Saturday, September 29, 2007

Final Injury Report: Patriots at Bengals (Week 4)

Faulk Added to Injury List
9 Listed as 'Questionable'

Running back Kevin Faulk was added to the New England Patriots injury list Friday. In the practice report, he is listed as not participating in practice as the result of a "team decision" and is listed as "probably" for Monday Night's game for the same reason. Seems a bit cryptic, no?

The Patriots report has not other changes.

Cincinnati has a couple changes, including "upgrading" wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh to "probable." He missed practice earlier in the week. Also, starting middle linebacker Ahmad Brooks is listed as "doubtful."

Read the rest of the story at the new Pats Pulpit.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Patriots Vince Wilfork fined $12,500 for Low Hit on Losman

Wilfork Fined $12,500 for Low Hit
Bills Losman Says Penalty Not Enough

New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork was fined $12,500 by the NFL on Thursday for a low hit on Buffalo Bills quarterback J.P. Losman on the first play from scrimmage of New England's 38-7 win over the Bills on Sunday.

Read the rest of the story at the new Pats Pulpit.

Midweek Injury Report: Patriots at Bengals (Week 4)

Injury Dings Spread
Bengals RB Johnson Out for Monday

The New England Patriots have a few additions to Thursday's injury report, but none appear serious. Eleven Patriots are listed under "limited participation in practice." The Patriots will play Cincinnati on Monday Night Football.

Read the rest of the story at the new Pats Pulpit.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Follow Me to a Promised Land of Sportsblogging

Just in time for the playoffs, my flock, we journey to a new land.

Follow this link and updates your favorites and bookmarks.

We go to the Sports Blogs Nation! It's the new www.patspulpit.com!

Note to all my readers:

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your support and your loyalty. This ends a chapter and starts and exciting new one in our history. SportsBlogsNation is the most highly respected collection of sports blogs in the country, and I am proud to join their growing stable of great writers and sites.

You'll notice some changes in the new place. First, we have a really cool logo designed by SB Nation. As a matter of fact, the whole site is designed by them. It's nice and clean and has a very professional appearance.

I also have a partner. You'll see his posts under "InBradyWeTrust." As a matter of fact, since I'll be at Gillette tomorrow night. ITWT will host the open thread discussion during the game. Make sure you give him a proper PatsPulpit "welcome to the flock."

We're still tweaking things a bit, so expect some minor changes, but the basics are there. The new site also gives us a lot more functionality, as we'll be able to create polls and the like.

All new content will be posted at the new site, so I'll see you on the other side.

Thanks again, and GO PATRIOTS!

-- Tom Masse
shepherd, pastor, journalist, Pats Fan

Friday, January 06, 2006

Season-End Awards: MVP, Comeback Player

Unfortunately, the powers that be announced their picks for a few season-end awards before I got to "cast my vote."

Here's MVP and Comeback Player awards with others to follow soon.

Let's just start with the big one:

Most Valuable Player
1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots -- I don't know who these nitwits are that vote for these things. Brady is almost solely responsible for New England to be in any position to make a post-season run. The Patriots had only a handful of players play in every game. Brady hasn't missed one since he took over for Drew Bledsoe. Brady was the guy on the sideline and on the field that led the charge against sometimes impossible odds. I could write for hours about Brady's exploits this season, how he almost literally peeled this mediocre team off the floor, slung it over his shoulder and carried it over the top of the hill. But I won't. The only thing I'm going to mention is the game against Tampa Bay. Brady picked clean a defense that was ranked No. 2 scoring, No. 3 in overall defense, No. 4 against the pass. He connected with nine receivers, including Tom Ashworth, one of twelve Patriots to catch a Brady touchdown pass this season. That day, Corey Dillon had less than 50 yards rushing to lead New England. Tampa Bay came to Gillette Stadium with one of the best defenses in the lead on a mission to stop Tom Brady, and he destroyed them. Oh, in case you didn't know, Brady ended up third in the voting.

2. Shaun Alexander, Seattle Seahawks -- The national media's choice, and a valid one. I've been mentioning Alexander for probably two-third of the season as the team and the player to watch in the NFC. No one is more responsible for Seattle's 13-3 record and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs than Alexander. I like Matt Hasselbeck. I think the has the potential to be a "great" quarterback. But let's face it. If Hasselbeck went down, Seattle probably wouldn't have collapsed. If Alexander went down, they wouldn't be the No. 1 seed -- they might not be any seed. The stats: 1,880 yards rushing (9th all time), a record 28 touchdowns (27 rushing, 1 receiving), 11 100-yard games, only 1 fumble lost.

