Saturday, December 30, 2006

Playoff Berths on the Line in Final Week

The final week of the season is upon us and for some teams the playoff are in sight, while for others the chance to play spoilers and end on a winning note take precedent.

Nine of the 12 playoff spots have been decided with three up for grabs. By Sunday evening, we'll know who's in and who's preparing for the 2007 NFL Draft in April.

Here's the playoff rundown so far:

In the AFC, New England, Baltimore, Indianapolis and San Diego are division winners with the Ravens and Chargers receiving first-round byes. A win by San Diego would give them home-field advantage. A loss and a Baltimore victory would give the advantage to the Ravens.

In the wild card race, the New York Jets and Denver Broncos are the front runners. It's simple for both teams - win and your in. Cincinnati, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Kansas City are still alive but need help. If either the Jets or the Broncos falter, the Bengals can get in with a win over Pittsburgh.

In the NFC, Chicago, New Orleans and Seattle have clinched division titles, while Dallas and Philadelphia have earned playoff berths. A win by the Eagles on Sunday gives them the NFC East crown.

That leaves the New York Giants, Carolina, St. Louis, Atlanta and Green Bay still alive for the sixth and final playoff slot. The Giants control their own destiny and need no help - beat Washington on Saturday night and New York is in.

Here's the Corners predictions for week 17 in the NFL:

New York Giants at Washington (Saturday night)
Despite their uninspired play and continued collapse, the New York Giants are still in prime position to reach the playoffs. Various scenarios can get the Giants into the playoffs despite having lost six of seven since their 6-2 start, but winning on the road Saturday night against the Washington Redskins to end the regular season would provide the easiest route. The Giants will be without Michael Strahan and look for a faltering team to sink even further. Winner: Giants.

Cleveland at Houston
Houston will try to close the season by winning back-to-back games for the first time in two years when they meet the Cleveland Browns at Reliant Stadium on Sunday. Cleveland (4-11), wrapping up its second season under coach Romeo Crennel, has already been assured a worse record than its 6-10 mark in 2005. The Browns are 2-1 all-time against the Texans, losing 19-16 in the last meeting on Oct. 30, 2005. Winner: Texans.

Detroit at Dallas
Dallas can still win the division and the NFC's third seed if it beats Detroit and Philadelphia loses to Atlanta. That would mean a home playoff game for the first time since 1998. But if the Cowboys lose, they'll open the first week of the postseason on the road at Seattle. The Lions are a league-worst 23-72 since 2001 and haven't made the playoffs since 1999 and have six straight seasons with at least 10 losses. The Lions, who have lost seven straight overall, are 0-7 on the road this season and have lost 18 of their last 20 games away from Detroit. Winner: Cowboys.

New England at Tennessee
Tennessee is trying to become the first team ever to start 0-5 and make the postseason. The Titans have won six straight, but need a victory at New England along with losses by Cincinnati, Jacksonville and Denver to reach the playoffs. The Patriots clinched their fourth consecutive division title Dec. 24 with a 24-21 victory against the Jaguars. They are the fourth seed entering the final week, but could move up to No. 3 if they beat the Titans and the Colts lose to Miami. Winner: Patriots.

Seattle at Tampa Bay
The Seattle Seahawks earned their fourth straight trip to the postseason last week, but they haven't looked much like a playoff-caliber team lately. The Seahawks try to end a three-game losing streak and gain some momentum heading into the playoffs as they visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Seattle has beaten only one team with a winning record this season -- a 23-20 win over Denver on Dec. 3 -- and has allowed at least 20 points in each of its last seven games. The good news for Seattle - Tampa Bay doesn't have a winning record. Winner: Seahawks.

Pittsburgh at Cincinnati
Bill Cowher's long tenure as coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers may be coming to an end this weekend. Cowher could be coaching his last game when the Steelers visit a Cincinnati Bengals squad fighting for their playoff lives. The Bengals still have a shot at the postseason, but they will need some help. Thanks to losses at Indianapolis and Denver in its last two games, Cincinnati must beat Pittsburgh to remain alive in the playoff race. Winner: Bengals.

Oakland at New York Jets
The Jets can earn a playoff berth by beating the Raiders and complete and amazing turnaround under rookie head coach Eric Mangini. New York started the season at 2-3, but has gone 7-3 since. The Jets are 5-2 since their bye week, allowing an average of 14.1 points in those games, the third-fewest points in the league in that span. The Raiders, who have lost eight straight, are averaging a league-low 11.0 points and tied the franchise record for most losses in a season. Looks like Oakland will break that record this weekend. Winner: Jets.

Carolina at New Orleans
The Carolina Panthers will be looking to keep their slim postseason hopes alive when they visit a New Orleans Saints team that has already clinched a first-round bye.
The Panthers were expected by many preseason publications to contend for the Super Bowl this season. However, they enter the final week needing a win, along with a New York Giants loss at Washington on Saturday and a Green Bay loss at Chicago Sunday night, to earn a wild-card berth in the NFC playoffs. The Saints, on the other hand, have rebounded nicely from a 3-13 record last season, clinching their first playoff bye in franchise history. Carolina has won six of the last eight meetings between the teams. Winner: Panthers.

St. Louis at Minnesota
Back-to-back wins have kept the St. Louis Rams alive in the playoff picture, but it's going to take a lot more than a third straight victory for them to be playing in January. The Rams look for a win and a lot of help when they visit the Minnesota Vikings in their regular-season finale. St. Louis must win and have the New York Giants, Carolina and Atlanta all lose or tie to avoid missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season. The Rams began the season 4-1, but lost seven of their next eight before their recent rebound. The Rams are 3-4 away from home and have lost three straight trips to Minnesota, including a 27-13 defeat in their last meeting on Dec. 11, 2005. However, the Vikings are only 3-4 at the Metrodome this season and trying to avoid finishing below .500 at home for the first time since going 2-6 there in 1984. Winner: Rams.

Jacksonville at Kansas City
Although they need plenty of help, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs can still make the playoffs. The Jaguars are 4-1 all-time against the Chiefs, including a 23-16 victory in 2002 in the only meeting at Kansas City. Fred Taylor had 114 yards rushing and a touchdown in that contest, and he needs 80 yards to reach 1,200 for the sixth time in his career. The Chiefs are an NFL-best 20-2 in December home games since 1995, having won 18 straight before losing 20-10 to the Ravens on Dec. 10. Jacksonville is 2-5 on the road after going 11-5 over the past two seasons. Winner: Chiefs.

Arizona at San Diego
The Chargers look to secure home-field advantage throughout the playoffs when they host the Arizona Cardinals in the regular season finale for both teams. San Diego can clinch the AFC's top seed with a victory over the Cardinals or if Baltimore loses to Buffalo at home earlier on Sunday. San Diego already has a first-round bye for the first time since 1994, when it advanced to its only Super Bowl, but hasn't had home-field advantage since 1980, when it lost 34-27 to Oakland in the AFC Championship Game. Arizona has lost six straight and 16 of its last 19 games against AFC teams. The Chargers lead the all-time series 7-3. Winner: Chargers.

San Francisco at Denver
The Broncos can advance to the postseason with a win or a tie against the San Francisco 49ers when the teams meet in the regular-season finale at Invesco Field. The Broncos can now make another trip to the postseason with a win or a tie, or a Kansas City loss or tie. A victory would also ensure their fourth straight 10-win season, tying the best run in franchise history. The 49ers have lost four of their last five games following a season-high three-game winning streak. Winner: Broncos.

Atlanta at Philadelphia
Jeff Garcia will try to lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a division title. Michael Vick can still take the Atlanta Falcons to the playoffs when the two teams meet in Philadelphia. Philadelphia can clinch the NFC East for the fifth time in six seasons with a win or a Dallas loss to Detroit. If both the Eagles and Cowboys finish with the same record, the Eagles would win the division. If the Eagles lose and the Cowboys win, Dallas would win the division. After starting 5-2, the Falcons have lost six of their last eight games. Winner: Eagles.

Miami at Indianapolis
The Indianapolis Colts have already clinched their fourth straight AFC South title, but little else is in their control. Indianapolis won nine straight games to start the season and were the league's last remaining undefeated team, but that strong start is becoming an increasingly distant memory. The Colts have dropped four of their last six games. Now, Indianapolis must win and hope Buffalo upsets Baltimore to ensure the No. 2 seed in the AFC and clinch a first-round bye. The Colts could slip all the way to the fourth seed if they lose and New England tops Tennessee. Despite the Colts' recent struggles, they are 7-0 at home and trying to finish the season undefeated there for the first time since the 1967 Baltimore Colts went 6-0-1. Winner: Colts.

Buffalo at Baltimmore
The Baltimore Ravens look to secure a coveted first-round bye and possibly the top seed for the AFC playoffs when they host the Buffalo Bills. The Ravens can wrap up the No. 2 seed in the AFC, which means a home playoff game after a first-round bye, by beating the Bills. Baltimore has been very tough to beat at M&T Bank Stadium, with a 6-1 record heading into this matchup. The Ravens have won four straight home games, outscoring opponents by an average of 14.3 points while holding the opposition to 217.3 yards per game. Winner: Ravens.

Green Bay at Chicago
The game is essentially meaningless for the Bears (13-2), who have already clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but the Packers could still be in the hunt for the conference's final wild-card spot come kickoff. The game was moved from the afternoon to Sunday evening as part of the NFL's flexible schedule. Though the Packers are looking to win their fourth straight game, they've lost three in a row to the Bears, including a 26-0 defeat at Lambeau Field in the Sept. 10 season opener. Brett Favre, who could be playing in his final NFL game, is 21-8 lifetime against Chicago. Winner: Packers.

The Corner Lowdown
Last week: 10-5
Overall: 140-77

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Friday, December 29, 2006

NFL has Networks Seeing Double-Double

For the first time, the NFL is allowing CBS and Fox to each televise two games this Sunday in many markets, meaning four games will be available to many viewers.

The so-called "double doubleheader" will be available in all markets except those in which the home team is playing.

The two networks will receive a 1 p.m. Eastern time game on both CBS and Fox, as well as a 4:15 game on both networks.

Normally, the networks alternate doubleheader weeks. The one with the doubleheader can show games at 1 and 4:15. The other network is limited to showing one game in one of those two time slots.

Wide receiver Antonio Bryant pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of reckless driving and resisting arrest after he was spotted driving more than 100 mph last month.

Bryant, 25, avoided a court appearance yesterday by filing his pleas with the San Mateo County Court clerk's office, the District Attorney's office said.

Police said the fifth-year pro showed signs of drunkenness and became verbally combative when they pulled over his orange Lamborghini on Highway 101 on Nov. 19. Officers said they were forced to use leather restraints to put Bryant in their car.

Although arrested on suspicion of drunken driving, Bryant was not charged with driving under the influence of alcohol because he refused to take a field sobriety test, prosecutors said.

Last week, Bryant was suspended for four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy

Quarterback Jake Delhomme practiced again yesterday and was upgraded to probable for the Panthers' final regular season game at New Orleans.

Delhomme, who has been sidelined since suffering ligament damage in his right thumb against Philadelphia on Dec. 4, will likely start Sunday against the Saints in a game the Panthers must win to keep their playoff hopes alive.

They also could be eliminated by the time they play if the New York Giants beat Washington tomorrow night.

If the Giants lose to Washington, Carolina would have to beat the Saints on Sunday afternoon and Green Bay would have to lose to Chicago on Sunday night

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

NFL Week 17 Injury Report

By The Associated Press


NEW YORK GIANTS AT WASHINGTON REDSKINS - New York Giants: DOUBTFUL: G Rich Seubert (Shin). QUESTIONABLE: TE Jeremy Shockey (Ankle). PROBABLE: RB Jim Finn (Back). Washington Redskins: QUESTIONABLE: LB Khary Campbell (Hamstring). PROBABLE: C Casey Rabach (Hand); T Jon Jansen (Calf); CB Troy Vincent (Illness).

