Have you ever seen anything so crazy? Yes, last year. No, I mean all these teams that needed only one victory to get into the playoffs or win their division, and then they got upset. Have you ever seen anything like it? Yes, it happens every year.
Are the underdogs loose and the favorites tight? That's what a lot of people seem to believe. When a team clinches a playoff spot, do its players breathe a sigh of relief and forget, for the moment, that just one more win will give them home field or a first-round bye? I suspect that they do, although the coaches will tell you it's impossible because that point was so heavily stressed during the week.
So the Raiders lose a freak show of a game in the Seattle rain. The Jets, facing a Lions team with a crippled secondary and a shaky quarterback, blow a home game that could have put them in the driver's seat in the AFC East. The Dolphins can't handle the Colts on their own turf. Ditto the Vikings with the Packers. The Broncos, exhilarated by Oakland's loss and with the opportunity to put a stranglehold on the AFC West, go to Arrowhead and get hammered by the the Chiefs, who run for 264 yards. Finally, after spending the afternoon watching those miseries befall other contenders and swearing it won't happen to them, the Giants go down 13-0 to the Cowboys on Sunday night before pulling out the game.
If you think all that is bad, wait till the smoke clears this weekend. How do I know we're in for more of the same? Because it always happens.
The Giants can wrap up home field advantage for the NFC playoffs with a win on Saturday against the Jaguars, but the winds will be blowing in the Meadowlands, and Kerry Collins, who fell apart against Dallas, will struggle. It will be a high-turnover game, but I like the Jaguars in an upset. Calmer heads will prevail in Denver, which is hanging on to the hope for a division title. The Broncos will beat the 49ers. Sorry, but that hope will be extinguished when the Raiders win big over the Panthers.
Everyone will be watching the thermometer in Green Bay. Brett Favre can't lose when the city freezes over, and the Bucs can't win in the same conditions. Will things change this time? Afraid not. The Packers win it. Looking for a Tennessee loss that would give them a chance to win the AFC Central, the Ravens will squeeze one out against the Jets. But on Monday night the Titans will beat the Cowboys convincingly to win the division.
The Vikings can assure them-selves of a first-round bye with a win against the Colts, but Minnesota has allowed 957 yards, 73 points and 60 first downs in its last two games, and Indy is not the place to get well. The Colts take it with an offensive show. Despite a struggling attack and a defense that's been dented, the Dolphins will squeak by in a low-scoring affair in New England.
Finally, there's the grand battle between the Rams' offensive machine and the Saints' crushing defense. Tough call. New Orleans quarterback Aaron Brooks is capable of putting up huge numbers, especially against this defense. The Rams, well, we know what they're capable of. Logic says St. Louis, but I like the Saints on a hunch.