3. Tiki Barber, New York Giants -- Only 20 yards but almost as many touchdowns behind Alexander, Barber is the only reason the Giants are even anywhere near the playoffs. Anyone who says different hasn't seen a Giants game this year. This team was more prone to mistake after mistake, and yet they won a very competitive division. Someone not named Eli had defenses constantly wondering "How do you stop this guy?" You think that happens if Barber degrades to even a 1,500-yard back? I don't. Oh, Barber also had only one fumble (Alexander had five, but lost only one -- Barber had one), and he also had this matter of 530 yards receiving, making him leader in most yards from scrimmage this season. (Note: Only one running back had more receiving yards than Barber: Philly's Brian Westbrook had 616. Westbrook had 617 yards rushing.)

4. Carson Palmer, Cincinnati Bengals -- What this guy did on a team he did it with is nothing short of commendable, but compared to Brady, Alexander and Barber, Palmer is a distant fourth. Among other things, he showed a propensity to win the big games when they counted, and I'm talking about the Pittsburgh games, which sealed the NFC North for the Bengals. Palmer doesn't have the weapons that Brady has. The difference is that Brady makes his own weapons.

Note: Anyone voting for Peyton Manning should have his vote revoked and his head examined. He did nothing out of the ordinary this season, unless you call beating New England with half its players something. He played against some of the softest defenses in the league, including New England's at the time. Indy faced absolutely no adversity until week 16, but they had already lost to San Diego by that time. Kyle Boller might be pretty successful with that offensive line, Edgerrin James and that receiving and tight end corps. Thirteen votes? You guys should be ashamed.


Comeback Player of the Year
1. Tedy Bruschi, New England Patriots -- Once again, I have to take issue with the national media, many of whom don't seem know which end of the pencil to use. Steve Smith, who tied Bruschi for this award, had a great year after coming back from a knee injury. Note to voters: Tedy Bruschi came back from a stroke. It's never been done before, and most people doubted it could even happen. Just his stepping on the field again should have earned him the award, but wait! There's much more. Bruschi came back three-quarters of a year earlier than expected and had a profound impact on the Patriots. Bruschi ended up fourth on the Patriots in total tackles (62) while playing in only 9 games (one more than half of the other players). Prorate his stats and he would have ended up with 110, two more than Pats leader Mike Vrabel. Bruschi also had two sacks. But if you want to know the true impact of Bruschi, look again at that Tampa Bay game. He had 11 tackles, both of his sacks, a forced fumble and a pass defense. At one juncture, Bruschi was in on tackles on 5 of 7 plays that pretty much ended Tampa's final chance of getting in the game at all. Bruschi has been sorely overlooked year after year for the Pro Bowl and to only allow him a tie here is yet another insult to Bruschi and the whole team.

2. Mark Brunell, Washington Redskins -- Raise your hand if you thought this injury prone quarterback was finished at least four or five years ago. Be honest. Yeah, me too. Brunell is the Vinnie Testaverde of a few years ago, but he may have a few more better seasons ahead of him than Vinnie had. This was Brunell's 13th season, unlucky for some. There aren't many quarterbacks, Brunell and Testaverde are rare, that can make comebacks this late in a career. Do you think he'd play pretty good in Indianapolis?

3. Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers -- There's no doubt Smith had a great season. He led the league in receiving and had his career best season. His performance is certainly noteworthy, and he has been key in the Panthers' struggle to live up to prognosticators' preseason predictions. But let's face it, he came back from a knee injury, which is far from uncommon, and it was nearly a full year before he came back. And outside of the injury, he didn't come back from obscurity the way Brunell did, or from a near-death debilitating event like Bruschi. Maybe in another year. Not this one.

Honorable Mention: Gus Frerotte, Miami Dolphins -- Speaking of obscurity, Frerotte is probably on his way back there. For Miami coach Nick Saban, Gus isn't his guy. He ended up 15th on the yards passing list (2,996), just one spot behind Brunell. His passer rating wasn't great, but the Dolphins were probably the Comeback Team of the year, if there were such a thing, and he played a major role. And really, he hasn't had a good season since 1996. That's a comeback.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Patriots 26, Dolphins 28 recap

If nothing else, it was interesting.

