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NFL playoffs near

teams clinch

December 19, 2006|by ROBERT KELLER

Week 15 draws to a close and more teams have clinched playoff spots, and one team clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

The biggest game this week was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers playing the Chicago Bears. The way the Bears let a big lead get away in the game made it seem like they took a win as a given. While a win for Tampa Bay would not get them into the playoffs, a win would let them hold their heads higher. Both teams played well. Bears quarterback Rex Grossman completed 29 of 44 passes for 339 yards, but the Bears wasted a 24-3 third-quarter lead, and the game went into overtime before the Bears escaped with a 34-31 win.

In the 16th week of the season, I am predicting winners for these games: Baltimore at Pittsburgh, Washington at St. Louis, Cincinnati at Denver and San Diego at Seattle. The winners will be Baltimore, Washington, Cincinnati and San Diego.

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The San Diego Chargers are a good team and have lost only to Baltimore and Kansas City.

I have to give Washington credit for beating New Orleans in the Superdome. I picked New Orleans to win. Washington stopped Saints running back Reggie Bush, scored early and made the Saints work for points.

Let's look at Baltimore for a minute. They lost key players this week to injuries. Quarterback Steve McNair went down early in the game with a hand injury, and cornerback Corey Ivy suffered a concussion. X-rays showed no break in McNair's hand, and he is probable for a Christmas Eve game in Pittsburgh. There have been way too many injuries this season for the Ravens - and it is affecting them. Punt returner B.J. Sams, for example, broke his leg last month and is out for the rest of the season. Now they are missing his spark for the special teams.

The Indianapolis Colts have clinched the AFC South title and a spot in the playoffs. Baltimore has earned a playoff berth and is looking for the AFC North title and a first-round bye. The Chicago Bears have earned a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. New Orleans locked up the NFC South title. San Diego already had clinched the AFC West title, and Dallas locked up a playoff berth. It won't be long before more teams qualify for a playoff spot.

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