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News » Division leads at stake heading down the stretch

Division leads at stake heading down the stretch

Division leads at stake heading down the stretch
It's getting closer to nitty-gritty time in the NFL.With a month left in the season, first place will be on the line in three of the league's eight divisions during Week 13. Also, the wild card prospects of teams such as New England, Washington, Atlanta, New Orleans, Baltimore, Indianapolis and Buffalo will be affected.The undisputed lead in the NFC North will be at stake when the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings, each 6-5, meet in the Twin Cities.In the AFC North, the Pittsburgh Steelers own a one-game edge over the Baltimore Ravens . The Steelers, however, face a tough test at New England while the Ravens are favored over the lowly Bengals in Cincinnati. If the games go as many expect, there will be a tie atop the division.Carolina and Tampa Bay are tied for the lead in the AFC South. The Panthers have a formidable road test at Green Bay while the Buccaneers will be at home against the explosive New Orleans Saints.

>Game of the day

Steelers (8-3) at Pats (7-4)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Patriots (-1).

The scoop: No passer in NFL history has thrown for more than 400 yards in a game three times in a row. Matt Cassel of the Patriots can become the first today. A tough task against a Steelers pass rush that has two of the NFL's top five sackers -- James Harrison with 12 and LaMarr Woodley with 101/2. . . . New England is 5-1 versus Pittsburgh since 2000. . . . Pats coach Bill Belichick will be seeking his 150th career win as a head coach in the NFL.

Outlook: Working mostly from the shotgun, Cassel should be able to avoid fierce Steelers pass rush. Patriots, 31-21.


>Top attractions

Broncos (6-5) at Jets (8-3)

TV: Ch. 4, 4 p.m.

The line: Jets (-8).

The scoop: An important game between AFC division leaders. The Jets could end the day tied with the Pats if they lose and New England wins. The Broncos are trying to protect a two-game AFC West lead over San Diego. . . . New York has been the most impressive AFC team since their 26-17 win over the Bills. Gotham fans are looking for a New York-New York Super Bowl. . . . Brett Favre seems to be getting more dangerous the later it gets in the season. . . . Teams last met in 2005 with the Broncos winning, 27-0, in Denver.

Outlook: The Jets are on a roll, looking for a sixth straight win and the Broncos are coming off a loss to the Raiders, to whom they gave up 31 points. New York, 37-20.


Giants (10-1) at 'Skins (7-4)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Giants (-3 1/2).

The scoop: A battle of the NFL's Nos. 1 (Giants) and 3 (Redskins) rushing offenses and Nos. 6 (Giants) and 7 (Redskins) rushing defenses. . . . New York is hoping to get RB Brandon Jacobs (knee) back for this one. He co-leads the NFL with a 5.4-yard rushing average. . . . The Giants won the NFL season opener over the 'Skins, 16-7.

Outlook: Washington lost its previous two before squeaking by at Seattle last week. The Giants are in top form and win, 20-10.


Falcons (7-4) at Chargers (4-7)

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m.

The line: Chargers (-4 1/2).

The scoop: Interconference game is vital for both teams. . . . The Falcons are trying to stay in the NFC South and wild card hunt and trail the first-place Panthers and Bucs by only one game. Carolina and Tampa Bay both face tough games. . . . The Chargers, who have won 18 of their last 21 at home, are coming off another close loss, to the Colts, 23-20, on a closing-seconds field goal last Sunday night. It was the second in a row on a late field goal for San Diego, which has dropped games by 2, 1, 7, 9, 5, 1 and 3 this season.

Outlook: With a chance to close the gap on the Broncos, the Chargers win a close one, 27-24.


Bears (6-5) at Vikings (6-5)

TV: Ch. 2, 8:15 p.m.

The line: Vikings (-3 1/2).

The scoop: First place is at stake between the NFC North leaders. . . . The Bears won, 48-41, against the Vikes earlier at Soldier Field, in a wild game uncharacteristic of the old Black and Blue Division. . . . Chicago rookie RB Matt Forte will challenge the No. 2 rushing defense in the league.