The New England Patriots (10-6) wrapped up the regular season with a 28-26 loss to the Miami Dolphins (9-7) Sunday in a game that had a little of just about everything, including a play that hadn't been run successfully for points in more than 60 years.

New England now faces the Jacksonville Jaguars (12-4) in the Wild Card round on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. (ABC, Channel 5).

By now, just about everyone has heard about quarterback Doug Flutie's extra-point drop kick that made the score 28-20 late in the fourth quarter. Everyone knows it's the first drop kick in the NFL since December 1941. Everyone has heard the circumstances of Flutie having tried the play in practice, and the coaches rewarding Flutie's behind-the-scene efforts this season by allowing him to try the play. It was fun and interesting and memorable, but I don't think it was the next greatest play in the Flutie playbook after the Hail Mary against Miami (hmmm, there's some coincidence) on Thanksgiving Day in 1984.

Some have gone so far as to call it a mockery of the game, which is even more ridiculous than calling it his second greatest play. Although it tickled even Bill Belichick, I think he would still ultimately say simply that, "It is what it is," which was an extra point that kept New England within striking distance at the end of the game.

The Pats played the game with mostly backups for a great majority of the game and stayed with one of the hottest and most improved teams in the league, although that warm-weather team never has a lot of luck in these parts. Let's just say circumstances conspired to give us what ultimately was an entertaining and, yes, satisfying game to end the season.

No, I'm not happy about the loss, especially since I've been sermonizing about momentum for a week. I don't like the loss, period. Only two teams have won Super Bowls after losing their final home game. (I'm trying to find where I originally found this stat. If anyone else comes across it, give me a shout. One of the teams was San Francisco.)

It looked like our boys had a real shot at the end -- until weekly emergency quarterback Matt Cassel badly floated the final two-point conversion away from any eligible receiver.

I don't think it looked that convincing. I think, when it came down to it, Belichick wanted the No. 4 seed, and with Kansas City beating Cincinnati, and beating them well and easily all day, Belichick sent in the "dive." No chance a running back stumbles through a hole and sends the game to overtime. A nice little throwaway that no one could conceivable catch, and there's your fourth seed. I don't particularly like this Jacksonville matchup, but I'll discuss that in a couple of previews later in the week.

What else did this game have? It has Cassel's sack for a safety. Those are rare. It had Brady throwing for enough yards to secure his status at the league's top passer of the season with 4,110 yards. I'll write more about Brady, his season stats, and more later this week. It had Vinatieri planting a kickoff out of bounds, giving Miami the ball at their own 30 and leading to the game-winning Olindo Mare field goal -- and something I really don't want to see again, ever, much less in the playoffs coming up.

It had Matt Chatham leading the team in tackles for his first time this season. Ellis Hobbs and Hank Poteat were right behind him. It had the Patriots with six players listed with rushing statistics, a dismal 55 yards on 28 carries (1.97 avg.).

It had Randy Cross calling Belichick "Bill Cowher" at least three times.

The Patriots starting offense had a good opening drive until a catchable ball at the Miami 14 turned into an interception. And that's after another catchable ball was nearly intercepted just a minute earlier. That offense went three-and-out on their second drive, before finally scoring on a short field on their third and final drive. That was set up by a 65-yard Andre Davis kickoff return. Let's hope we see more of the latter than the former.

This game brought a number of streaks to an end: New England's 5-0 record in regular season games in January snapped. The Pats' 9-game winning streak against division opponents in Gillette. A 16-game streak with the weather below 35 degrees. Brady is now 20-1 as a starter when the temperature is 40 degrees or below at kickoff. The Pats lost three home games this season after not losing any the last 2 seasons. The Pats lost at home to Miami for the first time since Drew Bledsoe was quarterback -- why are there so many "since Bledsoe" statistics?

Other streaks continued: New England would have swept the division with a win for the first time. Vinatieri finished the season with 100 points, making him only the second kicker (with Jason Elam) to score 100 points or more in each of their first 10 seasons of kicking. The Patriots have five straight winning seasons. Geez, I thought there were more than this.

The Pats won 10 games this season. The only season the Patriots finished with fewer than 10 wins during the Belichick Brady era was 2002. (Note: The Associated Press says the Patriots have won 10 games for five straight seasons.) That's also the only season they didn't win the Super Bowl; in fact, the didn't make the playoffs. Of course, in every year they won the Super Bowl, they had at least 11 wins.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Patriots vs. Dolphins open thread

I'll be in and out for this game, so we're going to need some comment from the rest of you in Patriots Nation.

