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Friday, December 23, 2005 

Quick Slants - Week 16

Merry Christmas everyone! Maybe Santa will bring me a new PC... There are a lot of playoff possibilities this week, and plenty of good games - most on Saturday as the NFL flip-flops their schedule to accomodate Christmas.

NY Giants (10-4) at Washington (8-6)

Both of these teams won huge games last week. The Redskins have come back from the dead, winning three in a row to put themselves in position to clinch a playoff spot this week. They need a win plus losses by three other teams - Dallas, Minnesota, Atlanta - but there are some tough matchups there. Meanwhile, the Giants can wrap up the NFC East with a win, and can still clinch a playoff spot if the Vikings stumble against the Ravens.

When these two teams played back in Week 8, the Giants embarrassed the Redskins 36-0 behind 206 yards by Tiki Barber and some help from 3 Washington fumbles. It will be interesting to see how much the revenge factor figures in. While Washington has won 3 straight, the only quality win was against Dallas - St. Louis and Arizona had already packed it in for the year. They have a lot to prove in this game. On the other hand, the Giants might be a bit over-confident after Barber shredded the Chiefs defense last Saturday. Should be a great game.

San Diego (9-5) at Kansas City (8-6)

Another matchup of long-time rivals will take place in Kansas City, as the Chargers and Chiefs battle in a game that may mean nothing. Unfortunately for these teams, Jacksonville and Pittsburgh appear to have a stranglehold on the two AFC wild card spots. The loser of this game is definitely out of the playoffs, and the winner might not be in much better shape. For the Chargers, I'm wondering if last week's win over Indy is going to end up being their Super Bowl. This game looks like it should be a battle of the running backs, LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson, but a look back at their first game in Week 8 tells a different story. Neither team rushed for 100 yards, while they both passed for over 300 yards during a 28-20 Chargers win. The statistics were nearly a dead heat, as San Diego gained 424 yards and earned 22 first downs, while the Chiefs gained 418 yards and earned 21 first downs.

Atlanta (8-6) at Tampa Bay (9-5)

Both of these teams got beaten up last week, scoring a total of 3 points between them. The Falcons are in a tough spot, forced to play the Bucs and Panthers in the final two weeks of the season, while both of those teams can clinch playoff spots with wins this season. Tampa won the first meeting between these teams, 30-27 back in Week 11, but if you looked at the stats you would never believe it. Atlanta outgained Tampa Bay 443 to 258, including a 293-118 edge in passing yards, plus a 26-to-15 edge in first downs, and the Falcons held the ball for just over 36 minutes. Neither of these teams can play from behind since they rely on the running game to set up their passing game. I think Tampa will bounce back and move a step closer to the playoffs.

Sunday Night
Minnesota (8-6) at Baltimore (5-9)

I'm mentioning this game for two reasons. First, I like that the Ravens showed up last Monday night and pummeled the Packers 48-3 instead of packing it in (pun intended), and second, a Vikings loss would open the door for several teams (Redskins, Bucs) to clinch a playoff spot. They'll be a lot of folks rooting for the Ravens in this one.

Monday Night
New England (9-5) at New York Jets (3-11)

All you need to know about this one is that the two big story lines are: 1) This is the last Monday night game on ABC after 35 years, and 2) The Jets aren't selling beer at the stadium since they are afraid of riots in the stands. The Patriots will play their regulars, but if the Bengals have wrapped up the third seed with a win on Saturday, I bet Belichick will pull most of them by the fourth quarter.

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