Outlook: The Vikings and their physical front four are tough to beat at home. Minny, 27-12.


Saints (6-5) at Bucs (8-3)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Buccaneers (-4).

The scoop: Saints QB Drew Brees is on pace to top Dan Marino's NFL record for passing yards in a season (5,084). He already has 3,574 after throwing for 323 in a Monday night rout of the Packers when he had 157.5 passer rating (nearly perfect). . . . The Bucs needed OT to win at Kansas City three games ago and fell behind Detroit, 17-0, before rallying for a win last week. In between was an impressive win over Minnesota.

Outlook: The Bucs are tough at home and slow down the N.O. offensive juggernaut. Tampa Bay, 30-24.


Panthers (8-3) at Packers (5-6)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Packers (-3).

The scoop: Getting routed at Atlanta put the Panthers in a bit of trouble in the drive for the NFC South title. Now they face the desperate Pack at Lambeau in late November. Not an ideal situation. . . . The Packers are hoping to rebound from a bad showing at New Orleans but Julius Peppers and Co. can make it a long day for Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers.

Outlook: The Panthers shiver at frigid Lambeau. Packers, 21-14.


>Best of the rest

49ers (3-8) at Bills (6-5)

TV: Ch. 29, 1 p.m.

The line: Bills (-61/2).

The scoop: The Bills' schedule includes five of the seven worst teams in the league, but this is the last of the cupcakes on the menu.

Outlook: Buffalo regained some confidence last week in Kansas City. Bills, 31-17.


Dolphins (6-5) at Rams (2-9)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Dolphins (-8).

The scoop: The Dolphins start a four-game stretch where three opponents are the Rams, the 3-8 49ers and the 1-10 Chiefs. Don Shula couldn't have drawn it up any better. . . . Miami is coming off a 48-28 throttling against New England, where the Fish made fools of themselves by gooning it up NHL-style in the final minutes. . . . The Rams are at rock bottom. Their last four opponents have averaged 35.8 points.

Outlook: Unless fiery coach Jim Haslett suits up, there is no chance for the Rams. Miami, 24-6.


Colts (7-4) at Browns (4-7)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Colts (-5).

The scoop: Indy has won its last four and is very much alive in the AFC wild card picture. . . . The Browns, who were brutal in a 16-6 home loss to Houston, will start Derek Anderson at QB for Brady Quinn, who is out for the season with broken finger.

Outlook: Peyton Manning should handle lakefront weather in Cleveland. Colts, 33-20.


Jaguars (4-7) at Texans (4-7)

TV: ESPN, Monday, 8:30 p.m.

The line: Texans (-3).

The scoop: This was an attractive matchup when the Monday Night Football schedule was drawn up, but both teams have disappointed. . . . This will be Texans' first MNF appearance. . . . In five home games, Houston WR Andre Johnson has averaged 131.8 receiving yards and has had four 100-yard games (131, 178, 141, 143).

Outlook: The Texans will be fired up at home. The Jags seem demoralized. Houston, 28-21.


Ravens (7-4) at Bengals (1-9-1)

Kickoff: 1 p.m.

The line: Ravens (-7).

The scoop: The Ravens defeated Cincy by only a 17-10 count in the season opener in Baltimore with the help of a 38-yard TD run by rookie QB Joe Flacco. . . . The Bengals lost at Pittsburgh last week after a two-game home unbeaten streak.

Outlook: The Ravens can't let this one get away. Baltimore, 20-12.


>Dog of the day

Chiefs (1-10) at Raiders (3-8)

Kickoff: 4:15 p.m.

The line: Raiders (-3).

The scoop: Oakland handed the Chiefs a 23-8 loss in K.C. in the first meeting of AFC West rivals as rookie RB Darren McFadden ran wild. . . . The Raiders are coming off a stunning 31-10 win at Denver in which QB JaMarcus Russell had a career-best 149.1 passer rating. . . . The Chiefs are allowing opponents more than 400 yards per game.

Outlook: The Raiders are showing small signs of regaining old confidence. Oakland, 42-21.

e-mail: mnorthrop@buffnews.com

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 2, 2008

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