If you're listening to the game on radio, like mrbandw last week, log a couple reports for those of us listening to Harlan and Cross.

Let's end the season on a high note.

GO PATRIOTS!

Game Preview: Week 17, Patriots vs. Miami

The problem you encounter when things are going your way is that you tend to ignore the problems coming your way. So anyone thinking the 8-7 Miami Dolphins are going to be a pushover in Gillette Stadium today should think again.

The Fins have won five straight and are playing their best football of the season following head coach Nick Saban's comments several weeks ago that it didn't matter what the final score was of any game, he was evaluating talent for next year's team. The message came through loud and clear: The Dave Wannstedt era is over; practice hard and play hard or get in the wind. Fortunately, he hadn't made his ultimatum a couple weeks earlier or today's game might be for the division title.

Saban has brought a Bill Belichickian work ethic and team concept to Miami, and he's already reaping results. A team thought to be the doormat of the AFC East has had a late-season surge not unlike those of Belichick's New England Patriots (10-5).

What remains to be seen is whether they can handle another hot team in a cold weather climate. Of their five recent wins, three were at home and the two road games were in the inhospitable weather conditions in Oakland and San Diego. So the Dolphins haven't played a cold-weather game this year. The only good team they've played in that stretch was the Chargers, who they beat by two points. Prior to the streak, they lost six of seven.

OK, so which is it? Are they good, or aren't they?

Fine, they're good, but they're untested. Today's game will be a test for both teams. The Patriots, to show that they're definitely ready for the playoffs and that they can play defense without linebacker Tedy Bruschi. The Dolphins, to show that they're not going to fold in adverse conditions, especially the conditions that would make them fold like an unsuited 2-7 in past years.

New England, of course, is on a streak of their own, and for their part, they have beaten only one decent team in that stretch, but having utterly dismantled each team more and more along the way. And they're at home, where, with few exceptions, they've been unbeatable. And they're playing in the cold, snowy conditions in which they seem to excel as much as other teams flounder.

So with Miami playing for the future, and the Patriots playing possibly to move up to the No. 3 seed, what do you expect for today's game?

The first question you have to answer is whether you think Belichick wants the No. 3 seed, the No. 4 seed, or doesn't care. My bet is that he doesn't care. He'll prepare for whoever ends up next. Kansas City is an unlikely opponent, and he has game plans for Pittsburgh, so he only as to worry about the circumstance they play Jacksonville, who shouldn't pose a monumental challenge.

So forget next week and worry about this week. That's what Belichick does anyway. And this game has a similar recipe to the last few games, which should be the recipe no matter who they face next week: "Stop the run. Pressure the quarterback." Sound familiar?

That task should be made easier by the fact that Dolphin running back Ronnie Brown should be inactive with knee and ankle injuries. That means the Patriots can concentrate on running back Ricky Williams, who, while improving, still isn't the Ricky of 2-3 years ago. He's still the Ricky that Asante Samuel plastered in the game that separated the division winner from the runner up.

With Williams negated, it's tee-off time on Gus Frerotte, who is probably playing his last game in a Miami uniform. He'll want to put in a good show so he can land on his feet with another team. He'll have his work cut out for him with the New England front seven dogging him. The Patriots defense may not be as potent without Bruschi, but Monty Beisel put in some good reps last week, chasing Brooks Bollinger and Vinnie Testaverde around. You may see New England in more 4-3 alignments to make up for the missing Bruschi.

The offense will probably force the running game issue like last week and just "play their game" in a tune-up for next week. A few short alternating passes and runs with a deep ball mixed in. The snow should clear up for the most part by game time, so that probably won't be a factor for either team. Still, as it is in the playoffs, ball control is the name of the game.

Expect the starters to play at least the whole first half, unless it somehow turns into a blowout one way or the other. If there's an unexpected repeat of last year's lackluster performance against San Francisco in the season finale, expect the same treatment. Otherwise, it should be a fairly short day for the first squads.

Saban will probably leave his starters in the whole game, so that should make the result interesting. If the Patriot starters build a lead and the backups give it up, the starters may return. Regardless of seeding, it's still important to post a W. It's not as meaningless as most experts would have you think.

