Monday, January 01, 2007

NFL Roundup: Week 17

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

San Diego 27, Arizona 20
Philip Rivers threw two touchdown passes after injuring his right foot, and LaDainian Tomlinson also limped off after wrapping up his first NFL rushing title in leading the Chargers to a 27-20 win over the Arizona Cardinals (5-11). The Chargers (14-2) clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. San Diego heads into the playoffs with a 10-game winning streak and its first perfect home record since 1963. The Chargers' 14 wins and eight home victories are club records. Tomlinson ran for 66 yards, giving him 1,815 and the league rushing title. He beat Larry Johnson of the division rival Kansas City Chiefs, who had 1,789. San Diego's Marty Schottenheimer won his 200th regular-season game, joining Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry and Curly Lambeau in that exclusive club. Each of those coaches won multiple Super Bowls or NFL titles.

Philadelphia 24, Atlanta 17
The Eagles (10-6) clinched the NFC East title less than five minutes into the game when Dallas lost to the Detroit Lions. Coach Andy Reid pulled his starters to keep them healthy for next Sunday's first-round matchup against the New York Giants. A.J. Feeley threw for a career-best 321 yards and three touchdowns to help the Eagles win their fifth consecutive game without Donovan McNabb. The Falcons (7-9) played almost the entire second half without Michael Vick, who sprained his right ankle on the first play of the third quarter.

Indianapolis 27, Miami 22
Peyton Manning threw for two touchdowns, ran for another and watched his maligned defense limit Miami to five field goals before giving up a late touchdown at Indianapolis. The Colts (12-4) will now play host to Kansas City in a wild-card game next weekend after blowing a chance to earn either of the AFC's top two seedings by losing four times in the last six weeks. Miami (6-10) closed the season with three straight losses.

Green Bay 26, Chicago 7
Brett Favre showed he still has life in his right arm, passing for 285 yards to lead the Packers (8-8) at Chicago. Favre completed 19 of 40 passes with a touchdown and interception in what may have been his last game. Rex Grossman of Chicago (13-3) was two for 12 with three interceptions and a zero passer rating in the first half. And the debate over whether he or Brian Griese should start is back on.

Baltimore 19, Buffalo 7
Using a stellar performance from the defense and an efficient effort from the offense, the Ravens won at Baltimore to earn the No. 2 seeding in the AFC and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Chris McAlister returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown and the Ravens yielded only 39 yards rushing to put a pretty bow on the finest regular season in franchise history. Baltimore (13-3) will begin the playoffs with nine wins in its last 10 games. Buffalo (7-9) fell short in its bid to finish .500.

New England 40, Tennessee 23
Corey Dillon ran for two touchdowns and Tom Brady threw for a touchdown, as New England stopped the Titans' magical run at Nashville. The Titans (8-8) had won six straight games. But the Patriots (12-4) wanted momentum for themselves before hosting a wild-card game next weekend, so Coach Bill Belichick played Brady for three quarters.

Seattle 23, Tampa Bay 7
Shaun Alexander ran for one touchdown and Matt Hasselbeck threw for a second at Tampa, Fla., bolstering the confidence of the defending NFC champion Seahawks (9-7) heading into the postseason. Former Seattle receiver Joey Galloway was one of the lone bright spots for the Buccaneers (4-12), finishing with eight receptions for 118 yards and scoring Tampa Bay's only touchdown.

Carolina 31, New Orleans 21
The Saints (10-6) chose to play for a healthy playoff roster rather than an inconsequential victory. The result was a loss to Carolina (8-8) at New Orleans as Jake Delhomme and the Panthers' starters pulled away against the Saints' reserves.

Houston 14, Cleveland 6
The Texans (6-10) were outgained 306 to 177 yards, but got the win over Cleveland (4-12) thanks to several costly errors by the Browns.

St. Louis 41, Minnesota 21
Steven Jackson had a career-high four touchdowns and 166 yards rushing, helping the Rams (8-8) finish the year with a win over the woeful Vikings (6-10) at Minneapolis. Jackson finished the season with 1,528 yards and 90 receptions. His 2,339 all-purpose yards led the NFL. The Rams, who won three of their final four games, won in Minnesota for the first time since 1978.