DETROIT LIONS AT DALLAS COWBOYS - Detroit Lions: OUT: CB Fernando Bryant (Concussion). DOUBTFUL: G Ross Verba (Groin); TE Casey Fitzsimmons (Shoulder). QUESTIONABLE: LB Teddy Lehman (Hamstring); WR Eddie Drummond (Ankle). PROBABLE: TE Marcus Pollard (Hamstring); T Jeff Backus (Foot). Dallas Cowboys: QUESTIONABLE: DE Jay Ratliff (Shoulder); CB Jacques Reeves (Elbow).

CLEVELAND BROWNS AT HOUSTON TEXANS - Cleveland Browns: QUESTIONABLE: G Joe Andruzzi (Knee); WR Joe Jurevicius (Concussion); WR Dennis Northcutt (Shoulder); G Cosey Coleman (Ankle); DE Alvin McKinley (Shoulder); LB Andra Davis (Concussion); LB Chaun Thompson (Thumb); DE Nick Eason (Foot); LB Mason Unck (Groin); CB Leigh Bodden (Ankle); TE Kellen Winslow (Knee); QB Charlie Frye (Right Wrist). Houston Texans: OUT: DE Anthony Weaver (Shoulder). QUESTIONABLE: TE Owen Daniels (Shoulder). PROBABLE: DE Mario Williams (Foot); RB Ron Dayne (Ankle).

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT KANSAS CITY CHIEFS - Jacksonville Jaguars: OUT: T Stockar McDougle (Chest). DOUBTFUL: S Deon Grant (Hamstring). QUESTIONABLE: DT Tony McDaniel (Hip). PROBABLE: RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Knee); RB Derrick Wimbush (Ankle); WR Matt Jones (Hamstring); LB Jorge Cordova (Hamstring); CB Rashean Mathis (Illness); QB David Garrard (Hamstring); DT Marcus Stroud (Ankle); P Chris Hanson (Left Hamstring); RB Fred Taylor (Hamstring). Kansas City Chiefs: OUT: LB Rich Scanlon (Neck). QUESTIONABLE: DE Jimmy Wilkerson (Hamstring); RB Michael Bennett (Ankle); T Kyle Turley (Shoulder). PROBABLE: TE Jason Dunn (Back).

ST. LOUIS RAMS AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS - St. Louis Rams: DOUBTFUL: RB Paul Smith (Neck). PROBABLE: DE Leonard Little (Neck); DT La'Roi Glover (Ribs); DE Victor Adeyanju (Forearm); LB Will Witherspoon (Knee). Minnesota Vikings: QUESTIONABLE: QB Brooks Bollinger (Left Shoulder); WR Troy Williamson (Hamstring); P Chris Kluwe (Hamstring). PROBABLE: QB Tarvaris Jackson (Knee); TE Jim Kleinsasser (Elbow); LB Napoleon Harris (Wrist); RB Chester Taylor (Ribs); TE Jeff Dugan (Foot).

CAROLINA PANTHERS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - Carolina Panthers: QUESTIONABLE: QB Jake Delhomme (Right Thumb); WR Drew Carter (Ankle); LB Thomas Davis (Shoulder). PROBABLE: QB Chris Weinke (Chest); RB Nick Goings (Chest). New Orleans Saints: DOUBTFUL: WR Joe Horn (Groin). QUESTIONABLE: S Omar Stoutmire (Knee); RB Aaron Stecker (Hamstring); TE Mark Campbell (Knee); WR Terrance Copper (Foot).

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT TENNESSEE TITANS - New England Patriots: QUESTIONABLE: CB Chad Scott (Back); RB Kevin Faulk (Knee); DT Vince Wilfork (Ankle); TE Benjamin Watson (Knee); DE Marquise Hill (Knee); S Rashad Baker (Thigh); DT Mike Wright (Shoulder); WR Brandon Childress (Ankle); T Ryan O'Callaghan (Neck). PROBABLE: CB Ellis Hobbs (Wrist); QB Tom Brady (Right Shoulder); DE Richard Seymour (Elbow); S Rodney Harrison (Shoulder). Tennessee Titans: QUESTIONABLE: DT Robaire Smith (Toe); RB Travis Henry (Ankle); WR Bobby Wade (Ankle); DT Tony Brown (Knee); DE Travis LaBoy (Knee); TE Casey Cramer (Neck); TE Bo Scaife (Ankle).

OAKLAND RAIDERS AT NEW YORK JETS - Oakland Raiders: OUT: WR Jerry Porter (Hip); RB LaMont Jordan (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: RB Zack Crockett (Heel); WR Randy Moss (Ankle); QB Aaron Brooks (Neck). PROBABLE: G Corey Hulsey (Knee); T Robert Gallery (Neck); CB Fabian Washington (Shoulder); G Kevin Boothe (Elbow). New York Jets: QUESTIONABLE: RB James Hodgins (Knee); S Eric Smith (Foot); RB Cedric Houston (Calf); S Kerry Rhodes (Knee); RB B.J. Askew (Foot); RB Kevan Barlow (Thigh); CB Andre Dyson (Knee); CB David Barrett (Hip); WR Laveranues Coles (Head). PROBABLE: QB Chad Pennington (Calf); LB Matt Chatham (Foot); G Brandon Moore (Back); QB Patrick Ramsey (Calf); DE Bryan Thomas (Shoulder); DT Rashad Moore (Hand).

SEATTLE SEAHAWKS AT TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS - Seattle Seahawks: OUT: C Robbie Tobeck (Hip). DOUBTFUL: WR Darrell Jackson (Toe); CB Marcus Trufant (Ankle). PROBABLE: LB Niko Koutouvides (Ankle); G Chris Gray (Thigh); DT Rocky Bernard (Foot). Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DOUBTFUL: CB Alan Zemaitis (Shoulder); TE Alex Smith (Back). QUESTIONABLE: G Davin Joseph (Knee); DE Julian Jenkins (Ankle); CB Juran Bolden (Quadricep); LB Jamie Winborn (Knee); DT Ellis Wyms (Ankle); S Jermaine Phillips (Wrist); RB Carnell Williams (Foot).

PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT CINCINNATI BENGALS - Pittsburgh Steelers: OUT: S Ryan Clark (Groin); T Max Starks (Knee). DOUBTFUL: LB Clark Haggans (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: LB James Harrison (Shoulder). PROBABLE: S Troy Polamalu (Knee); QB Ben Roethlisberger (Left Shoulder); S Andre Lott (Ankle); C Jeff Hartings (Knee); CB Deshea Townsend (Hand); LB Clint Kriewaldt (Neck). Cincinnati Bengals: DOUBTFUL: C Rich Braham (Knee). PROBABLE: T Willie Anderson (Foot); DE Bryan Robinson (Toe); T Levi Jones (Knee); G Eric Steinbach (Illness); S Madieu Williams (Thigh); DT Sam Adams (Illness).

ARIZONA CARDINALS AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS - Arizona Cardinals: OUT: QB Matt Leinart (Left Shoulder). DOUBTFUL: LB Gerald Hayes (Ribs); CB David Macklin (Hamstring); WR Troy Walters (Ankle). PROBABLE: S Adrian Wilson (Illness); WR Bryant Johnson (Hip); WR Anquan Boldin (Illness); CB Antrel Rolle (Toe). San Diego Chargers: DOUBTFUL: DE Derreck Robinson (Foot). QUESTIONABLE: T Marcus McNeill (Neck); LB Randall Godfrey (Hamstring); WR Eric Parker (Neck); DE Luis Castillo (Ankle); G Scott Mruczkowski (Knee). PROBABLE: S Bhawoh Jue (Knee).

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS AT DENVER BRONCOS - San Francisco 49ers: QUESTIONABLE: LB Derek Smith (Hamstring); T Jonas Jennings (Shoulder). PROBABLE: S Mark Roman (Ankle). Denver Broncos: QUESTIONABLE: LB Al Wilson (Back); LB Keith Burns (Hand). PROBABLE: C Tom Nalen (Ankle); TE Stephen Alexander (Ribs); K Jason Elam (Left Hamstring); S Steve Cargile (Ankle).

BUFFALO BILLS AT BALTIMORE RAVENS - Buffalo Bills: QUESTIONABLE: RB Daimon Shelton (Head). Baltimore Ravens: DOUBTFUL: T Jonathan Ogden (Toe). QUESTIONABLE: LB Bart Scott (Ankle); G Jason Brown (Ankle); LB Adalius Thomas (Ankle). PROBABLE: TE Daniel Wilcox (Back).

ATLANTA FALCONS AT PHILADELPHIA EAGLES - Atlanta Falcons: OUT: WR Ashley Lelie (Shoulder). DOUBTFUL: CB Jason Webster (Groin). PROBABLE: CB DeAngelo Hall (Knee); LB Michael Boley (Hamstring); RB Warrick Dunn (Calf); DT Grady Jackson (Knee); T Todd Weiner (Knee); DT Roderick Coleman (Knee). Philadelphia Eagles: QUESTIONABLE: CB William James (Calf); CB Lito Sheppard (Back); S Michael Lewis (Knee); LB Dedrick Roper (Knee). PROBABLE: G Todd Herremans (Back); TE L.J. Smith (Toe); C Jamaal Jackson (Ankle); G Shawn Andrews (Collarbone); RB Bruce Perry (Hamstring); S Brian Dawkins (Hip); LB Jeremiah Trotter (Knee); LB Shawn Barber (Neck).

MIAMI DOLPHINS AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS - Miami Dolphins: OUT: CB Andre' Goodman (IR/Shoulder); CB Eddie Jackson (IR/Knee). QUESTIONABLE: DT Keith Traylor (Knee); WR Marty Booker (Ankle); S Travares Tillman (Hamstring); S Renaldo Hill (Wrist). PROBABLE: RB Ronnie Brown (Hand); CB Travis Daniels (Ankle). Indianapolis Colts: QUESTIONABLE: WR Ricky Proehl (Hamstring); DE Dwight Freeney (Shoulder); TE Dallas Clark (Knee); S Bob Sanders (Knee); G Ryan Lilja (Knee).


GREEN BAY PACKERS AT CHICAGO BEARS - Green Bay Packers: QUESTIONABLE: TE David Martin (Rib); S Atari Bigby (Hamstring); LB Abdul Hodge (Shoulder). PROBABLE: CB Charles Woodson (Shoulder); RB Ahman Green (Knee); WR Donald Driver (Shoulder). Chicago Bears: QUESTIONABLE: T John Tait (Ankle); RB Jason McKie (Ankle); CB Charles Tillman (Back); LB Leon Joe (Hamstring). PROBABLE: RB Thomas Jones (Ankle); G Ruben Brown (Shoulder).

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Strahan Done for the Season

Seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan will sit out the rest of the season for the New York Giants after aggravating a right foot sprain last weekend against the New Orleans Saints.

He was put on injured reserve Tuesday and might need surgery, the team said.

The Giants (7-8) can almost surely clinch a playoff berth by beating the Redskins (5-10) in the regular-season finale at Washington on Saturday.

Strahan, 35, who shares the Giants' all-time sacks record of 132 1/2 with Lawrence Taylor, hurt his foot Nov. 5 against Houston. He was playing for the first time since the injury in Sunday's 30-7 loss to New Orleans.

The 14-year veteran had five tackles (three solo) and knocked down a pass before reinjuring the foot late in the game.

Strahan had 50 tackles (34 solo) and three sacks this season, his lowest sacks total since he had one as a rookie in 1993. His sacks total for his career leaves him tied with Taylor and Leslie O'Neal for seventh on the all-time NFL list.

Bill Cowher apparently won't make anyone wait to learn whether he'll return as the Pittsburgh Steelers' coach next season.

Cowher is expected to announce his plans within a few days of Sunday's season-ending game at Cincinnati, one that is without playoff implications for the Steelers (7-8), last season's Super Bowl champions.

Cowher, 49, who has coached the Steelers since 1992, has a year left on his contract.

The game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears Sunday at Soldier Field has been moved from 10 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. PST and will be televised by NBC.

For those who do not know, I started writing a college football blog for 451 Press titled NCAA Endzone.

Since I have a contract to write for them, my college football columns, stories and previews will only be on NCAA Endzone from now on. The Football Fanatics Blog will be pro football only from here on out as long as I continue a relationship with 451 Press.