Officiating anachronism Tom White referees today's game. Formerly one of the better officials, his crew has been suspect in recent years. Expect some pretty inefficient officiating and be glad this game doesn't mean more than it does.

Prediction: Patriots, 23-20.

We're stuck with play-by-play announcer Kevin Harlan and color analyst Randy Cross again today. They're certainly not the worst. They're not the best. "Cross Talk" is a lame, mis-named feature that implies something it's not. That annoys me. So there. As usual, you can catch a better audio description of the game on WBCN 104.1 FM with Gil Santos and Gino Cappelletti.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Week 17 Picks

Updated, Jan. 1 @ 12:45 p.m.
Previously updated, Dec. 31 @ 8:00 p.m.

Well, here we are. Our trek together began in the dog days of Summer: Aug. 3. The Pulpit opened for business, preaching to a lonely choir. Our congregation has grown, but many a heathen still reside in Pittsburgh, and in Cincinnati, and in Indianapolis, and in Denver. Yea, we're still approaching the depths of Winter. And in the Third Millennium, when the flakes are down, there has been the One true Team.

But before we can conduct our pilgrimage to the Promised Land, there remains one last bit of business to attend to, this matter of Week 17, the last in line, the most unpredictable of the predictable. It's unpredictable because there's no telling how teams will approach their games. Teams that have playoff seeds locked may half-step through this last weekend. Teams that are in the Reggie Bush sweeps may or may not put in their best efforts to win. All the teams in the middle that have nothing to play for may play like they have nothing to play for. You just won't know until gametime, and sometimes even then.

Saturday, Dec. 31
Denver (12-3) at San Diego (9-6), 4:30 p.m.
Here's exactly what I'm talking about. Denver has already locked up a first-round bye and cannot gain home field advantage over Indianapolis, so this game doesn't mean much. San Diego has been eliminated from the playoffs, so this game hardly means anything. So will either team risk injury to their key players? Will either team put up a legitimate fight if the other team starts to impose its will? Denver will enter the playoffs on a 4-game winning streak if San Diego folds. Marty Schottenheimer teams usually don't fold until they get in the playoffs. (No, no. That's not right. Put down the flamethrowers, Charger fans.) Actually, I think San Diego plays them tough, and in a close game entering the second half, Denver packs up, content with the No. 2 seed, and Schotties' boys win going away.
Prediction: Chargers, 31-14.

N.Y. Giants (10-5) at Oakland (4-11), 8 p.m.
New York needs a win to secure the NFC East and a first-round home game next week, so this game means something to them. It means nothing except possibly Norv Turner's job to Oakland. The Black and Silver are in shambles. I think you'll see a new coach there next year. I bet Al Davis was wishing Baltimore would fire Brian Billick, and then they'd bring in Terrell Owens. Whatever. I doubt Oakland is going to do Turner any favors, and since they're all getting paid anyway ...
Prediction: Giants, 42-13.

Sunday, Jan. 1
Arizona (5-10) at Indianapolis (13-2), 1 p.m.
Indy's defense is a little banked up. Star wideout Marvin Harrison is going to be wearing some kind of cast on his hand with a fractured bone. The game is meaningless in so many ways. Arizona has no reason even to show up. Marc Bulger is out, so Cade McCown will be calling signals. Indy will probably want to support coach Tony Dungy in the first game after his son's funeral, win this last home game and not enter the playoffs on an 0-3 run.
Prediction: Colts, 35-19.

Baltimore (6-9) at Cleveland (5-10), 1 p.m.
Baltimore has been playing better than Cleveland as of late. Baltimore's owner already said he expects Billick back next season. The Cleveland fans may want this one more than the team. However, I think Romeo Crennel can convince his players that they're auditioning for their jobs, so they might show up to play. The only other thing possibly at stake is draft sequence and maybe a couple players' performance bonuses. No one else really cares.
Prediction: Browns, 10-9.

Buffalo (5-10) at N.Y. Jets (3-12), 1 p.m.
Please, make it stop. New York (the state) ends up with only 1 of 3 winning teams. The green team has a shot at a really good draft pick, and I doubt either of these teams will alter that.
Prediction: Bills, 24-10.

Carolina (10-5) at Atlanta (8-7), 1 p.m.
This one means a lot to Carolina. Win and they're in. It means a lot to Atlanta too. They can play spoiler to a division rival and regain a little pride. They're at home, and the fans will want revenge. Michael Vick is still trying fruitlessly to prove he's a legitimate quarterback. Carolina, a preseason favorite of many a talking head to win the Super Bowl, is in the verge of elimination. Desperation is a wonderful motivating factor.
Prediction: Panthers, 24-21.