Kansas City 35, Jacksonville 30
The Chiefs (9-7) defeated Jacksonville Sunday which, combined with losses by Tennessee, Cincinnati and Denver, gave them the sixth seeding in the AFC playoffs and a date with the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. Larry Johnson scored three touchdowns, had 138 yards rushing and set an NFL record for carries in a season with 416, surpassing the mark of 410 set by Atlanta's Jamal Anderson in 1998. Johnson's 1,789 yards rushing surpassed his team record of 1,750 yards set last year in only nine starts. Jacksonville (8-8) finished the season with three consecutive losses.

New York Jets 23, Oakland 3
The Jets completed their amazing turnaround by defeating the Raiders and capturing a playoff berth after a 4-12 season last year. The Raiders (2-14) got one consolation: When Detroit beat Dallas, it left Oakland with the first overall pick in April's draft. The Jets' Chad Pennington threw a touchdown pass to Chris Baker, Leon Washington ran for a touchdown and Mike Nugent kicked three field goals, assuring they would play at least one more game. The Jets (10-6) will play next Sunday at New England.

Detroit 39, Dallas 31
Done in by repeated mistakes from Tony Romo and a few more by Terence Newman, the playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys blew any chance they had at the NFC East title and lost to the Detroit Lions on Sunday. It was one of very few high points for the Lions (3-13), who could have locked up the No. 1 overall draft pick with a loss. Detroit's Jon Kitna completed 28 of 42 passes for 306 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception. He joined Scott Mitchell as the only Lions quarterbacks to throw for 4,000 yards in a season. The Cowboys (9-7) have dropped three of their last four games, giving up 132 points during that span, the same amount they allowed in the previous eight games.

Pittsburgh 23, Cincinnati 17 OT
The Steelers eliminated the Bengals from playoff contention, thanks to Ben Roethlisburger's 67-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes in overtime. The big question after the game was the status of Bill Cowher (161-99-1), who may be stepping down after 15 seasons at the helm of Pittsburgh. After winning the Super Bowl last season, the Steelers (8-8) stumbled out of the gate and missed the playoffs. Cincinnati fell to 8-8, losing its last three games.

San Francisco 26, Denver 23 OT
Denver coach Mike Shanahan wanted Kansas City to win Sunday so that the Broncos wouldn't back into the playoffs but be motivated to play their best football. Instead, the Broncos tumbled into the off-season when Joe Nedney's 36-yard field goal with 1:56 left in overtime sent the San Francisco 49ers past the stunned Broncos. Now, their AFC rivals in Kansas City will have that opportunity. Denver's fifth loss in seven games made the Chiefs (9-7) the final wild-card team. All the Broncos (9-7) needed was a win over the double-digit underdog 49ers (7-9) or even a tie to earn a spot in the playoffs, but they couldn't score on three trips inside the 49ers five-yard line and blew an early 13-0 lead.

New York Giants 34, Washington 28
Tiki Barber put the ultimate exclamation point on the New York Giants ' season of turmoil with a franchise-rushing record, a dominating performance that virtually assures his career will last at least one more week. Barber carried 23 times for 234 yards and three touchdowns in a 34-28 victory over Washington. The win ends New York's seven-week free fall just in time for the Giants to make the postseason as a .500 team. The Giants (8-8) had lost six of seven, and fans were chanting for coach Tom Coughlin's firing last week. Coughlin said he had several "heart-to-hearts" this week with his players, and they responded by putting New York in the playoffs for the second consecutive year -- its first back-to-back appearances since 1989-90. The Redskins ended the season at 5-11.

A very exciting regular season has wound up and the playoffs begin. In the NFC, the Bears and the Saints have the byes, with the Giants taking on the Eagles and the Cowboys traveling to meet the Seahawks in the first round.

In the AFC, the Chargers and Ravens have the first-round byes. In the opening round of the playoffs, the Chiefs will meet the Colts and the Jets face the Patriots.

Overall, it was another exciting and wide-open season with most playoff spots not being decided until the final two weeks. The playoffs should be just as good.

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