I hope regular readers of this blog will visit NCAA Endzone for their college football fix. I've been previewing and making predictions for all the 2006 college bowl games. I think you'll enjoy it.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

NFL News and Notes

Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy intends to play his starters in the season finale against the Miami Dolphins in order to try and regain some momentum the team has lost recently.

A month ago, the Colts (11-4) appeared headed toward earning a second straight No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Their late-season collapse has ruined things.

Back-to-back losses at Tennessee and Jacksonville left San Diego in the lead for home-field advantage, and Sunday's loss at Houston may have cost the Colts a first-round bye, too.

More troublesome are the problems that seem to get worse with each passing week.

The league's worst run defense took another hit Sunday when Ron Dayne rushed for a career-high 153 yards and two touchdowns -- only the third 100-yard game of the former Heisman Trophy winner's seven-year career.

It's an unusual predicament for the first team in NFL history with consecutive 9-0 records, which is not accustomed to watching the scoreboard in late December.

The Colts close the regular season Sunday at home against Miami before likely opening the postseason against an AFC wild-card team. Only a victory over the Dolphins and a win by Buffalo at Baltimore would give Indianapolis the No. 2 seed.

The Packers will face the Bears in the final Sunday night game of the regular season on New Year's Eve thanks to the NFL's flexible schedule.

Green Bay (7-8), one of five teams vying for the last playoff spot in the NFC, will take on Chicago at Soldier Field. The Bears (13-2) have already clinched the top seed in the NFC and home-field advantage.

The game, originally scheduled for 1 p.m., has been pushed back to an 8:15 p.m. kickoff.

Other schedule changes announced by the NFL last night following the Jets' 13-10 road victory over the Dolphins: Games between Buffalo at Baltimore, Miami at Indianapolis and Atlanta at Philadelphia were all shifted from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Ken Dorsey will take snaps against the Texans in the season finale, replacing quarterback Derek Anderson, who suffered a shoulder separation in the 22-7 loss Sunday to the Buccaneers.

Dorsey, a fourth-year player from the University of Miami acquired by Cleveland in May, has started just 10 games, the last being against the Titans on Nov. 27, 2005. In that game as quarterback of the 49ers, he went 23 for 43 for 192 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions

Philadelphia 23, Dallas 7
Jeff Garcia took the Eagles to scores on four of their first five drives and the Philadelphia defense humbled Tony Romo in the victory Monday that secured at least a wild-card berth. The Eagles (9-6) can win the division for the fifth time in six years by beating Atlanta at home on Sunday. Philadelphia also could clinch if Dallas loses its finale to Detroit. The only way the Cowboys (9-6) can win the NFC East is by beating the Lions and by the Falcons knocking off the Eagles. Philadelphia is enjoying a stunning turnaround for a club that was 5-6 going into December after Garcia lost his first start in place of an injured Donovan McNabb. Garcia and the Eagles have won four straight with the last three have come on the road against division foes, the exact patch of the schedule that was supposed to bury Philadelphia.

NY Jets 13, Miami 10
Mike Nugent kicked the game-winning field goal with 10 seconds left to give the Jets the victory and inch them ever closer to a playoff berth. All of the points came in the final 17:25. Miami kicked a tying field goal with 2:09 left, but on the Jets' next play, Leon Washington caught a short pass from Chad Pennington and broke loose for a 64-yard gain. Four plays later, Nugent kicked a 30-yarder. That meant the Jets (9-6) can clinch an AFC wild-card playoff berth if they beat Oakland (2-13) in their final regular-season game Sunday. For the Dolphins (6-9), the defeat ensures the first losing season for Nick Saban in his 13 years as a college and NFL coach. Miami was eliminated from the playoff race a week ago.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

NFL Roundup: Week 16

Some observations, comments and opinions about last weeks NFL games.

Houston 27, Indianapolis 24
Ron Dayne had a career-high 153 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and Kris Brown kicked the winning 48-yard field goal as time ran out giving the Texans their first win over the Colts. The loss denied the AFC South champions the chance to clinch a first-round playoff bye. It was the first time Dayne had gained 100 yards since September 2001 with the New York Giants. The Texans (5-10) used Dayne and rookie Chris Taylor to eat up the clock and exploit the Colts' suspect run defense, ranked last in the NFL, and broke a nine-game losing streak to Indianapolis (11-4).

Arizona 26, San Francisco 20
Kurt Warner and the Cardinals extinguished the 49ers' flickering playoff hopes with one last commanding drive. Matt Leinart passed for 162 yards before spraining his left shoulder before halftime, ending his rookie season early. Warner finished with 105 yards passing in the visiting Cardinals' fourth victory in six games. Edgerrin James had 105 yards to become Arizona's first 1,000-yard rusher in eight years, and Marcel Shipp ran for a score as the Cardinals (5-10) jumped to an early 20-3 lead, then held on for their fourth straight win over the 49ers (6-9).

Chicago 26, Detroit 21
Backup quarterback Brian Griese directed a 72-yard drive that set up Robbie Gould's field goal midway through the fourth quarter, helping the Bears win in Detroit. Gould's fourth field goal — after Lions quarterback Jon Kitna committed his NFL-high 30th turnover — gave Chicago (13-2) a six-point cushion with 2:50 to go, ending a drive that starting quarterback Rex Grossman watched from the sideline. The Lions fell to 2-13 on the season.

Baltimore 31, Pittsburgh 7
Steve McNair threw three touchdown passes on the road and the Ravens moved ahead in the race for a first-round AFC playoffs bye. They shut down the Steelers for the second time in a month and eliminated the defending Super Bowl champions from playoff contention. The Ravens (12-3) matched a franchise record for victories in a season set by their Super Bowl championship team in 2000 and swept the season series from the Steelers (7-8) for the first time since the former Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore in 1996.

Tampa Bay 22, Cleveland 7
Derrick Brooks returned one of the Buccaneers' four interceptions 21 yards for a touchdown and Tampa Bay won its first road game in more than a year. The Buccaneers (4-11) had lost eight straight outside Florida since winning at Carolina on Dec. 11 last season. But they had little trouble with the Browns (4-11), who lost their third straight and managed just 187 yards of offense.

Denver 24, Cincinnati 23
Needing only to beat the Broncos to get into the postseason, the Bengals (8-7) drove 90 yards in 12 plays, with Carson Palmer throwing a 10-yard touchdown strike to T.J. Houshmandzadeh with 46 seconds left. Brad St. Louis' snap went off the mark to allow the Broncos (9-6) to get the win. Denver can clinch a playoff spot with a win next week against San Francisco.

New Orleans 30, NY Giants 7
The Saints (10-5) got contributions from everyone in handing the Giants (7-8) their sixth loss in seven games. Reggie Bush ran for a career-best 126 yards and a touchdown, Deuce McAllister had 108 yards rushing and a touchdown and the defense limited New York to six first downs and 142 yards in a rout that turned Giants Stadium into a ghost town in the fourth quarter. The Saints can clinch the No. 2 seeding in the NFC if Dallas loses either of its final two games or New Orleans wins at home against Carolina. the Giants (7-8), who did not have a snap in Saints territory all game, remain in the playoff hunt.

San Diego 20, Seattle 17
The San Diego Chargers stole Seattle's win but left the stunned Seahawks with the NFC West title. Philip Rivers, who missed on 19 of his first 27 passes, found Vincent Jackson alone in the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown pass with 29 seconds left to send the Chargers (13-2) to their ninth straight win. But the Seahawks' sting was somewhat soothed by Arizona's upset at San Francisco minutes earlier. That meant Seattle (8-7) clinched its third consecutive NFC West title despite its third straight loss.

Carolina 10, Atlanta 3
Carolina outgained the Falcons' league-leading rushing attack, 183-83. DeShaun Foster had 102 yards in 28 carries to lead the Panthers (7-8) to the victory over the Falcons (7-8), who have now lost four straight home games. Carolina's time of possession was 41:47, to 18:13 for Atlanta.

St. Louis 37, Washington 31 OT
Steven Jackson capped an impressive day with a 21-yard touchdown run in overtime, Marc Bulger tied his career best with four touchdown passes and the beleaguered St. Louis Rams defense made a big play in regulation to beat the Redskins (5-10). St. Louis (7-8) has won two straight after losing seven of the previous eight, keeping alive its faint NFC playoff hopes. Jackson had 150 yards in 33 carries and six catches for 102 yards, a day that made him the Rams' first 2,000-yard man since Marshall Faulk in 2001. For the season, he has 88 catches, breaking the franchise record that Faulk set in 1999, and Jackson is the only Rams player to get 100 yards rushing and receiving in a game.

Tennessee 30, Buffalo 29
If Vince Young keeps this up, the Tennessee Titans just might do the unthinkable and make the playoffs. The rookie first-round draft pick has the Titans (8-7), who lost their first five games, alive in the AFC playoff race entering the final weekend after rallying them to a win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Young passed for two touchdowns and ran for another to engineer his fourth comeback in the fourth quarter or overtime. This time, he helped Tennessee overcome a 29-20 deficit in the final 12 minutes. The loss knocked the Bills (7-8) out of playoff contention. Young is 8-4 as a starter and has led the Titans to six straight wins as they attempt to become the first NFL team to qualify for the playoffs after starting the season 0-5.

New England 30, Jacksonville 24
Tom Brady directed three long touchdown drives, capped one of them with a perfect touch pass to David Thomas, and helped the Patriots clinch their fourth consecutive AFC East title with a victory over the Jaguars. Brady completed 28 of 39 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown, picking apart the NFL's No. 2-ranked defense. He also ran 10 times for 31 yards, getting several first downs on sneaks and scrambling for yards to avoid sacks. Brady and the Patriots (11-4) also hurt Jacksonville's postseason chances. The Jaguars (8-7), who have lost two in a row, need to win at Kansas City next week and get a lot of help to earn a wild-card spot.

Kansas City 20, Oakland 9
A trip to Oakland was just what the Kansas City Chiefs needed to snap their three-game losing streak and keep their faint playoff hopes alive. Larry Johnson ran for 137 yards and a touchdown to help the Chiefs (8-7) become the first team to beat the Raiders eight straight times. The Raiders (2-13) have lost eight straight overall and matched the franchise record for losses in a season set when they went 1-13 in 1962 - the season before Davis arrived to coach and eventually own the team.

Eight teams have clinched a playoff berth and we have 12 teams fighting for four playoff spots, six teams each in the AFC and NFC, with one more week left in the season. You can't ask for anymore parity than that.

Two Monday night games mark the Christmas Day slate with the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles battling for the NFC East title at 5:00, and the New York Jets trying to keep their playoff hopes alive when they face Miami at 8:30.

Terrell Owens against his old team for the division crown. How's that for TV drama?

Merry Christmas everyone!

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Some Teams Will Experience a Happy Christmas

With only two weeks left in the NFL regular season, six playoff spots are still open and up for grabs.

And there are plenty of teams trying to do the grabbing.

There are 24 clubs still in Super Bowl contention, the second most ever (26 in 2004) since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978. That means that in two of the past three seasons, more clubs have been in such contention than in any other time in history.

Here's the playoff lowdown so far:

In the AFC, Baltimore, Indianapolis and San Diego have won division titles. The Chargers can clinch home field with a victory, while the Colts can clinch a first-round bye with a win. Cincinnati and Denver can get a playoff berth this week with a win and some help.

Buffalo, Jacksonville, Kansas City, New York Jets, Pittsburgh and Tennessee are still alive but need tons of help.

In the NFC, Chicago and New Orleans have won division titles with the Bears getting home field throughout the playoffs. The Saints can clinch a first-round bye with a victory.

Dallas has already secured a playoff spot but can win the division with a victory over Philadelphia, who can get in the playoffs with a win as well. Seattle can win the NFC West with a victory.

The New York Giants can secure a playoff berth with a win and some help, while Atlanta, Carolina, Green Bay, Minnesota, St. Louis and San Francisco are still alive but need tons of help.

December is fun time for NFL fans and almost every game this week has some kind of meaning, which makes it even better.

