Seahawks, and I don't think the Buccaneers have that kind of discipline. Call it a win for Seattle.
Which quarterback will be more resilient, coming back from nasty losses, Flutie or Bledsoe? I say it'll be Flutie, so I give the Bills the edge over New England. Here's an unusual statistic: Kansas City has won five of its last six on the road against the Raiders. Not this time. Oakland in a close one.
Finally there's a swift rematch between Jacksonville and Baltimore, the pair that on Nov. 14 played one of the two lowest-scoring games this season, a 6-3 Jaguars win. Both teams atoned on Sunday. Jacksonville, held to a franchise-low 132 yards by the Ravens, went into a spread formation and opened things up to the tune of 494 yards against New Orleans. Baltimore smacked poor Cincy for 34 points. The Jaguars will win the rematch, and I think they'll keep the throttle open this time.