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Saturday, December 18, 2004 

Games of the Day

Saturday NFL football is a wonderful invention, especially the weekend before Christmas. Seven game times on TV over three days makes it a lot easier to squeeze in holiday shopping, and there's plenty of good games to choose from (thanks to the NFC races, mostly).

Today starts with the Steelers at the Giants and two young QBs going in opposite directions. I can't see Big Ben stumbling here, and Pittsburgh has plenty of motivation to stay tied with New England (who play Miami on Monday night). Pittsburgh needs a win and losses by San Diego (unlikely vs. Cleveland) and Indy (possible vs. Baltimore) to clinch a first-round bye.

Then it's time to hit the mall... I cannot imagine one reason to watch Washington play San Francisco unless you are a relative, and even then, shouldn't you be shopping?

Finally, the game of the day is Carolina at Atlanta. The Falcons beat the Panthers 27-10 back in week 4, but now the Panthers are as hot as any team in the league. With T.J. Duckett out, I can't see the Falcons winning this one. Carolina is already tied for the last wild-card spot with St. Louis, and a win here would put them in a good position, since they have Tampa Bay and New Orleans on their remaining schedule and can control at least part of their destiny. Here's a case where the schedule can be misleading. After St. Louis plays Arizona tomorrow, they finish up against Philadelphia and the NY Jets, which seems like a harder schedule at first glance. But since Tampa Bay is hosting New Orleans this week, one of those teams is guaranteed to be 6-8 and still in the race next week. By comparison, the last two games might be meaningless to the Eagles and Jets.

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