Here's the Corners predictions for week 16 in the NFL:

Kansas City at Oakland
The Chiefs are fighting for the playoffs but have struggled as of late, losing three straight. Kansas City is only 3-7 against conference teams, one reason they face long odds to claim one of the two wild-card berths. One way to get better is to face the Raiders, who along with Detroit, are fighting for the number one pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. The Chiefs are 26-8 against the Raiders since 1990, including playoffs. Winner: Chiefs.

Tampa Bay at Cleveland
Both teams have been eliminated from the playoff and will be playing for pride. Tim Rattay makes his first start this season, while Derek Anderson is still in for the injured Charlie Frye in Cleveland. The Browns own a 5-1 record against the Bucs, but Cleveland is ranked 28th against the rush and Cadillac Williams could have a big day. Winner: Bucs.

Tennessee at Buffalo
Tennessee enters with a five-game winning streak - its longest since a six-game run in 2003 - after an unusual 24-17 victory against Jacksonville last week. The Titans managed only 98 yards of total offense, but got three defensive touchdowns that each covered at least 60 yards. The Bills look to have a big game from Willis McGahee against a Tennessee defense is last in the NFL. Tennessee has won three of the past four matchups, including the memorable 22-16 victory in a 1999 AFC Wild Card Game that is better known as the Music City Miracle. Winner: Bills.

Carolina at Atlanta
The Falcons have lost three in a row at home for the first time since a six-game slide in 2003. They are 3-4 at the Georgia Dome this season, and are 1-6 on their home field in November and December over the past two years. Mathematically, the 6-8 Panthers have not been eliminated from the playoff race. However, a four-game losing streak, including an embarrassing 37-3 home loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 17, has all but ruined a once-promising season. Chris Weinke will once again start in place of injured QB Jake Delhomme. Winner: Carolina.

Washington at St. Louis
With each team coming off victories to snap two-game losing streaks, the Rams will try to keep their faint postseason hopes alive on Sunday when they host the Redskins, who have been eliminated from the playoff hunt. St. Louis is 0-4 at home against the Redskins since relocating from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995. Washington has won three straight and six of seven overall in the series, including a 24-9 victory last season as Jackson was held to 24 yards rushing. Winner: Rams.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh
The Baltimore Ravens locked up the AFC North title last week. With quarterback Steve McNair expected back, they'll turn their attention toward a first-round bye. The defending Super Bowl champion Steelers are making another late-season push, winning five of their past six games to jump back into the playoff picture. Pittsburgh is 7-7 and mathematically alive for a wild-card spot, but needs several scenarios to play out in order to defend its title. McNair is 9-4 lifetime against Pittsburgh. Winner: Ravens.

New Orleans at New York Giants
After clinching the NFC South title, the Saints can earn the conference's second seed when they take on New York, which is hoping to boost its chances of earning a wild-card spot. New York is 7-2 against New Orleans at Giants Stadium. Only 32 of the 133 teams that started 6-2 since the 1970 merger have missed the playoffs and New York could be added to that list. Winner: Saints.

New England at Jacksonville
The Patriots look to wrap up the AFC East and put a damper on the Jaguars' playoff hopes when the teams meet in Jacksonville. New England (10-4) can clinch its fourth straight division title with either a win or a tie on Sunday or a New York Jets loss or tie on Monday in their game against Miami. The Patriots own the fourth-best record in the AFC and have won four of their last five. New England has won all three regular-season meetings between these teams and two of three matchups in the playoffs. Winner: Patriots.

Indianapolis at Houston
Indianapolis had already clinched its fourth straight AFC South title before beating Cincinnati 34-16 on Monday night, thanks to Jacksonville losing to Tennessee the day before. A Colts victory Sunday, combined with a Baltimore loss to Pittsburgh, would give them a first-round bye. Houston has assured itself of a fifth straight losing season, and quarterback David Carr has continued to struggle. Winner: Colts.

Chicago at Detroit
No one knows how long or if the starters for the Bears will play after clinching home field throughout the playoff last week. The Lions will have a losing record for the sixth consecutive season and are tied with the Oakland Raiders for the worst record in the NFL. Chicago is looking for its fourth consecutive victory against Detroit after losing the three previous meetings between the teams. Winner: Bears.

Arizona at San Francisco
The 49ers kept their slim hopes for a division title alive with a big road victory in their last outing. They'll now try to avoid being eliminated from playoff contention when they host the Cardinals. San Francisco has won three division games for the first time since going 5-1 in 2002. Despite their fifth straight season with at least 10 losses, the Cardinals put two players in the Pro Bowl - wide receiver Anquan Boldin and safety Adrian Wilson - and have shown improvement over the last five games. Winner: 49ers.

San Diego at Seattle
The Chargers have won nine straight and the soon-to-be-named MVP in LaDainian Tomlinson. Tomlinson has set single-season league records with 31 touchdowns and 186 points this season, and comes into Sunday with eight straight 100-yard rushing efforts. He's also set an NFL mark with eight consecutive games with at least two touchdowns, and the league's leading rusher is 57 yards shy of his career-high and club-record 1,683, set in 2002. San Diego, which has already clinched the AFC West, can secure a first-round bye with a victory or a loss by Indianapolis. The Chargers can gain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with a win and a loss by Baltimore. The Seahawks have beaten the Chargers five straight times. Winner: Seahawks.

Cincinnati at Denver
The Bengals and Broncos are among four AFC teams at 8-6 vying for the two wild-card spots. They could each clinch a playoff berth this week with a victory and help from two other teams, or they could make the postseason by winning their final two games. The Bengals have lost their last seven trips to Denver, getting outscored 186-109 in that span. The Broncos won the last meeting in Denver 38-20 on Sept. 21, 1997, boosting their record in the series to 10-2 at home and 15-8 overall. Winner: Broncos.

Philadelphia at Dallas (Monday night)
The NFC East title is on the line when the Eagles visit their division rival in a game with many playoff implications. While Philadelphia can take control of the NFC East only by winning this game, Dallas will clinch the division crown for the first time since 1998 with a victory. The Cowboys already have wrapped up a playoff berth, and Philadelphia can do the same with a victory. The Eagles would win the division with victories in their final two games -- they will play host to the Atlanta Falcons next week. Throw T.O. into the mix and you have an edge of your seat game on Christmas day. Winner: Cowboys.

New York Jets at Miami (Monday night)
The second game of a Christmas day double dip. New York has won three of its past four games, including a 26-13 victory against the Minnesota Vikings last week, to keep its postseason hopes alive. At 8-6, the Jets are two games behind New England in the division and among four AFC teams vying for two wild-card spots. New York has won its past three Monday night appearances and is an impressive 5-2 on the road this season, including three consecutive victories there. New York has lost three of its past four trips to Miami, but has taken 13 of the past 17 overall matchups. Winner: Jets.

The Corner Lowdown
Last week: 10-5
Overall: 130-72

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Three Who Should Be in Hawaii

Every year it happens.

With only so many votes to go around from players, coaches and fans - someone will get screwed and not be picked to go to Hawaii for the annual NFL Pro Bowl festivities.

This goes down in all sports, not just football. Someone gets in and you scratch your head and go how? On the flip side, a player you thought was a can't miss misses and it leads to the same kind of head scratching.

The 2006 Pro Bowl teams have been selected and displayed in a nice, pretty package for fans and the media, except there were three omissions that made the presentation a little ugly in my mind.

Despite an overall accurate and fair representation from both conferences, the three in question should have been on the list and without them, the teams aren't as strong as they could be.

All is not lost though. The NFL and its fans are wising up. For instance, Michael Vick was finally left off a Pro Bowl roster that he never really belonged on in the past either. Some selections were shaky but I can live with it - like Tony Romo being selected a pro bowler after starting only eight or so games. However, the three that were left off is inexcusable, as the facts will soon make clear.

In no particular order here are the three players who were screwed out a Pro Bowl berth hat they so rightly deserved.

1. Leonard Little, DE, St. Louis Rams - What does the man have to do to earn a Pro Bowl invite? He's only one of the best defensive ends of his generation. He's the second all-time sack leader in Rams history with 74. This season he has been amazing on a really bad defense. Little has 12 sacks (second in the NFC), 50 tackles and eight forced fumbles. Compare his stats to New Orleans DE Will Smith, who made the pro bowl. Smith has 47 tackles, 10/5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Little wasn't picked because St. Louis is a bad team this year and his past (vehicular manslaughter in 1998). He should have been on the list.

2. Warren Sapp, DT, Oakland Raiders - Another player who wasn't picked because his team sucks. Sapp bounced back big time in 2006 and just may be the comeback player of the year. Sapp has recorded 39 tackles and eight sacks, more than any defensive tackle in the league. He has been a dominating force in the interior for the Raiders. Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton, who is going to the Pro Bowl, has zero, I said ZERO sacks and 32 tackles. Sapp deserved to go.

3. Brian Westbrook, RB, Philadelphia Eagles - I like Tiki Barber, I reall do. He's a great back with loads of talent, but the Pro Bowl selection belonged to Westbrook. Frank Gore and Steven Jackson were the obvious 1-2 selections and here's why Westbrook belongs as number three. Barber has out-rushed Westbrook by a 1,357-1,092 margin, but he's done that with 75 more carries. Westbrook wins hands down when it comes to all-purpose. He has 74 catches to Barber's 52 and Westbrook has score 11 TDs to Tiki's 2 TDs. Tiki is a great back, but Westbrook deserved to go to Honolulu.

Note: I could have put Kerry Rhodes of the New York Jets in here as well. The safety has 91 tackles, four interceptions and four sacks, but he was left off the team. He didn't make my list because I wanted just the top three and I felt the others rated ahead of Rhodes.

Green Bay 9, Minnesota 7
In what may have been Brett Favre's final game at Lambeau Field, he went out a winner.

Favre threw an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter, then rallied the Packers for a late field goal and a 9-7 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night.

Packers kicker Dave Rayner, who had missed two field goals earlier in the game, hit a 44-yarder with 1:34 remaining for the game-winner.

It was the 36th game-winning comeback for Favre, who has not yet announced whether he will play next season and did not speak with reporters following the game.

He held the ball aloft after the final gun, and hugged a couple of former teammates now with the Vikings, safety Darren Sharper and kicker Ryan Longwell. He also saluted his family in a Lambeau skybox, along with the fans surrounding the tunnel to the locker room.

The Vikings (6-9) managed only three first downs all game, the lowest total in a game in team history. The Packers (7-8) stayed mathematically alive for a playoff berth.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Football Fanatics Show: 14

The Football Fanatics Show is a podcast for college and pro football fans featuring hard-hitting commentary with a tell-it-like-it-is attitude. Hell, we may even offend some people. The show features myself, Rich 'Richie' Hagan and Damon Freed chatting about pro and college football.

Each week will preview the upcoming games and look back at the week before. We'll also be giving away some prizes and freebie stuff in future shows. So stop on in and check us out. The show will be on every Thursday during the football season and twice a month during the offseason.

This week the Fanatics talk about the Pro Bowl selections, Terrell Owens and a preview of this weeks NFL games.

You can listen to the show in streaming media here.

Or you can download the podcast to your hard drive here. This is a big file so please be patient.

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NFL Week 16 Injury Report

By The Associated Press


MINNESOTA VIKINGS AT GREEN BAY PACKERS - Vikings: DOUBTFUL: CB Cedric Griffin (Neck). QUESTIONABLE: QB Brooks Bollinger (Left Shoulder). PROBABLE: WR Travis Taylor (Ankle); TE Jeff Dugan (Knee); LB Napoleon Harris (Wrist); RB Chester Taylor (Ribs); DT Pat Williams (Knee); WR Marcus Robinson (Hip); DT Kevin Williams (Shoulder); QB Tarvaris Jackson (Knee). Packers: QUESTIONABLE: LB Abdul Hodge (Shoulder); WR Ruvell Martin (Chest); T Mark Tauscher (Groin); S Atari Bigby (Hamstring); TE David Martin (Rib). PROBABLE: CB Charles Woodson (Shoulder); DE Aaron Kampman (Illness); T Chad Clifton (Shoulder); WR Donald Driver (Shoulder); RB Ahman Green (Knee).