Cincinnati (11-4) at Kansas City (9-6), 1 p.m.
This is the game of the week, if only for the fact that both teams have something riding on it. Cincinnati has less riding on it -- the difference between the No. 3 and No. 4 seed in the AFC. Kansas City is still hanging on to thin hopes that they beat Cincy and Pittsburgh loses to lowly Detroit. There are reports that KC coach Dick Vermeil will retire at the end of the season, which could be today. Does Kansas City have the horses to beat Cincy? Yes. Do they have the motivation to win a big one for Vermil? Yes. Can Cincy hold off Larry Johnson? No. Can they win in December in Arrowhead? No. Do they keep the No. 3 seed? No.
Prediction: Chiefs, 33-24.

Detroit (5-10) at Pittsburgh (10-5), 1 p.m.
Does Kansas City make the playoffs? No.
Prediction: Steelers, 41-10.

Miami (8-7) at New England (10-5), 1 p.m.
On NFL Countdown, Steve Young noted that San Diego followed the blueprint laid out by New England how to pressure Peyton Manning and beat Indy -- not that San Diego designed the blueprint. Nice job, Steve.
Prediction: Patriots, 23-20.

New Orleans (3-12) at Tampa Bay (10-5), 1 p.m.
Tampa needs to win and they're at home. New Orleans just wants to go home, finally, wherever that is. It's the end to a horrible, heroic, empathetic season. By the way, Tampa already clinched a playoff spot, but a win earns the division crown and a home playoff game.
Prediction: Buccaneers, 27-14.

Seattle (13-2) at Green Bay (3-12), 1 p.m.
The only reason Seattle has reason to risk anyone is to get Shaun Alexander the touchdown record. Coach Mike Holmgren said the starters will be replaced "liberally," whatever that means. He also said he wants Alexander get the record. Alexander is now less than 50 yards behind Tiki Barber for the season rushing title, after Barber reeled off another 203 yards last night against Oakland. Green Bay is better off staying put in the race for the No. 1 draft pick, but will they actually try to win for some reason? Can they even beat a really good team that's not trying?
Prediction: Seahawks, 17-13.

Houston (2-13) at San Francisco (3-12), 4:05 p.m.
Next to the Cincy-KC matchup, this is probably the most intriguing game of the day because of the draft implications. Can Houston win a game they don't want to on the road? Can San Francisco play bad enough to lose at home to such a miserable team? As Homer would say, "They're the worst sucks of the suckiest sucks that ever sucked." Reminiscent of the New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Colts "Stuper Bowl" of the 1981.
Prediction: 49ers, 2-0.

Tennessee (4-11) at Jacksonville (11-4), 4:05 p.m.
Meaningless game for everyone. Byron Leftwich won't be playing, but David Garrard is 3-1 as a starter in relief. Steve McNair is not playing either. Has Tennessee done enough to save Jeff Fischer's job? Or is he saved by Tennessee's disastrous salary-cap problems?
Prediction: Jaguars, 13-6.

Chicago (11-4) at Minnesota (8-7), 4:15 p.m.
You know what's funny? Minnesota made the playoffs last year with an 8-8 record. If they beat Chicago today in a meaningless game, they could end up 9-7 and miss the playoffs. That's funny, eh, Mike Tice? That would be a fitting end to this ludicrous season. I still say momentum is important, but I have a feeling Chicago, who has a boatload of injuries already, may not even put in an effort, which is why they'll lose their first playoff game and prove that Lovie Smith is not the coach of the year, even though he'll win, much like Dick Jauron did with the Bears a couple years ago.
Prediction: Vikings, 27-10.

Washington (9-6) at Philadelphia (6-9), 4:15 p.m.
Win-and-in Washington should be able to beat a shambles of a team that lost to Arizona last week.
Prediction: Redskins, 28-17.

St. Louis (5-10) at Dallas (9-6), 8:30 p.m.
If Washington and Carolina win, which they should, it should be over for Dallas by the time this game starts. Still, they're playing St. Louis. Dallas could be 10-6 and out of the playoffs. You know, I remember when 8-8 was playoff contending in this conference.
Prediction: Cowboys, 31-27.