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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