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS AT OAKLAND RAIDERS - Chiefs: OUT: DE Jimmy Wilkerson (Hamstring); LB Rich Scanlon (Neck); T Kyle Turley (Shoulder). QUESTIONABLE: RB Michael Bennett (Ankle). PROBABLE: WR Dante' Hall (Illness); T John Welbourn (Ankle). Raiders: DOUBTFUL: WR Jerry Porter (Hip). QUESTIONABLE: RB Zack Crockett (Heel); T Robert Gallery (Elbow); WR Randy Moss (Ankle); CB Fabian Washington (Shoulder); G Corey Hulsey (Knee). PROBABLE: G Kevin Boothe (Elbow).


INDIANAPOLIS COLTS AT HOUSTON TEXANS - Colts: OUT: TE Dallas Clark (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: S Bob Sanders (Knee); DT Darrell Reid (Hand); CB Marlin Jackson (Shoulder); LB Gilbert Gardner (Knee); DE Dwight Freeney (Shoulder); TE Bryan Fletcher (Quadricep); CB Antoine Bethea (Shoulder); RB Joseph Addai (Ankle). Texans: DOUBTFUL: WR Jerome Mathis (Hamstring). QUESTIONABLE: DT Lional Dalton (Neck); TE Owen Daniels (Shoulder). PROBABLE: DE Anthony Weaver (Knee); DE Mario Williams (Foot); S C.C. Brown (Toe).

WASHINGTON REDSKINS AT ST. LOUIS RAMS - Redskins: QUESTIONABLE: LB Marcus Washington (Knee); T Jon Jansen (Calf). PROBABLE: T Chris Samuels (Knee); LB Lemar Marshall (Knee); C Casey Rabach (Hand). Rams: DOUBTFUL: RB Paul Smith (Neck). QUESTIONABLE: S Jerome Carter (Ankle); G Adam Timmerman (Ribs); DE Victor Adeyanju (Forearm). PROBABLE: T Alex Barron (Toe); RB Stephen Davis (Hand); WR Torry Holt (Knee); G Richie Incognito (Toe); P Matt Turk (Neck); LB Will Witherspoon (Knee).

CAROLINA PANTHERS AT ATLANTA FALCONS - Panthers: DOUBTFUL: CB Dion Byrum (Thigh). QUESTIONABLE: WR Taye Biddle (Knee); WR Drew Carter (Ankle); QB Jake Delhomme (Right Thumb); TE Kris Mangum (Hip). PROBABLE: RB Nick Goings (Shoulder). Falcons: QUESTIONABLE: DE John Abraham (Thumb); CB Jason Webster (Groin). PROBABLE: RB Warrick Dunn (Calf); QB Michael Vick (Groin); DT Grady Jackson (Knee); T Todd Weiner (Knee); DT Jonathan Babineaux (Knee); CB DeAngelo Hall (Knee); LB Edgerton Hartwell (Hamstring); DT Roderick Coleman (Knee); RB Jerious Norwood (Knee).

TENNESSEE TITANS AT BUFFALO BILLS - Titans: QUESTIONABLE: LB Ken Amato (Neck); LB Colby Bockwoldt (Shoulder); DE Travis LaBoy (Knee); LB Peter Sirmon (Knee); TE Cooper Wallace (Thigh); WR Drew Bennett (Knee); RB Travis Henry (Ankle); TE Bo Scaife (Ankle). Bills: QUESTIONABLE: LB John DiGiorgio (Ankle); WR Peerless Price (Thigh); RB Daimon Shelton (Head); LB Takeo Spikes (Ankle).

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT CLEVELAND BROWNS - Buccaneers: QUESTIONABLE: CB Juran Bolden (Quadricep); CB Phillip Buchanon (Groin); CB Torrie Cox (Neck); RB Carnell Williams (Foot); LB Jamie Winborn (Knee). Browns: QUESTIONABLE: WR Joe Jurevicius (Concussion); QB Charlie Frye (Right Wrist); LB Mason Unck (Groin); DT Ted Washington (Knee); TE Kellen Winslow (Knee); DE Nick Eason (Foot); LB Willie McGinest (Pectoral); DE Alvin McKinley (Shoulder); TE Darnell Dinkins (Neck); G Cosey Coleman (Toe); LB Andra Davis (Concussion); G Joe Andruzzi (Knee); CB Leigh Bodden (Ankle); RB Reuben Droughns (Foot); WR Dennis Northcutt (Shoulder).

CHICAGO BEARS AT DETROIT LIONS - Bears: QUESTIONABLE: LB Leon Joe (Hamstring); S Todd Johnson (Ankle); RB Thomas Jones (Ribs); T John Tait (Ankle); CB Nathan Vasher (Hamstring); CB Charles Tillman (Back). PROBABLE: G Ruben Brown (Shoulder); LB Hunter Hillenmeyer (Thigh). Lions: OUT: G Ross Verba (Groin). DOUBTFUL: LB Teddy Lehman (Hamstring). QUESTIONABLE: TE Marcus Pollard (Hamstring). PROBABLE: CB Fernando Bryant (Concussion); WR Eddie Drummond (Hip); T Jeff Backus (Foot).

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS AT JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS - Patriots: OUT: P Ken Walter (Knee-injured reserve). QUESTIONABLE: RB Laurence Maroney (Back); T Ryan O'Callaghan (Neck); TE Benjamin Watson (Knee); DT Vince Wilfork (Ankle); DE Mike Wright (Shoulder); RB Kevin Faulk (Knee); S Rodney Harrison (Shoulder); LB Eric Alexander (Shoulder); S Rashad Baker (Thigh). PROBABLE: QB Tom Brady (Right Shoulder); CB Ellis Hobbs (Wrist); DE Richard Seymour (Elbow). Jaguars: QUESTIONABLE: DT Tony McDaniel (Hip); RB Fred Taylor (Hamstring). PROBABLE: CB Ahmad Carroll (Groin); LB Jorge Cordova (Hamstring); P Chris Hanson (Left Hamstring); RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Knee); G Vincent Manuwai (Calf); RB Montell Owens (Head); DT Marcus Stroud (Ankle); RB Derrick Wimbush (Ankle).

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS AT NEW YORK GIANTS - Saints: QUESTIONABLE: WR Joe Horn (Groin); S Omar StOUT: mire (Knee); TE Mark Campbell (Knee). PROBABLE: QB Jamie Martin (Back). Giants: OUT: T Luke Petitgout (Fibula). DOUBTFUL: G Rich Seubert (Shin). QUESTIONABLE: DE Michael Strahan (Foot); CB Corey Webster (Toe); C Shaun O'Hara (Ankle); RB Brandon Jacobs (Ankle).

BALTIMORE RAVENS AT PITTSBURGH STEELERS - Ravens: QUESTIONABLE: WR Derrick Mason (Thigh); T Jonathan Ogden (Toe); TE Todd Heap (Thigh); C Mike Flynn (Thigh); TE Daniel Wilcox (Knee); CB Samari Rolle (Neck); S Gerome Sapp (Thigh). Steelers: OUT: T Max Starks (Knee). DOUBTFUL: S Ryan Clark (Groin). QUESTIONABLE: S Mike Logan (Hamstring); S Troy Polamalu (Knee); S Andre Lott (Ankle). PROBABLE: C Jeff Hartings (Knee); S Tyrone Carter (Concussion); LB Clint Kriewaldt (Neck); CB Bryant McFadden (Shoulder).

ARIZONA CARDINALS AT SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS - Cardinals: QUESTIONABLE: LB Gerald Hayes (Ribs). PROBABLE: RB Marcel Shipp (Ribs); CB Eric Green (Illness). 49ers: QUESTIONABLE: LB Derek Smith (Hamstring); T Adam Snyder (Knee); TE Eric Johnson (Knee).

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS - Chargers: QUESTIONABLE: LB Marques Harris (Hamstring); G Scott Mruczkowski (Knee); DE Luis Castillo (Ankle); LB Randall Godfrey (Hamstring); WR Eric Parker (Neck). PROBABLE: S Bhawoh Jue (Knee); LB Shawne Merriman (Shoulder). Seahawks: OUT: C Robbie Tobeck (Hip). DOUBTFUL: WR Darrell Jackson (Toe). QUESTIONABLE: G Floyd Womack (Groin); DE Robert Pollard (Knee); DT Rocky Bernard (Foot).

CINCINNATI BENGALS AT DENVER BRONCOS - Bengals: DOUBTFUL: C Rich Braham (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: LB Andre Frazier (Groin); T Levi Jones (Knee). PROBABLE: T Willie Anderson (Foot); WR Chad Johnson (Ankle); TE Reggie Kelly (Shoulder); DE Bryan Robinson (Toe); QB Carson Palmer (Right Shoulder). Broncos: PROBABLE: TE Stephen Alexander (Ribs); S Steve Cargile (Ankle); K Jason Elam (Left Hamstring); S Quentin Harris (Finger); T Adam Meadows (Hamstring); CB Karl Paymah (Ankle); WR Javon Walker (Shoulder); CB Darrent Williams (Toe); LB Al Wilson (Thumb).


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES AT DALLAS COWBOYS - Eagles: DOUBTFUL: CB William James (Calf). QUESTIONABLE: S Michael Lewis (Knee); LB Shawn Barber (Neck). PROBABLE: S Brian Dawkins (Back); LB Omar Gaither (Shoulder); S Quintin Mikell (Knee); RB Ryan Moats (Ankle); LB Jeremiah Trotter (Knee); C Jamaal Jackson (Ankle). Cowboys: QUESTIONABLE: CB Jacques Reeves (Elbow).

NEW YORK JETS AT MIAMI DOLPHINS - Jets: QUESTIONABLE: RB B.J. Askew (Foot); CB David Barrett (Hip); WR Laveranues Coles (Back); RB Cedric Houston (Calf); LB Anthony Schlegel (Illness); S Eric Smith (Foot). PROBABLE: RB Kevan Barlow (Calf); LB Matt Chatham (Foot); C Nick Mangold (Hip); WR Justin McCareins (Foot); G Brandon Moore (Back); DT Rashad Moore (Hand); QB Chad Pennington (Calf); DE Bryan Thomas (Shoulder); S Jamie Thompson (Ankle); WR Wallace Wright (Thigh). Dolphins: DOUBTFUL: WR Marty Booker (Ankle); DT Dan Wilkinson (Calf). QUESTIONABLE: CB Will Allen (Groin); RB Ronnie Brown (Hand). PROBABLE: DT Keith Traylor (Knee); QB Joey Harrington (Ankle).

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Chargers, Bears Lead Pro Bowl Voting

The San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears lead the NFL in wins — and Pro Bowlers. The Chargers placed nine players on the AFC squad Tuesday and the Bears had seven on the NFC team, which also includes a quarterback — Dallas' Tony Romo — who wasn't a starter when the season began.

San Diego's contingent includes record-setting running back LaDainian Tomlinson and quarterback Philip Rivers, who sat on the bench for his first two seasons behind Drew Brees. The former Chargers quarterback signed as a free agent with New Orleans in the offseason and will start for the NFC.

Also among the players representing the Chargers is linebacker Shawne Merriman, last year's defensive rookie of the year, who made it despite missing four games for flunking a steroid test.

The game will be played in Honolulu on Feb. 10.

Chicago's representatives demonstrate how the Bears won: with defense and special teams.

Three of the seven Bears, led by linebacker Brian Urlacher, are on defense and three are on special teams — kicker Robbie Gould, specialist Brendan Ayanbadejo and rookie return man Devin Hester, who has shattered records with six returns for touchdowns on three punts, two kickoffs and a missed field goal.

Center Olin Kreutz, a perennial at his position, is the only Bears Pro Bowler on offense.

Buffalo linebacker Aaron Schobel and Pittsburgh running back Willie Parker are two of the nine first-time selections on the AFC squad, including Rivers and Wayne.

Arizona safety Adrian Wilson joined 12 others, including Romo, Hester, Gould, San Francisco running back Frank Gore and St. Louis running back Steven Jackson as first-timers on the NFC team.

Guard Will Shields of Kansas City will go for the 12th time, tying a mark held by former Viking Randall McDaniel, also a guard. Another guard, Pittsburgh's Alan Faneca, will represent the AFC for the sixth straight time.

2006 Pro Bowl Rosters


Wide Receivers — s-Andre Johnson, Houston; s-Chad Johnson, Cincinnati; Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis; Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis.

Tackles — s-Willie Anderson, Cincinnati; s-Jonathan Ogden, Baltimore; Tarik Glenn, Indianapolis.

Guards — s-Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh; s-Will Shields, Kansas City; Brian Waters, Kansas City.

Centers — s-Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis; Nick Hardwick, San Diego.

Tight Ends — s-Antonio Gates, San Diego; Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City.

Quarterbacks — s-Peyton Manning, Indianapolis; Carson Palmer, Cincinnati; Philip Rivers, San Diego.

Running Backs — s-LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego; Larry Johnson, Kansas City; Willie Parker, Pittsburgh.

Fullback — s-Lorenzo Neal, San Diego.


Ends — s-Aaron Schobel, Buffalo; s-Jason Taylor, Miami; Derrick Burgess, Oakland.

Interior Linemen — s-Richard Seymour, New England; s-Jamal Williams, San Diego; Casey Hampton, Pittsburgh.

Outside Linebackers — s-Shawne Merriman, San Diego; s-Adalius Thomas, Baltimore; Terrell Suggs, Baltimore.

Inside Linebackers — s-Al Wilson, Denver; Zach Thomas, Miami.

Cornerbacks — s-Champ Bailey, Denver; s-Rashean Mathis, Jacksonville; Chris McAlister, Baltimore.

Strong Safety — s-Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh.

Free Safeties — s-Ed Reed, Baltimore; John Lynch, Denver.


Punter — Brian Moorman, Buffalo.

Placekicker — Nate Kaeding, San Diego.

Kick Return Specialist — Justin Miller, New York.

Special Teamer — Kassim Osgood, San Diego.


Wide Receivers — s-Torry Holt, St. Louis; s-Steve Smith, Carolina; Anquan Boldin, Arizona; Donald Driver, Green Bay.

Tackles — s-Jammal Brown, New Orleans; s-Walter Jones, Seattle; Chris Samuels, Washington.

Guards — s-Shawn Andrews, Philadelphia; s-Steve Hutchinson, Minnesota; Larry Allen, San Francisco.

Centers — s-Olin Kreutz, Chicago; Matt Birk, Minnesota.

Tight Ends — s-Alge Crumpler, Atlanta; Jeremy Shockey, New York.

Quarterbacks — s-Drew Brees, New Orleans; Marc Bulger, St. Louis; Tony Romo, Dallas.

Running Backs — s-Frank Gore, San Francisco; Tiki Barber, New York; Steven Jackson, St. Louis.

Fullback — s-Mack Strong, Seattle.


Ends — s-Julius Peppers, Carolina; s-Will Smith, New Orleans; Aaron Kampman, Green Bay.

Interior Linemen — s-Tommie Harris, Chicago; s-Kevin Williams, Minnesota; Kris Jenkins, Carolina.

Outside Linebackers — s-Lance Briggs, Chicago; s-DeMarcus Ware, Dallas; Julian Peterson, Seattle.

Inside Linebackers — s-Brian Urlacher, Chicago; Lofa Tatupu, Seattle.

Cornerbacks — s-Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay; s-DeAngelo Hall, Atlanta; Lito Sheppard, Philadelphia.

Strong Safeties — s-Adrian Wilson, Arizona; Roy Williams, Dallas.

Free Safety — s-Brian Dawkins, Philadelphia.


Punter — Mat McBriar, Dallas.

Placekicker — Robbie Gould, Chicago.

Kick Return Specialist — Devin Hester, Chicago.

Special Teamer — Brendan Ayanbadejo, Chicago.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

NFL News and Notes

After the NFL fined Terrell Owens $35,000 for Saturday's spitting incident, Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells said Monday the club might penalize Owens further.

"We don't condone that kind of activity, that's for sure," Parcells said, though he added if the Cowboys do punish Owens, they won't make that punishment public.

Owens, who was not ejected from the game against the Atlanta Falcons because officials did not see him spit in the face of defensive back DeAngelo Hall, was not suspended by the league. A suspension would have hurt Dallas (9-5) more because Owens is the team's leading receiver and the Cowboys go into their next game needing a win to lock up the NFC East title.

The Jacksonville Jaguars expect to have rookie running back Maurice Jones-Drew back in the lineup Sunday against New England.

They're not sure about Fred Taylor.

Jones-Drew and Taylor, the duo that has the Jaguars ranked second in the league in rushing, were hurt in Sunday's loss at Tennessee. Taylor re-injured his right hamstring on his second run of the game and did not return.

Quarterback Steve McNair is expected to start Sunday for the Baltimore Ravens, although his injured right hand might affect his practice time this week. McNair played only two series in the Ravens' victory over Cleveland on Sunday. He left shortly after Cleveland linebacker Andra Davis accidentally stepped on his throwing hand, opening up a cut that made it difficult for the quarterback to take snaps from center.

McNair could have returned if needed, but backup Kyle Boller played well enough to make that a moot point.

Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan might play for the New York Giants on Sunday in their crucial game against the New Orleans Saints.

Strahan hopes to practice this week for the first time since spraining his right foot against the Houston Texans on Nov. 5. He has missed the last six games, a span that has seen the Giants (7-7) lose five times.

Tampa Bay Coach Jon Gruden said that seventh-year quarterback Tim Rattay will make his first start of the season, replacing rookie Bruce Gradkowski when the Buccaneers (3-11) travel to Cleveland (4-10) on Sunday.

"It's just common sense right now based on performance and who gives us a better chance to win a football game," Gruden said. "We'd like to finish the season as strongly as we can, and I think Bruce is struggling to a degree right now."

Carolina Panthers all-time sacks leader Mike Rucker will miss the rest of the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

NFL Roundup: Week 15

Some observations, comments and opinions about last weeks NFL games.

Buffalo 21, Miami 0
Overcoming wet and blustery conditions, J.P. Losman threw three touchdown passes and the Bills limited the Dolphins to 212 yards. It was the fifth win in seven games for the Bills (7-7), their first shutout since a 2003 season-opening 31-0 win over New England and their first against the Dolphins since a 29-0 win in November 1987. The Dolphins (6-8) were eliminated from postseason contention.

Baltimore 27, Cleveland 17
Kyle Boller, playing in place of injured Steve McNair, threw two touchdown passes, including one of 77 yards to Demetrius Williams that ended a tie and propelled the host Ravens to the win. Jamal Lewis ran 22 times for 109 yards and a touchdown for the Ravens (11-3), who are assured a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2003. The Ravens will win the AFC North if Cincinnati losses to Indianapolis tonight. The Browns fell to 4-10 on the season.

Denver 37, Arizona 20
Jay Cutler threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns to get his first NFL win as a starter and help the Broncos (8-6) end a four-game losing streak. Matt Leinart was 20 for 35 for 214 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for the Cardinals (4-10). He was sacked three times and was hit as he threw on several other occasions.

Pittsburgh 37, Carolina 3
Willie Parker rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown and Ben Roethlisberger threw for a score and ran for another in the win. The Steelers (7-7) also blocked a punt and returned another for a touchdown to win their third consecutive game and keep alive their playoff hopes. The Panthers (6-8) lost their fourth game in a row. The Steelers, who started 2-6, have given up 13 points in the last three games.

NY Jets 26, Minnesota 13
Chad Pennington and the Jets (8-6) stayed in the playoff chase for at least one more week and knocked the host Vikings (6-8) just about out of it. Pennington passed for 339 yards and one touchdown, and Laveranues Coles had 12 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown for the Jets before leaving because of an apparent back injury late in the fourth quarter. Minnesota has now lost six of eight.

Green Bay 17, Detroit 9
Brett Favre surpassed Dan Marino's record for career completions in the Green Bay victory. It was the second home victory this season for the Packers (6-8). The Lions (2-12) are winless in seven games on the road. Favre connected on a 21-yard pass to receiver Carlyle Holiday just before halftime for his league-record 4,968th completion.

New England 40, Houston 7
After a six-week stretch in which they were 3-3 with 19 turnovers, the Patriots committed no turnovers and intercepted four passes for the win. The Patriots (10-4) lead the AFC East and can clinch the title with a win at Jacksonville on Sunday. The Texans (4-10) were outgained, 147-76, in the first half alone.

Tennessee 24, Jacksonville 17
Vince Young and the offense couldn't move the ball against Jacksonville. So the Titans' defense beat up David Garrard and returned turnovers 83, 92 and 61 yards for touchdowns and beat the Jaguars for their fifth consecutive victory. Credit a franchise-record three defensive touchdowns and a team-record 370 yards of returns. Tennessee (7-7) won for the seventh time in nine games, keeping its faint playoff hopes alive. Jacksonville fell to 8-6.

Chicago 34, Tampa Bay 31 OT
The Bears (12-2) squandered a 21-point third-quarter lead, recovering in overtime behind plays from backups Rashied Davis and Adrian Peterson to beat Tampa Bay and clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Bucs dropped to 3-11 on year.

Washington 16, New Orleans 10
The Saints lost but still won on Sunday. With Atlanta and Carolina both losing, New Orleans and first-year coach Sean Payton Clinched the NFC South title. New Orleans (9-5) still holds the No. 2 seeding in the NFC, having beaten Dallas last week. Clinching a first-round bye just got a little harder, however. The Redskins improved to 5-9 as Jason Campbell threw for 204 yards.

St. Louis 20, Oakland 0
The Rams (6-8) took advantage of Oakland's inept offense to post their first shutout since 2003 and win for only the second time in nine games. Their two touchdown drives came after Oakland turnovers: St. Louis drove only 43 yards combined to get 14 points. The Raiders (2-12), who have lost seven straight, equaled their most losses in a season since Davis joined the franchise in 1963. Steven Jackson ran for 127 yards and two scores to lead the Rams.

San Diego 20, Kansas City 9
The Chargers (12-2) inched closer to clinching home-field advantage in the playoffs with a convincing victory over the Chiefs (7-7). LaDainian Tomlinson rushed for 199 yards and two touchdowns to continue his record-breaking season. With his two trips to the end zone Sunday — including a career-long 85-yard touchdown run — he set single-season records with 186 points, 28 rushing touchdowns, 31 total touchdowns and eight consecutive multi-touchdown games. Kansas City fell to 7-7 and saw its playoff hopes slip farther and farther away.

Philadelphia 36, NY Giants 22
Jeff Garcia threw for 237 yards and improved to 3-1 as a starter as the Eagles stand on the verge of clinching a playoff berth and winning the NFC East. The win was the third straight for the Eagles (8-6) and left them in control of their playoff destiny. If they win at Dallas next week and over Atlanta at home two weeks later, they take the division. The Giants (7-7) still have a shot at the playoffs despite losing for the fifth time in six games. They face New Orleans at home next in Week 16 and then close at Washington. However, they hold a tiebreaker with the Falcons for the sixth and final playoff berth in the conference.

Dallas 38, Atlanta 28
Tony Romo passed for 278 yards and two touchdowns, both to Terrell Owens, as the Cowboys (9-5) bounced back from a 42-17 home loss to New Orleans and protected its NFC East lead. Michael Vick tied a career high with four touchdown passes and eclipsed Bobby Douglass' 34-year-old record for most rushing yards in a season by a quarterback. He has 990 yards, breaking Douglass' mark of 968 with the 1972 Chicago Bears. Atlanta (7-7) is tied with the Giants for the final wild card spot, but New York holds the tiebreaker edge. Dallas can clinch the division with a win over the Eagles.

San Francisco 24, Seattle 14
Alex Smith accounted for three fourth-quarter touchdowns -- two passing, one running -- and the 49ers (6-8) prevented the Seahawks (8-6) from clinching the NFC West with a surprising win. Frank Gore, who ran for a franchise record 212 yards in the first meeting between the two teams, had 104 of his 144 yards in the fourth quarter.

The Philadelphia Eagles were the big winners this weekend grabbing control of the wild card and quite possibly a division title. Proof positive that anything can happen in the NFC. Three weeks ago, the Eagles looked dead, now they could be NFC East champions with a 36-year old starting quarterback who was run out of Detroit last year. Go figure.

Six playoff spots clinched and six more to go with only two weeks left in the regular season. It can't get any better than that.

The Indianapolis Colts (10-3) need a win to keep hold of a first-round bye and have a chance at home field when they play the red hot Cincinnati Bengals (8-5), winners of four straight, on Monday Night Football.

Look for Carson Palmer and company to put away the air cannon and give the Colts a steady dose of Rudi Johnson. After surrendering 375 yards rushing to Jacksonville last week, the Indy run defense, last in the league, will have to step up if Manning and crew hope to defeat the Bengals.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Key Games Highlight NFL Slate

As the season winds down to the final weeks, every game, every snap, takes on greater meaning and significance.

Week 15 features plenty of big games with huge playoff implications as the NFL prepares for its all-important second season.

In the NFC, Dallas travels to Atlanta and Philadelphia takes a hop, skip and a jump over to New Jersey to take on the Giants. Both games have playoff scenarios attached to them and a loss could send any of them home for the postseason.

Chicago can clinch home field with a victory over Tampa Bay and Carolina must fend off a surging Steeler team in order to keep its playoff hopes alive.

In the AFC, the suddenly hapless Colts, who looked to have home field wrapped up four weeks ago, must fight just to earn a playoff bye against a red hot Bengals squad. An Indy loss and a San Diego win over Denver would practically give home field to the Chargers.

Interesting stuff all-around, no mater how you slice it.

There are plenty of excellent games on tap for any football connoisseur, so set back, grab your chips and dip, get your fantasy football sheets out and enjoy the games.

Here's the Corners predictions for week 15 in the NFL:

Dallas at Atlanta (Saturday night)
The Cowboys played horrible last week and the Falcons are hurting at running back, which means more Michael Vick rushing the ball. That's good and he'll most likely break Bobby Douglas' rushing record by a QB, but there's the problem, he's supposed to be a quarterback. Winner: Cowboys.

Tampa Bay at Chicago
The Bears (11-2) have taken advantage of playing at Soldier Field this season, going 5-1 at home after a 7-1 mark in 2005. Chicago leads the NFC in both offensive and defensive scoring at home, averaging 31.3 points while allowing only 14.7 points per game. The Bears have held all but one of their opponents to 13 points or less at Soldier Field this season, while the Buccaneers (3-10) have not scored a touchdown in their last 11 quarters. Winner: Bears.

Pittsburgh at Carolina
The Steelers have won four of five and the Panthers have lost three straight. It appears that Pittsburgh should win, but appearances are deceiving. It's going to be tough to win in Carolina without Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu and Cedrick Wilson. Winner: Panthers.

Miami at Buffalo
The Dolphins, who have won five of their last six games, recorded their first shutout in six seasons with a 21-0 home victory over division-leading New England last Sunday. It was the 10th time this season that Miami has held an opponent to 20 points or fewer. Buffalo has won four of the last five meetings in this series and six of the last nine matchups at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but the offense is ranked 30th in the league and Miami should feast on that. Winner: Dolphins.

Jacksonville at Tennessee
Jacksonville rushed for a franchise-best 375 yards in a stunning 44-17 rout of AFC South-leading Indianapolis last week. The Jaguars, in second place and two games behind the Colts in the division, are holding down the sixth and final playoff spot in the conference. Tennessee has lost the past three meetings to Jacksonville and the previous two home matchups, but the Titans are one of the hottest teams in the AFC. They're looking to win five in a row for the first time since 2003. Winner: Jaguars.

Cleveland at Baltimore
The Ravens lead the division by two games over Cincinnati, and if they win and the Bengals lose at Indianapolis on Monday night, will be division champions for the second time in team history. Baltimore also won the division in 2003, the last time it made the playoffs. Regardless, if Baltimore beats Cleveland its in the playoffs. Winner: Ravens.

Washington at New Orleans
If the Saints, coming off an impressive thrashing of Dallas, win against the Redskins, they clinch the NFC South title. Washington is 1-5 on the road this season. The Saints have won their past two games against the Redskins, but are 1-5 in the last six meetings in New Orleans. Winner: Saints.

Houston at New England
The Patriots are coming off a shutout loss to the Dolphins last week, but can still clinch the division with a victory on Sunday and a Jets loss or tie. Houston has lost 17 consecutive road games. Winner: Patriots.

NY Jets at Minnesota
The Jets have won five of seven in their playoff push and look to continue that against the Vikings. Minnesota's top-ranked rush defense has taken care of business this season, holding opponents to 703 yards (54.1 per game). The Vikings set a franchise record by holding the Lions to minus-3 rushing yards last week, which was also the fewest allowed by a team since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. The Jets have won five straight against Minnesota and boast a 6-1 overall mark in the series, but the teams haven't met since Oct. 20, 2002. Winner: Jets.

Detroit at Green Bay
A rejuvenated Brett Favre looks to lead the Packers to their 15th straight home win over the Lions on Sunday. Favre has never lost to Detroit (2-11) at home since being traded to Green Bay (5-8) before the 1992 season. More bad new for Detroit: The Lions are 0-6 on the road this season. Winner: Packers.

Denver at Arizona
Denver (7-6) is trying to avoid dropping a fifth straight game for the first time since the 1990 season. The good news for the Broncos is they have never lost in seven meetings (6-0-1) with the Cardinals, though the teams have not met since 2002. Arizona (4-9), meanwhile, enters this matchup having won two straight and three of four since an eight-game losing streak. Winner: Broncos.

St. Louis at Oakland
The Rams (5-8) jumped out to a 4-1 start to the season, but have dropped seven of their past eight games, including a 42-27 defeat to Chicago on Monday night. The Raiders have lost six in a row and haven't lost seven straight since 1987. Oakland has won seven of the 10 meetings between these teams, which were once located in Los Angeles but left after the 1994 season. Winner: Rams.

Philadelphia at NY Giants
The Giants (7-6) snapped a four-game losing streak Sunday, beating Carolina 27-13. Philadelphia (7-6), meanwhile, held off Washington 21-19 to leave it tied with New York for second place in the East, a game behind Dallas, which lost to New Orleans. What all this means is this is a crucial game for both teams in the NFC East. The Giants won the first meeting in overtime at Philly. Jeff Garcia is 2-1 since taking over for injured Donovan McNabb at quarterback. Winner: Eagles.

Kansas City at San Diego (Sunday night)
LaDainian Tomlinson has his touchdown record and the San Diego Chargers have the AFC West title. Tomlinson will try to break another NFL record while helping the Chargers hurt a division rival's playoff hopes. He has scored 174 points this season - two behind Paul Hornung's NFL record set with Green Bay in 1960. With the way Tomlinson has been getting into the end zone, that record seems likely to fall soon. Tomlinson has scored at least two touchdowns in seven consecutive games, matching John Riggins' record set with Washington in 1983. He has rushed for 954 yards and scored 21 times in that span, all victories for San Diego. What's this mean for KC? Problems. Winner: Chargers.

Cincinnati at Indianapolis (Monday night)
Two teams going in opposite directions heading into the playoffs. The Bengals have won four straight, while the Colts have dropped three of four after a 9-0 start. Cincy has not won five straight since 1988 - the year the Bengals made it to the Super Bowl. The Colts allowed 375 yards rushing, tied for second-most in the NFL since the 1970 merger, in a 44-17 home loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday. Rudi Johnson could have a big night. Winner: Bengals.

The Corner Lowdown
Last week: 8-7
Overall: 120-67

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Porter Given Fine for Comments

Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter has been fined $10,000 by the NFL for what league spokesman Steve Alic called "vulgar, inexcusable statements" to Cleveland's Kellen Winslow after the Steelers' 27-7 win over the Browns last Thursday.

Incensed by a late hit on one of his teammates in the fourth quarter by Winslow, Porter made a derogatory slur questioning the Cleveland tight end's sexual orientation after the game.

The fine was announced Thursday.

Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme sat out practice again, increasing the chances that Chris Weinke will start this week's game against the Steelers.

Delhomme sat out his first game since 2003 on Sunday when damaged ligaments in his right thumb forced him to miss the Panthers' loss to the New York Giants.

Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan took part in individual drills on Thursday for the second straight day, the first time that has happened since the New York Giants veteran sprained his right foot against Houston early last month. Strahan has sat out the last five games.

Cincinnati Bengals linebacker David Pollack will need surgery for the cracked bone in his neck, probably ending his football career.

Pollack cracked the bone while making a tackle against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 17 and was put in a halo brace that immobilized his neck. Doctors told him that if the fracture healed without surgery, he could resume his career.

Chicago Bears defensive tackle Terry "Tank" Johnson was charged with possession of a firearm without proper identification after police said they found six guns at his Gurnee home.

The misdemeanor charge carries a potential penalty of up to a year in jail, said Jeff Pavletic, first assistant state's attorney in Lake County.

Johnson turned himself in to Gurnee police, posted bond and was released Thursday evening, Police Chief Robert Jones said.

The San Diego Chargers signed receiver Az-Zahir Hakim to a one-year contract and put receiver Malcolm Floyd on injured reserve. Hakim was released by the Detroit Lions on Oct. 31…. Indianapolis Colts receiver Brandon Stokley will sit out the rest of the season after being put on injured reserve because of an injured right Achilles' tendon.

San Francisco 24, Seattle 14
Alex Smith accounted for three fourth-quarter touchdowns -- two passing, one running -- and the 49ers (6-8) prevented the Seahawks (8-6) from clinching the NFC West with a surprising win. Frank Gore, who ran for a franchise record 212 yards in the first meeting between the two teams, had 104 of his 144 yards in the fourth quarter.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Football Fanatics Show: 13

The Football Fanatics Show is a podcast for college and pro football fans featuring hard-hitting commentary with a tell-it-like-it-is attitude. Hell, we may even offend some people. The show features myself, Rich 'Richie' Hagan and Damon Freed chatting about pro and college football.

Each week will preview the upcoming games and look back at the week before. We'll also be giving away some prizes and freebie stuff in future shows. So stop on in and check us out. The show will be on every Thursday during the football season and twice a month during the offseason.

This week the Fanatics talk about the death of Lamar Hunt, the playoff races and a preview of this weeks NFL games.

You can listen to the show in streaming media here.

Or you can download the podcast to your hard drive here. This is a big file so please be patient.

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Chiefs Owner Lamar Hunt Dies

Lamar Hunt, the Kansas City Chiefs' owner who was a founder of the American Football League and one of the leaders of the AFL-NFL merger, has died.

Remembered as a humble and inventive entrepreneur, Hunt also came up with the term "Super Bowl." He died Wednesday night at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas due to complications from prostate cancer, Chiefs spokesman Bob Moore said. Hunt was 74.

Hunt battled cancer for several years and was hospitalized the day before Thanksgiving with a partially collapsed lung. Doctors discovered that the cancer had spread, and Hunt had been under heavy sedation since last week.

The son of Texas oilman H.L. Hunt, Lamar Hunt grew up in Dallas and attended a private boys' prep school in Pennsylvania, serving as captain of the football team in his senior year. His love of sports led to his nickname, "Games."

Hunt played football at SMU, but never rose above third string. His modest achievements on the field were dwarfed by his accomplishments as an owner and promoter of teams in professional football, basketball, baseball, tennis, soccer and bowling.

When NFL owners rebuffed Hunt's attempt to buy a franchise and move it to Dallas, Hunt — ignoring his father's advice — founded the AFL. He owned one of the AFL's eight original teams from the inaugural 1960 season, the Dallas Texans.

The Texans, however, struggled in head-to-head competition with the expansion Dallas Cowboys of the NFL. Convinced that both franchises would suffer as long as Dallas remained a two-team city, Hunt moved the Texans to Kansas City in 1963.

Hunt realized his dream of becoming an NFL owner after the two leagues reached a merger deal in 1966.

In 1967, the Chiefs lost the first AFL-NFL championship — it was then called the World Championship Game. Three years later, the Chiefs beat the Minnesota Vikings for the title.

By then, the championship game had been christened the Super Bowl. Hunt came up with the name while watching his children play with a SuperBall.

In 1972, Hunt became the first AFL figure to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and each year the Lamar Hunt Trophy goes to the winner of the NFL's American conference.

For several years, Hunt also owned the minor-league baseball Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs, but his 1964 effort to bring major league baseball to the Dallas-area failed. Eight years later, the Washington franchise moved to suburban Arlington and became the Texas Rangers.

In 1967, Hunt was one of 10 original founding partners in the Chicago Bulls basketball franchise. He was the last remaining original owner.

Also in 1967, Hunt started the first organized effort at a pro tennis tour with World Championship Tennis, and in 1968 he helped bring pro soccer to the United States with his Dallas Tornado of the old North American Soccer League.

More recently, Hunt and his sons owned Hunt Sports Group, which manages Major League Soccer franchises in Dallas, Kansas City and Columbus, Ohio.

Counting pro football, Hunt has been inducted into eight halls of fame, including ones for soccer and tennis as well as the Texas Business Hall of Fame and the Kansas City Business Hall of Fame.

Hunt is survived by wife, children Lamar Jr., Sharron Munson, Clark and Daniel; and 13 grandchildren.

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NFL Week 15 Injury Report

By The Associated Press


SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS AT SEATTLE SEAHAWKS - 49ers: OUT: TE Eric Johnson (Knee); LB Derek Smith (Hamstring); T Adam Snyder (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: LB Jeff Ulbrich (Foot). PROBABLE: DT Anthony Adams (Knee); CB Shawntae Spencer (Ankle);T Jonas Jennings (Ankle). Seahawks: OUT: C Robbie Tobeck (Hip); WR Darrell Jackson (Toe); TE Itula Mili (Concussion). QUESTIONABLE: DT Rocky Bernard (Foot); G Floyd Womack (Groin); WR Bobby Engram (Illness). PROBABLE: DE Joe Tafoya (Calf).


DALLAS COWBOYS AT ATLANTA FALCONS - Cowboys: QUESTIONABLE: RB Oliver Hoyte (Knee), Falcons: QUESTIONABLE: RB Warrick Dunn (Calf); RB Jerious Norwood (Knee); CB Jason Webster (Groin). PROBABLE: DT Grady Jackson (Knee); T Todd Weiner (Knee); C Todd McClure (Back); WR Ashley Lelie (Thigh); CB DeAngelo Hall (Knee); LB Keith Brooking (Knee); LB Edgerton Hartwell (Knee).


DETROIT LIONS AT GREEN BAY PACKERS - Lions: DOUBTFUL: DT Marcus Bell (Hand); CB Fernando Bryant (Concussion); G Ross Verba (Groin); G Blaine Saipaia (Chest). QUESTIONABLE: LB Teddy Lehman (Hamstring). PROBABLE: T Jeff Backus (Foot); WR Eddie Drummond (Hip). Packers: OUT: DE Mike Montgomery (Knee). DOUBTFUL: T Mark Tauscher (Groin). QUESTIONABLE: WR Ruvell Martin (Chest); S Atari Bigby (Hamstring); WR Donald Driver (Shoulder); LB Ben Taylor (Hamstring); TE David Martin (Ribs). PROBABLE: RB Ahman Green (Knee); C Scott Wells (Illness); CB Charles Woodson (Shoulder).

WASHINGTON REDSKINS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS - Redskins: QUESTIONABLE: C Casey Rabach (Hand); T Jon Jansen (Calf). Saints: QUESTIONABLE: S Omar Stoutmire (Knee); TE Mark Campbell (Knee); WR Joe Horn (Groin); RB Aaron Stecker (Hamstring).

JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS AT TENNESSEE TITANS - Jaguars: OUT: S Nick Sorensen (Hamstring). QUESTIONABLE: P Chris Hanson (Left Hamstring). PROBABLE: CB Ahmad Carroll (Groin); LB Jorge Cordova (Hamstring); CB Terry Cousin (Groin); WR Cortez Hankton (Hamstring); LB Clint Ingram (Shoulder); RB Maurice Jones-Drew (Calf); G Vincent Manuwai (Calf); RB Montell Owens (Shoulder); LB Kenneth Pettway (Knee); LB Daryl Smith (Shoulder); DT Marcus Stroud (Ankle); RB Fred Taylor (Hamstring); CB Brian Williams (Hamstring); RB Derrick Wimbush (Ankle); TE George Wrighster (Shoulder). Titans: OUT: DE Antwan Odom (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: WR Drew Bennett (Knee); RB Travis Henry (Ankle); G Benji Olson (Back); TE Bo Scaife (Ankle); WR Brandon Jones (Chest); RB LenDale White (Hip); DE Josh Savage (Hamstring); DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (Illness).

TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS AT CHICAGO BEARS - Buccaneers: QUESTIONABLE: LB Shelton Quarles (Knee); DT Ellis Wyms (Ankle); CB Juran Bolden (Quadricep). PROBABLE: CB Phillip Buchanon (Groin). Bears: OUT: DT Tommie Harris (Knee).

NEW YORK JETS AT MINNESOTA VIKINGS - Jets: QUESTIONABLE: RB B.J. Askew (Foot); CB David Barrett (Hip); LB Matt Chatham (Foot); S Eric Smith (Foot); DE Bryan Thomas (Shoulder). PROBABLE: RB Kevan Barlow (Calf); LB Brad Kassell (Shin); WR Justin McCareins (Foot); DT Rashad Moore (Hand); QB Chad Pennington (Calf); DT Dewayne Robertson (Shoulder); TE Sean Ryan (Thigh); WR Brad Smith (Shoulder); S Jamie Thompson (Ankle); DT Kimo Von Oelhoffen (Shoulder). Vikings: QUESTIONABLE: RB Chester Taylor (Ribs); QB Brooks Bollinger (Left Shoulder). PROBABLE: DT Pat Williams (Knee); CB Cedric Griffin (Neck); LB Napoleon Harris (Wrist); WR Marcus Robinson (Ankle).

CLEVELAND BROWNS AT BALTIMORE RAVENS - Browns: DOUBTFUL: LB D'Qwell Jackson (Toe); G Joe Andruzzi (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: LB Willie McGinest (Pectoral); WR Dennis Northcutt (Shoulder); DE Nick Eason (Foot); LB Mason Unck (Groin); DT Ted Washington (Knee); TE Kellen Winslow (Knee); CB Leigh Bodden (Knee); QB Charlie Frye (Right Wrist). Ravens: OUT: RB Musa Smith (Neck). QUESTIONABLE: S Gerome Sapp (Thigh); WR Derrick Mason (Thigh); LB Dan Cody (Knee). PROBABLE: T Adam Terry (Back).

MIAMI DOLPHINS AT BUFFALO BILLS - Dolphins: OUT: RB Ronnie Brown (Hand). QUESTIONABLE: WR Chris Chambers (Knee); G Jeno James (Knee). PROBABLE: C Rex Hadnot (Shoulder); QB Joey Harrington (Ankle). Bills: QUESTIONABLE: LB John DiGiorgio (Ankle); CB Terrence McGee (Ankle); T Jason Peters (Knee); LB Takeo Spikes (Ankle); S Donte Whitner (Hamstring).

PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT CAROLINA PANTHERS - Steelers: DOUBTFUL: S Mike Logan (Hamstring); S Troy Polamalu (Knee); WR Cedrick Wilson (Ankle). PROBABLE: S Ryan Clark (Groin); C Jeff Hartings (Knee); WR Hines Ward (Knee). Panthers: QUESTIONABLE: WR Taye Biddle (Groin); QB Jake Delhomme (Right Thumb); CB Chris Gamble (Thigh); RB Nick Goings (Shoulder); LB Brandon Jamison (Thigh); CB Ken Lucas (Thigh); TE Kris Mangum (Hip).

HOUSTON TEXANS AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS - Texans: OUT: RB Jameel Cook (Knee). DOUBTFUL: S C.C. Brown (Foot). PROBABLE: C Drew Hodgdon (Foot); WR Jerome Mathis (Groin); DE Anthony Weaver (Knee); DE Mario Williams (Foot). Patriots: OUT: LB Don Davis (Knee/IR); RB Patrick Pass (Hamstring). DOUBTFUL: S Rodney Harrison (Shoulder). QUESTIONABLE: CB Ellis Hobbs (Wrist); TE Daniel Graham (Ankle); LB Eric Alexander (Shoulder); S Rashad Baker (Thigh); WR Chad Jackson (Groin); RB Laurence Maroney (Back); T Ryan O'Callaghan (Neck); TE Benjamin Watson (Knee); DT Vince Wilfork (Ankle); DE Mike Wright (Shoulder). PROBABLE: QB Tom Brady (Right Shoulder); LB Corey Mays (Hamstring); DE Richard Seymour (Elbow).

ST. LOUIS RAMS AT OAKLAND RAIDERS - Rams: OUT: LB Pisa Tinoisamoa (Hand). QUESTIONABLE: DE Victor Adeyanju (Forearm); S Jerome Carter (Ankle); RB Paul Smith (Neck). PROBABLE: DE Leonard Little (Neck); LB Isaiah Kacyvenski (Concussion); QB Marc Bulger (Ribs). Raiders: OUT: RB LaMont Jordan (Knee); DE Lance Johnstone (Knee). DOUBTFUL: WR Jerry Porter (Hip); G Corey Hulsey (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: T Robert Gallery (Elbow); WR Randy Moss (Ankle). PROBABLE: DT Tommy Kelly (Knee); G Barry Sims (Abdomen); CB Nnamdi Asomugha (Quadricep).

DENVER BRONCOS AT ARIZONA CARDINALS - Broncos: QUESTIONABLE: TE Stephen Alexander (Ribs); T Adam Meadows (Hamstring). PROBABLE: S Hamza Abdullah (Hamstring); K Jason Elam (Left Hamstring); S Quentin Harris (Finger); WR Brandon Marshall (Ankle); T Erik Pears (Ankle); WR Rod Smith (Hip); CB Darrent Williams (Shoulder); LB Al Wilson (Thumb). Cardinals: DOUBTFUL: RB Marcel Shipp (Ribs). PROBABLE: CB Robert Tate (Illness); T Reggie Wells (Illness); DE Chike Okeafor (Calf); S Hanik Milligan (Illness).

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES AT NEW YORK GIANTS - Eagles: QUESTIONABLE: LB Matt McCoy (Shoulder); LB Shawn Barber (Neck); CB Roderick Hood (Hamstring). PROBABLE: C Jamaal Jackson (Ankle). Giants: OUT: T Luke Petitgout (Fibula). DOUBTFUL: DE Michael Strahan (Foot). QUESTIONABLE: C Shaun O'Hara (Ankle); CB Corey Webster (Toe). PROBABLE: K Jay Feely (Right Foot); T Kareem McKenzie (Neck).

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS AT SAN DIEGO CHARGERS - Chiefs: QUESTIONABLE: DE Jimmy Wilkerson (Hamstring); T Kyle Turley (Shoulder); LB Rich Scanlon (Neck). Chargers: OUT: WR Malcom Floyd (Ankle). DOUBTFUL: G Scott Mruczkowski (Knee). QUESTIONABLE: DE Luis Castillo (Ankle); LB Randall Godfrey (Calf); LB Marques Harris (Hamstring); WR Keenan McCardell (Calf); LB Shaun Phillips (Hamstring); DE Derreck Robinson (Foot). PROBABLE: C Nick Hardwick (Ankle); S Marlon McCree (Calf); S Bhawoh Jue (Knee); DT Jamal Williams (Knee); RB Michael Turner (Hamstring).


CINCINNATI BENGALS AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS - Bengals: OUT: WR Kelley Washington (Hamstring). DOUBTFUL: C Rich Braham (Knee); T Levi Jones (Knee). PROBABLE: LB Caleb Miller (Ankle); TE Tony Stewart (Ankle); T Willie Anderson (Foot). Colts: OUT: TE Dallas Clark (Knee); WR Brandon Stokley (Achilles). QUESTIONABLE: S Bob Sanders (Knee); RB Dominic Rhodes (Wrist); WR Aaron Moorehead (Back); CB Marlin Jackson (Shoulder); CB Nicholas Harper (Ankle); T Ryan Diem (Groin); CB Antoine Bethea (Shoulder); RB Joseph Addai (Foot).

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